Scientists have intertwined the singular magic of physics and poetry since before the Victorian age. One of the most prominent Victorian poet scientists, James Clerk Maxwell, was famous for his unifying theory of electromagnetism. Others said of him:
James Clerk Maxwell used his poetic talents to skewer his colleagues.
One example of his poetic styling is found in a poem written in honor of fellow physicist, John Tyndall, To the Chief Musician Upon Nabla: A Tyndallic Ode:
I come from empyrean fires,
From microscopic spaces,
Where molecules with fierce desires,
Shiver in hot embraces.
He was also unafraid to poke a little fun at his more prosaic colleagues. He confided in an 1863 letter:
I know several men who see all nature in symbols and express themselves conformably whether in Quintics or Quantics, Invariants or Congruents.
Two years later, thermodynamics theorist William J.M. Rankine aimed squarely at such colleagues and love’s thermodynamic potential when he wrote The Mathematician in Love:
A mathematician fell madly in love
With a lady, young, handsome, and charming:
By angles and ratios harmonic he strove
Her curves and proportions all faultless to prove.
As he scrawled hieroglyphics alarming…
“Let x denote beauty, y, manners well-bred, –
“z, Fortune, – (this last is essential), –
“Let L stand for love”- our philosopher said, –
“Then L is a function of x, y, and z,
“Of the kind which is known as potential.”
“Now integrate L with respect to d t,
“(t Standing for time and persuasion);
“Then, between proper limits, ’tis easy to see,
“The definite integral Marriage must be:-
“(A very concise demonstration).”
Said he-“If the wandering course of the moon
“By Algebra can be predicted,
“The female affections must yield to it soon”-
-But the lady ran off with a dashing dragoon,
And left him amazed and afflicted.
Write a physics love poem combining warm affection and physics terminology. You could even write a poem of cheesy science pick-up lines like: You are as stunning and as full of possibility as a Protoplanetary Disc or Like the ideal vacuum, you’re the only thing in my universe. Create a little mystery, a little romance, maybe a little humor, and then share your poem with us in the comment section below.
Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here’s a poem by Maureen we enjoyed:
Photo by Tom Brown. Creative Commons via Flickr.
How to Write a Poem uses images like the buzz, the switch, the wave—from the Billy Collins poem “Introduction to Poetry”—to guide writers into new ways of writing poems. Excellent teaching tool. Anthology and prompts included.
“How to Write a Poem is a classroom must-have.”
—Callie Feyen, English Teacher, Maryland