The Arts - Physics Poetry from previous years.

2011, 2013: Click here for 2011, 2013 and main menu.

2010: Joel the Mole Scroedingers Electron
2008: Spotter the Otter
2007: A Physics Curriculum I'd Rather be a Lawyer The Adventures of John the Electron

2010 Physics Poetry

Joel The Mole by Sean Simpson

Joel the mole was a happy little guy
Who spent his nights looking at the sky
For hours and hours he'd look and look
He found what to look for in a handy little book
Though one thing troubled our happy little guy
For you see no matter how hard he would try
One sight eluded this happy little mole
He had yet to see the renowned black hole

So much did this trouble our happy little Joel
His friends gathered around to try to console
One of his best friends came right to his aid
This was just the question for which he was made
"For you see," began Larry the lark
"The reason you cannot find is because it is dark
The term black in the name is the key
That in fact makes it very hard to see"

Joel was confused at this revelation
Towards it he felt he had some hesitation
How can there be an object he cannot find
Joel knew nothing that existed of that kind
All of his friends were also quite wary
Larry, however, had just come from the library
He said, "Gather around and I will explain
Hopefully I will even entertain"

"I'll begin with the basics right from the start
At a star whose future is to blow itself apart
Now there is a limit for the mass of this star
The mass is set by my friend Chandrasekhar
If above this limit the mass should go over
The star will become a big supernova
Why this happens is easily told
It happens when the star does implode"

"The star will collapse when its fuel runs low
Due to gravity there is only one place to go
In and in the star does fall
Will it stop for anything at all?
If the star had not enough mass
It would become a ball of electron gas
Here the Pauli exclusion will hold
Forever more out in the cold"

"The star is now on its way
To becoming a black hole this very day
However there is one more hurdle it must leap
Before it can fall into a massive heap
All is going well until when
Pauli exclusion strikes again
Neutrons here do not wish to meet
only through gravity can it be beat"

"Now the neutrons have been passed
The future of the star can be now forecast
The star's collapse continues on
Until the star is all but gone
To a single point the star does fall
Until nothing there is seen at all
So this my friends is the tale
Of a black hole's birth in minor detail"

The group of friends listened in awe
Nothing like this had they heard before
The story of a black hole's destructive birth
Had given them all a nice sense of mirth
But something still troubled our dear little Joel
Why had he still not yet seen a black hole
This was the next question that he did ask
The reply was that it was wearing a mask

"The explanation is as easy as can be
It comes straight from the force of gravity
You see though light is luminous and full
Even it is not immune to gravity's pull
Light going past the hole does get caught
Their remaining free life is then cut short
Towards the hole the light will disperse
In to the middle the light does traverse"

"You see there is a barrier for the light
Beyond this all you see is the night
Known as the horizon of the event
This is the place where light is most bent
Past this point no thing can escape
No matter what move the thing tries to make
So you see the hole itself will be black
As nothing going in will ever come back"

This answer still troubled our friend Joel the mole
Would he never see the famed black hole?
Again to his aid came Larry the lark
He explained, "So you see even though it is dark
There are effects it causes that you will see
You just have to observe quite carefully"
To this little Joel grinned ear to ear
This was just the answer he had wanted to hear

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Schroedingers Electron by Murray Baker

Ooops, I have lost the electron,
I don't know where it is,
My boss is going to be furious,
It is not my electron, it's his.

Erwin, where is that electron,
Please don't say it's lost,
That's coming out of your pay packet,
Do you know how much electrons cost?

I'm in really serious trouble,
need a plan to save my ass,
I will just invent some dodgy physics,
Peer review it will likely pass.

Have you found that electron yet?
I beg you, find it please,
I can't afford another one,
electrons don't just grow on trees.

(molecular orbitals in chlorophyll molecules?)

The electron could be anywhere,
so until the furore abates,
Oh... I will say that it's...
in a superposition of multiple states.

Erwin, your physics is brilliant,
You will win a Nobel prize,
I didn't know electrons could do that,
For being so rude, I apologise.

I actually got away with it,
my boss is not too bright,
but if I ever have another electron,
I won't let it out of my sight.

I've made an awful contribution,
to physics jargon though,
"superposition" is just the politically correct,
term for "I don't know".

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2008 Physics Poetry

Spotter The Otter by David Barry

By a river that flowed in old Ottoman land,
A big group of otters relaxed on the sand.
The otter called Fay and the otter called Caleb,
The otter called Delf and the otter called Waleb,
The otter called Vlistance, the otter called Froo,
The otter called Malachi Mulligan too,
All of them turned to the otter called Spotter,
The otter who wasn’t your ordinary otter.
Spotter the Otter had mastered the stars,
And the comets and Saturn and Venus and Mars.

The otters were gathered this fine and clear night
To learn about all of the stars in their sight.
“Please Spotter, explain,” said the otter called Vlistance,
“How stars that we see here came into existence.”
And Spotter the Otter then pointed his ’scope,
And all of the otters were lifted with hope,
’Cause they loved to look up at the heavens above.
One of them looked and he then said, “By Jove!”
Spotter let everyone look and then said,
“What you see there is the famous Horsehead.”

“A nebula has a collection of dust,
But it’s all very cold and it doesn’t combust.
If there’s enough dust, then maybe, perhaps,
Gravity makes it all start to collapse.”
“But Spotter,” asked one little otter called Fay,
“It can’t just be random – there must be a way
How to tell if the cloud will fall in or stay static.
The workings of physics must not be erratic.”

“You’re entirely correct there,” said Spotter to Fay.
“And now I’ll explain that with no more delay.
The formula here was discovered by Jeans,
But it might be too hard now to see what it means.”

And Spotter the Otter then cle-ared his throat,
And recited the formula studied by rote.
“You start with a factor of nine over four,
But then it gets harder – there’s much much much more!
One on the square root of two pi times n
Times one on the square of the H2 mass, then
Take the constant of Boltzmann and times it by T,
Divided by Newton’s ol’ constant big G,
Raised to the pow-er of three over two:
You’ve now got the Jeans mass, I swear that it’s true!”

“But what happens next?” asked the otter called Delf.
“When the gaseous cloud’s fallen in on itself?”
“You’re going too fast now,” was Spotter’s reply,
And Spotter the Otter then gave a small sigh.
“The cloud starts to collapse, and some sub-clouds of gas,
Sufficiently denser and with enough mass,
All clump together and start to rotate.
It makes the collapsing then start to abate:
It spins and it spins and gets hotter and hotter,
Until it’s more stable,” said Spotter the Otter.
“So the cloud as a whole will keep up its collapse,
But there might be some protostars, maybe, perhaps.”

“The protostar keeps on attracting more mass,
From all the surrounding molecular gas.
It slowly contracts and so generates heat,
Until this small part of its life is complete.
Its protostar life is then near its conclusion:
Deuterium then starts its nucle-ar fusion.
The accretion keeps making it more and more massive,
The internal behaviour gets less and less passive.
The hydrogen then starts to fuse and we see
A star that is cle-ar to you and to me!”
The otters’ instruction had come to an end,
Happy with what they could now comprehend.
So the otter called Bob and the otter called Pooley,
The otter called Squinky-Di-Alla Mavooley,
The otter called Plok and the otter called Totter,
All knew a lot more thanks to Spotter the Otter.

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2007 Physics Poetry

A Physics Curriculum by David Barry

We begin by revising the notion of force,
And Newtonian concepts of motion, of course.
Basic equations will never be spared
(Like ess equals yoo tee plus half ay tee squared).

Then things get better, I’m sure you’ll agree:
Let kinetic be T and potential be V .
Take the difference of these two and call this guy L.
At the coming equation you’ll want to excel.
Write L as a function of q and q-dot.
Find dee L dee q-dot, and then once this is got,
Dee dee t of this guy, you’ll see that it’s true,
Is simply the same as dee L by dee q.

Then thermodynamics: the ide-ee-al gas.
You’ll be given the pressure and particles’ mass,
And density, volume and then asked to show
If the temperature therefore is high or is low.
If the system is large, you will need to find Z,
That function from which many things can be read.
Z is the sum of all terms— Can you guess?
Ee to the negative β ee ess!

Next about optics you’ll learn of this fact:
When changing a meedyum a wave will refract.
The law that describes this is named after Snell,
And it’s simple and short but it works very well.
Take n in part 1 over n in part 2,
And look how the angle got smaller or grew.
All students will know then, yes even the worst,
That it’s sine of the second on sine of the first!

From down in the doldrums did physics revive
With what Einstein published in nineteen oh five.
Light in a vacuum goes at the same speed,
Regardless of reference, religion or creed.
Time can’t be constant if this is the case,
And here is the formula taking its place:
b is the quotient of v over c,
Then it’s 1 on root 1 less that b squared, times t.

Schrödinger, Bohr and the constant of Planck
(Last is the favourite of many a crank!).
Quantum mechanics is king of the small,
And its myst’ries and magic will always enthrall.
The state of the system is written as Φ.
Multiply this by an hbar times i.
The fluxion of this you can easily see:
It’s Hamilton’s H times that Φ times dt.

There’s a lot more to physics than just all of that,
Like atoms and photons and Schrödinger’s cat.
But it takes me forever to get this to rhyme,
And to go any further I’d need much more time.

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I'd Rather be a Lawyer by Christopher Wright

I was having lots of fun
Things were going fine.
Met some great new people, and
Was having a great time.

...but then.....

"The time has come" (the lecturer said)
"to speak of many things".
Of photons, quarks and lazer-beams
And theories made of strings.

At that point, I'm sad to say
My brain, it turned to goo
All runny it was, and it leaked
From orifices, one and two. [point to left and right ears]

At that point, I must report
I rested my weary head
Upon the floor, raised both my arms
And legs, and just played dead.

It's not all bad, I must admit
There are something's I quite like
The explosions are rather cool
And so is Andrew White.

But no! My brain 'made up its mind'
It shouted "I object"!
Lets do something easier
Something more...perfect.

My course was clear, my way mapped out
No thinking anymore.
No more crummy physics stuff
I'll go and study law.

That's all good! It felt all right
It all made sense, it's true.
To convince you round, to my line of thought
I give you reasons, two;

First, studying law is better
It's really much more fun.
I'd rather be in a law lecture
Than a boring physics one.

For law lectures are more funny
I'm sure you'll realize.
When the only source of humor in YOUR lectures is;
"For this, he gets Nobel prize!?"

In law, I've never fallen asleep
Not one lecture have I missed.
I know this happens in Science ones though
Naming no names (Chris).

Secondly, and this is the one
I think is rather funny.
While you all bludge off Centrelink
I'll be making money.

While you exist on minimum-wage
(And I hope this makes it clear).
By then I'll be earning
About..oh..half a mil. a year.

Yes, in terms of luxury
Your future's fairly Spartan.
You'll be driving Holdens, while
I'm in an Aston Martin

When research bills are through the roof
And ethics legal cases are pursuing.
Take a look around you guys!
I'm the one whose suing.

No, it's not morals and ethics
That make me pick my field.
Plenty work for the human good
I'll go for something...more high-yield.

I'd rather be a lawyer
(Yes, this poem is rather long).
I'll say it again and again
I'll even sing it through song;

[sing to tune of "I wish I was a punk-rocker"]
Oh I wish I was an old lawyer
With a wig instead of hair.
I may not be making lazer-guns
But I don't even care.

I think that it is fate...
You may not think it's fa-aaaaaair
But I wanna be an old lawyer
With a wig instead of haaaaaaaair!

[stop singing, please god stop singing now]

My sad melody line aside
I hope it's becoming clear.
My reasons for this thing I say
I'd rather be a lawyer.

You may ask what on earths the point?
(And I applaud your intuition).
Of joining a profession universally disliked? least I'm not a politician.

You say, how can you want to join
A profession, reputation torn
Apart by guys like O.J. Simpson?
My friends, I give you Sean.

Again, you ask, why wear wigs and robes
When injustice you must fight?
In short, why go to work
Dressed up like a transvestite?

I've got no ready answer, but
Before you get indignant.
At least I don't have to know
That stupid Bose-Einstein Constant.

Folks, we reach now, the end of my prose
And, although it might annoy yer.
I'll take my fun lectures, and bags of cash
I'd rather be a lawyer.

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The Adventures of John the Electron by David Barry

In a lab in amongst all the dials and the clocks
And the laser beams sat a mysterious box.
From here it just looks like a regular cube,
But inside you will see it’s a cathode ray tube.

In the CRT’s wi-re a current was flowing,
And John the Electron’s excitement was growing.
The electrons did play with that force they all shared
(k times q-one times q-two on r squared),
But all of them now only thought of their dream:
Leaving the wi-re and joining the beam.

You may think this life is a little bit vapid;
For them it’s like paddling a whitewater rapid.
John bounced off some charges and then he was free!
He yelled out in triumph and chortled with glee!
He zoomed through the vacuum and moved very fast,
Enjoying the moment; forgetting the past.

But ahead was a hurdle for this little caper:
A magnetic field pointed into the paper.
“Oh no!” said poor John. “It’s an end to my fun!
My free particle days are all dusted and done!
Look at my path and the field, if you please,
The angle between us is ninety degrees!
Then” (you should know) “an electromag quirk’ll
Consign me to move in a boring old circle.
I know I can’t always have freedom, of course,
But this’ll become a centripetal force!”1

1: The author confesses he’s not thought this through:
You need ten thousand teslas for this to be true.

The circular fate of poor Johnny was sealed
By his charge times his speed times the magnetic field.
If you make this the same as the force that you need
(That is m over r, times the square of the speed),
You can find what the size of John’s circle must be:
It’s one over q, over B, times mv.

It looked like John wouldn’t be able to cope,
But still he clinged onto one last final hope.
“If the magnetic region does not get much bigger,
It’s easily seen (and with excellent rigour)
My trajectory’s motion will not become bound,
For all it will do is just turn me around.”

John entered the field and he swung to the right,
Hoping and hoping with all of his might
That approaching the end of his half-revolution
He’d sense in the field any sharp diminution.

But a new pair of magnets was placed by the first:
Realising John’s fe-ars, the worst of the worst!
Any small fraction of lingering doubt
Was smashed when the CRT’s voltage went out.
The lives of electrons come with this great risk:
Tracing out a trajectory shaped like a disc.

The story to this point might look nice and neat,
But a rotating charge has to radiate heat.
Abraham published (along with Lorentz)
A formula making a good deal of sense.
I think that all people should find it concerning
That students will skip this – a gap in their learning.
One sixth a dot times q squared is what should be taught,
Times one on π c cubed times epsilon-nought.

The upshot of this was a deceleration.
(Though nothing did change to the time of rotation.
Now don’t look at me to correct and condemn,
The angular frequency’s qB on m.)
The spiral got small and though John did protest,
He kept slowing down and he finished at rest.

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