Quantum sheep is the name given to a form of poetry. The poetry is generated by a random process implemented by writing words on the backs of sheep, then allowing the sheep to mingle.
A quantum sheep is simply a regular sheep that, under observation and with a poetic word written upon its back, can create random poems based on its movements and rest states. Multiple such sheep (15 in the original scenario), or a flock, are needed in order to contain enough words to form a poem and to introduce sufficient randomness.
The pattern of words produced by reading the words written on the back of these sheep is unpredictable. This is a consequence of using sheep not conscious of the intent of process. Advocates of the resulting poetic form claim that this unpredictability should be interpreted as uncertainty. Thus it has been asserted that the process of creating this poetry is connected to quantum mechanics, through supposed parallels with the uncertainty principle.
The poetry itself is originally done in a style similar to the Japanese haiku in order to form the base words. Observers choose their own words from the resulting flock, without any particular form, to create new poems. Although the observers' results are somewhat light-hearted in nature it is considered a legitimate form of art. An example of the source may yield a general idea of what to expect from this method:
CLOUDS GRAZE THE SKY;
BELOW, SHEEP DRIFT GENTLE
OVER FIELDS, SOFT MIRRORS,
WARM WHITE SNOW.
The first project with quantum sheep transpired in 2002 under the direction of Valerie Laws, using the sheep of one Donald Slater from Northumberland. Her success in this endeavor eventually lead to a book related to the poetry extracted from such experiments. Indeed, her methods were also copied by other would-be poets seeking to try something a little bit unique. This in turn created a new type of poetry known as quantum sheep poetry that uses methods or concepts similar to Law's. One example from her book is listed below, taken from the publisher's site:
"The Sound of No Music"
In life there is no music
To warn us of danger,
Or sudden love. No strings
Start sobbing, no shark-attack
Knife beats, no gothic
ell (sic) us, don’t go down those stairs!
Of burglar in your bedroom, metal
Railing through your chest, bus
Driving through your car, all
Happen, like sudden joy,
To totally inappropriate soundtracks
Or none at all. Blackbirds practise
Their phrasing, soap operas bleat,
A toilet flushes, as our life changes
Or ends, as we think, more
Than our pre-cinema ancestors did,
How, how can this happen, and to me?
Laws, who has degrees in English and theoretical physics, calls her project Quantum Sheep, arguing that it contains the principles of quantum mechanics -- notably the randomness, the influence of the observer on the observed, and the duality in the interchange of the sheep and clouds in the original poem.
- BBC News, 2002.
- Laws, 2008
- Laws, 2006
- E2 via "Cadmium Lemon," 2003.
- Peterloo Poets, 2006.
- Asian Economic News, 2002.
- Asian Economic News. December 9, 2002. Poet uses haiku, science and sheep to create poetry. Retrieved April 25, 2008.
- BBC News. December 4, 2002. Woolly writing creates new poetry. Retrieved April 25, 2008.
- E2. March 1, 2003. Quantum sheep poetry. Retrieved April 25, 2008.
- Laws, Valerie. Autumn, 2006. Quantum Sheep. Calstalk, Cornwall: Peterloo Poets. ISBN 978-1-904324-35-5
- Laws, Valerie. April 5, 2008. Haik Ewe. Retrieved April 25, 2008.
- Linares, Antia L. December 2, 2005. Producing Photonic Entanglement: Techniques and Challenges. TSL Expository Lecture Series IV, University of Singapore. Retrieved April 25, 2008.
- Peterloo Poets. 2006. Quantum Sheep. Retrieved April 25, 2008.