# Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Humanities/2014 January 22

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# January 22

## Is "scientific poetry" replacing pure or traditional poetry

Today, scientific findings are becoming poetic themes, and it seems that this form of poetry is gaining strength and popularity. What then will happen to the poets who are exclusively trained in the humanities not in the sciences? Will scientific poetry kill traditional, lexical, and subjective poetry and make poetry a scientific compliment? (It would be great if you could cite literary academics.)

There are a number of articles on the synthesis of the sciences and poetry. Most of these articles argue that poetry is the vehicle that disseminated important scientific findings, like that of the Greeks or that of the 20th century scientists, who presented their works in verse. Sciences, then, are never different from poetry. However, as I can see it, the integration will not work for the benefit of both but only for the benefit of the sciences. Poetry is grounded on itself and this so-called “scientific poetry” is grounded on science.

If “scientific poetry” uses an accepted scientific belief as a poetic theme, poetry, obviously, becomes a complimentary activity, or a past time for a scientist to express his scientific indulgence. Unsurprisingly, most of these “scientific poems” are mathematical at best, and, not to mention, technical. And this so called "scientific poetry" makes poetry as a means to an ends - a vehicle to promote rigorous and objective thinking. Hence, to criticize or analyze it requires one to look at science, not at the poem.49.144.146.30 (talk) 03:06, 22 January 2014 (UTC)

I'm glad you mentioned literary academics, because their published opinions, if any, would be all we could provide in answer to the issues raised. We could not proffer our own views, because that would be breaching at least WP:CRYSTAL, WP:OR and WP:FORUM. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 03:58, 22 January 2014 (UTC)
I'll go out on a limb and say "nothing" and "no" - since Wikipedia has no article on scientific poetry and the term is only used in the article of Sully Prudhomme (died 1907). "Science poetry" is only mentioned in the article on Celia Berrell. In contrast we have a large number of articles on modern poets who write on "humanities themes". See Category:20th-century poets and Category:21st-century poets. Rmhermen (talk) 04:54, 22 January 2014 (UTC)
Would you mind elaborating on exactly what you're asking? Maybe it's just me, but I read a lot of what would be called science (from popular books to journal articles), I cannot think of anyone presenting anything in verse; nor am I aware of poetry about most of such subject matters. I've read your question about ten times, I'm not really sure I understand what it is you are asking/talking about.Phoenixia1177 (talk) 06:28, 22 January 2014 (UTC)

Phoenixia1177, what do you mean you don't understand (please explain more)? If you what you mean is, "it is odd to combine poetry and science, because these two fields are almost two worlds apart, just like music and political science", then I must say that there are certain people who thinks so. These people consider that a scientific idea transformed into stanzas, like what traditional poetry looks like, will make a scientific idea poetic. There's even a book about it that addressed science or scientific poetry very lightly, in a manner not sufficient to defend the poetic worth of this so-called "scientific poetry". Again, What would happen to pure poetry, one that is grounded on itself if this kind of "poetry" will ever be popular? Here's the link to the online pdf version of the book. http://www.durham.net/~neilmac/sciencepoetry.pdf

I mentioned above that some "scientific poetry" are mathematical at best. Here's an example taken from the book: (Sorry, I don't know how to paste the text in stanzas)

Equation of (E)motion
Steven K. Smith

Let r = f(Θ,Φ,Ρ,t) and let r
describe the world line of some person
with a family, friends, hopes, et cetera...
for a spherical coordinate system centered
on the earth and constrained such that
for all Ρ, Ρd < Ρ < Ρu and Ρu - Ρd <<
the mean radius of the earth, 0.
Then the instantaneous position ri
of this person is given by
f(Θi, Φ i, Ρi, ti) where i represents
some instant between birth at t = t0
and death at t = tN.
Also let q = g (Θ,Φ,Ρ, t)
be the world line of a person
prone to drunk driving.

Then δ/δt (q) = v is the speed of q
and if at t = ti vi = too fast
for the conditions of the road, weather,
and the time interval since his last drink
and if qi = ri then there exists a solution
for the equation of motion for r
at t > tN where the world line, f(Θ,Φ,Ρ, t),
passes through a hospital, morgue, and funeral home
and the brief convergence of the
tear dampened world lines of family and friends
before coming to a final position
rf = f(Θ f, Φ f, Ρf, tf) where Ρf < Ρ0
and Ρ0 - Ρf = six feet (1.83 meters).

49.144.146.30 (talk) 10:35, 22 January 2014 (UTC)

I'm not doubting that such things exist. However, I have yet to see this used as a common method of discussing/exploring/etc. mathematics or science; nor do the majority of poems appear to be in such a style. In short, I'm sure you could drum up a few more such poems, but I'm not following why this would replace traditional poetry, nor am I seeing any evidence that it is, indeed, even a common way of writing poetry. Finally, it appears less that you are asking a specific question and more that you are presenting a half-essay without any context. My point: without some context to what you are asking and asking for, the answer appears to be an obvious, no - but, since you bothered to ask, I'm guessing you must have some other idea in mind, but it is not very clear what that idea/question is; thus, please elaborate on that matter.Phoenixia1177 (talk) 10:43, 22 January 2014 (UTC)
Yes, there are, no doubt, a few scientists who write and read such poetry for fun, but I would offer very long odds against it becoming anything more than a minority pastime. I can't see it ever being taken as either serious science or serious poetry. Dbfirs 18:32, 22 January 2014 (UTC)
"Unsurprisingly, most of these “scientific poems” are mathematical at best". I'm not sure what that means, but there is such a thing as "mathematical poetry" as espoused by Bob Grumman. it's very much in the tradition of radical avant-garde verse of the type that dates back to Dada and Pound, and which had a revival in the 1960s in the form of minimalist poetry. It's always been a very very minority form of literature. What's most remarkable about the history of poetry in the 20th - 21st century is the fact that it has mostly withdrawn from the modernist avant-garde phase to become more direct and discursive, unlike art, which has remained within the paradigm of the avant-garde. The "poem" you quote does not seem very scientific to me, but rather a deliberately Duchampian conflation of pseudo-scientific rhetoric with imagery of human mess and chaos, representing the clash of the two. Paul B (talk) 18:38, 22 January 2014 (UTC)
p.s. I used the poem template so that Steven's unreadable poem at least looks more like a readable poem. Paul B (talk) 19:03, 22 January 2014 (UTC)
Aside from the classic "There was a young lady named Bright", there's also:
Condensed Story of Ms Farad, by A. P. French
Miss Farad was pretty and sensual
And charged to a reckless potential;
But a rascal named Ohm
Conducted her home -
Her decline was, alas, exponential.
The American Physical Society apparently has too much time on its hands, as it conducted a limerick contest, of which the above was one of the entries.[1]
Clarityfiend (talk) 01:47, 23 January 2014 (UTC)
One particularly useful limerick I remember:
The pendulum's swinging quite free,
It is such a marvel to me.
Each tick, plus each tock
Of the grandfather clock
Is ${\displaystyle 2\pi {\sqrt {l \over g}}}$ (two pi root el over gee)
MChesterMC (talk) 11:27, 23 January 2014 (UTC)

49.144.146.30 -- There's the "Space-Child's Mother Goose", which is quite amusing and moderately famous in some circles 50 years ago, but much more of a literary stunt than a serious movement... AnonMoos (talk) 04:12, 23 January 2014 (UTC)

• There are lots of jokey mathematical poems (The Kiss Precise is a famous example, and there is a Math Overflow thread with more.[2] Here's one that I like about the halting problem. But I'd agree none of these particularly aim to cross the divide of The Two Cultures that the OP seemed to have in mind. Piet Hein's "Grooks" might come closer, as Hein was a physicist, though the Grooks mostly weren't especially scientifically oriented. Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare is a famous, often-parodied poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, a conventional (i.e. non-mathematical) poet, that tries to express the emotion of mathematical wonder from "the other side". Searching for "mathematician and poet" on either Wikipedia or the WWW finds a number of interesting pages. No I don't think there is any conflict between different types of poetry. The sonnet didn't kill off the limerick or vice versa. Scientific doggerel gets written because it's fun and lightens up presentations. I don't think anyone takes it seriously as an art form. 50.0.121.102 (talk) 04:59, 23 January 2014 (UTC)
• The names of the chemical elements inspired Tom Lehrer (a mathematician) to song. Thincat (talk) 10:56, 23 January 2014 (UTC)

## U.S. National Guard insignia

I have a printed photo of four National Guardsmen in 1963, shown on maneuvers in Michigan. One's an officer (either a major or a light colonel), and I can't see the ranks of the other three, although I'm guessing that they're officers. The officer and one other man have insignia on their left lapels looking like a bird (eagle?) on top of a shield, comparable in shape to the logo of the National Park Service. The other two have insignia that look either like a rifle or a stick figure (they're in the background and I can't see them as well). The end that's feet of the figure/butt of the rifle is pointing toward the men's faces, and the head/muzzle points toward the back of the men's heads. What could these insignia mean? 149.160.172.39 (talk) 21:20, 22 January 2014 (UTC)

United States Army branch insignia may be of some help - these are apparently worn on lapels/collars. The first seems to be an aide-de-camp's insignia; hard to tell what the others are. Andrew Gray (talk) 21:59, 22 January 2014 (UTC)