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The Poetry of Science

In The Magic of Reality (TMOR), Richard hit upon a wonderful format. Take the myths of the world, the questions and answers that the ancients gave for all sorts of natural phenomenon, and contrast them to the questions and answers that science provides for the same thing.

I've read TMOR and I think it's a brilliant read, a book for all ages, one that will be arriving on the doorstep of my nieces and nephews for Christmas.

I have a proposal for Richard, a book idea that, I believe, would complement TMOR nicely.

Take the musings of several poets throughout the ages, people such as: Aristotle, Euripedes, William Blake, Henry Longfellow or Shakespeare or Walt Whitman or whoever, and juxtapose them to the answers or theories of "modern" scientists and theories, people such as Newton, Darwin, Einstein, Feynman et al.

Richard already touched on this format in Unweaving the Rainbow (UTR), when he compared the musing of Keates and the theories of Newton on the colors of the spectrum.

But I think a fuller exposition between poets of myth, as I call traditional poets, and poets of reality, as I call scientists, is about due (unless someone else has already written this book; please let me know).

I have in mind something like William Blake's "Tyger" (Tyger, tyger, burning bright; In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye; Could frame thy fearful symmetry?) as a prelude to an Evolutionary biological explanation for the tiger's eyes and colors.

Or, take Whitman's poem (inspired by a frustration at not understanding the cosmos) "When I heard the Learn'd Astronomer" (When I heard the learn'd astronomer; When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me; When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them; When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room, How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick; Till rising and gliding out, I wander'd off by myself, In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars) as a modern introduction as to how the stars came to existence.

A book therefore where science and poetry combine.

It would be a fantastic way of bridging the often very wide divide between the sciences and the arts, a way-in for science majors (into the arts) and literature majors (into the sciences), and a thoroughly enjoyable read for all the ages.

As a member of both the leading scientific and literary institutions of the land, I cannot think of anyone better qualified than Richard to write such a book.

Incidentally, if anyone out there has examples of the questions asked by poets and the answers given by scientists to such questions, feel free to have at it below.

This post, incidentally, was inspired by the You Video (Feynman Series) where Joan Fenyman, Richard Feynman's sister, talks about what and how the poet sees versus what and how the scientist discovers.



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