This isn’t a post about science, but without some background you’ll be wondering what a poem’s doing here.
CERN – the European Organization for Nuclear Research is located in Geneva. It’s where they study the fundamental structure of the universe with huge particle accelerators and detectors that collision particles at near the speed of light. It came to the fore 2012 when they were able to observe a new particle consistent with the Higgs Boson, a missing link in the theory of the so-called “Standard Model”. As a result, Prof Higgs and his colleague were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics the following year.
CERN celebrated its 60th anniversary two years ago with a series of initiatives to create a greater awareness of their achievements. For the occasion, apart from various events there and in town, they presented new books for the general public. One of them was “From Physics to Daily Life”* which describes in two tomes the development in CERN of myriad applications in the fields of Biology, Medicine, Healthcare, Informatics, Energy and Environment The best known is probably the invention of the World Wide Web by British scientist Sir Tim Berners Lee who’s at the forefront of the Net Neutrality movement today, to promote and defend internet access for all. But you probably didn’t know that touch screen technology was also originally developed in CERN, did you? Over the years, I’ve done proof reading, language editing and translating for various CERN-related publications, all of which were always fascinating and instructive. In professional translating you don’t translate unless you understand, so you have to learn masses of stuff as you go along if you want to be sure your translated text makes sense.
The most creative project I’ve ever worked on, bar none, was “POP Science Poetry”, that blends poetry and science. In the first phase of each yearly edition, acknowledged EU poets are invited to visit CERN for a 2-3 day workshop, taken around, and the arcane of leading edge physics are explained to them by their hosts who are world-renowned scientists. The poets go back home, and have a couple of months to write their original poems on CERN and research. In the second phase, poetry contests for amateurs are launched in various countries – therefore various languages. They’re open to all, and are well publicized in schools. The poems some of the youngsters have produced have been intriguing at the very least, and in many cases quite striking. It’s a fact that young people in the EU are not very attracted to physics, which they see as tough and dry. This is alarming for the future of R & D. or simply for the future of these countries. However, imagination in all its forms is necessary for top research. There are many famous Einstein quotes that have nothing to do with logic, he tells us clearly that truly creative ideas come to us through imagination, art and emotions.
So here’s a glimpse at POP Science Poetry 2015, with a poem by Italian poet Deborah D’Agostino – in its English version. Her poem is a perfect example of how it’s possible to evoke the micro and macro of physics and of the universe with a deep sense of mystery and elegance.
How do you see scientists and researchers? as engineer-types or dreamers?
*Wiley Blackwell 2015, edited by Beatrice Bressan
Go to http://www.subway-edizioni.it to read many other “POP Science” poets.
A NEW PHYSICS
beneath the solid blue
of the sky a sea bird flies off;
and never stops: because all the images proclaim:
(from “Cuttlefish” – in “Mistral” by Eugenio Montale)
Deeply hidden and buried
the enormous Flower of Light, between the airport
and the Jura Mountains,
concealed, awaits, asphalt root
beam of diffuse irradiated colour.
A seagull’s lake-wing,
with a shiny dart,
ushers myriad collisions,
the many destinies of protons,
leading towards unexplored worlds.
At a point among four, revealed by the detectors
at never attained speeds
provoked by the accelerator
the protons collide
in a festive merry-go-round
and leave traces, pregnant with meaning,
vibrating at times just a single instant.
To be able to see
the City’s iridescent colours
become reticules of lights,
and to see Light shining on the horizon at sundown,
beyond the atmosphere on the edge of the Planet,
then Darkness, a star-spangled sky.
The Galaxy, a Spiral of Light,
a thought in the dark that holds
tight to the stars and planets.
Deep darkness, silence, non-void
the unmeasurable Universe almost completely
wrapped in a dark matter,
invisible and indifferent,
in constant conflict with dark energy,
antagonist, expands to infinity.
From the Primordial Fire of countless
volcanos exploding in all directions, generating
Space, Time, what we were.
To stop and ponder the original
Break in Symmetry
as often occurs between lovers.
To stop and ponder
that all is complementary in the Universe:
the rhythm of the trees in the woods, alternated
full and void,
to breathe in and breathe out, the ebb and flow of waves
the pauses and the notes.
And what is complementary annihilates itself:
the non-loving, light and darkness, matter
only one part left, the other yields.
Or to postulate that it was never created
or, even, that it disappeared
fleeing beyond our horizon of events.
To only know that what is left
in this life
is everything we know, and Light.
PARADOX IN THE DARK NIGHT
Inky-sea on New Moon nights
Abandoned to stop and pause
I recall the Cosmos
-impossible to speak-
and this foam of seas
that seems to whirl on itself
I compare to the galaxies that are expanding
without seeming to.
And I recall the deep darkness of the night
the darkness of the soul, incomprehensible
to Humankind’s ferocity,
to the paradox of countless lights
that are deep darkness
and recall how different
from this dense and dark sea
appears the beach in the morning heat
all our biases
contradicted by the facts
become a paradox
We are made of shadow and light
The multi-coloured merry-go-round of protons colliding
spells some hope for the ills of human beings.
In this labyrinth of theories,
based on the principle of indetermination,
infinity remains a matter for poets.
Beyond the unexplored worlds, beyond the pentaquark,
beyond this, what is left
Original poem in Italian © 2015 Deborah D’Agostino
English translation © 2015 Bea de Meirelles
French transaltion on Bonjour! page
Thanks to: CERN Geneva, Pop Science Poetry, Subway Edizioni Milano.
photos: garden flowers and CERN mug both mine ; overhead view and accelerator http://cern.ch