Five of Clubs: Juratron Park

juratron-parkIf you pine for the mystery
before Noah’s ark
we’ve remade prehistory
at Juratron Park.

Come atoms, come molecules,
See what you were back then.
Come out for a frolic, you’ll
spin unperturbed again.

Those that wander can find
on our Memory Lane walks
they’re no longer confined
to a group of three quarks.

Before we were three
we were free from our tether,
and though we were free
we were closer together.

We loved antimatter,
we were one, nigh elation
to meet and to natter
’bout CP violation.

So come to a place
that’s more bright than the sun
where we’d meet face to face
‘fore they lost and we won.

Then back where you’re from,
bound together by force,
Go back to your com-
pounds, to never divorce.

We don’t all get on,
talk is charged and polemical
but each baryon
has its place in a chemical.

If protons complain
then you reach in and tell ’em, in
truth you all gain
when you’re each in your element.

You’re not vexed when you seek
unified universe
But you know you’re unique
when divided, diverse.

Make the world have this aim:
make the world we’re in different.
The more we’re the same,
the more we’re indifferent.

As you know, last week I followed Jonathan Coulton and Paul and Storm around Great Britain. In a cunning ruse disguised as a card trick, I got each of them to pick a five of clubs for me to write about. Interestingly, Paul and Storm both picked CERN cards, one French and one English. Those two are so incredibly in sync with each other onstage, I guess they are just different models of the same brand of singing robot.

Jonathan, being a different (but not necessarily better) brand of singing robot, picked the card about Bunratty Folk Park in County Clare, Ireland. I correctly guessed that this was one of those nostalgic theme parks which attempt to recreate the world of a hundred years ago or so.

I thought about abstracting the CERN cards simply to the concept of the same thing being in both French and English, perhaps a horribly complicated bilingual thing like Words for Snow, but where the French lines are actually translations of the English rather than new stuff. But that would have been horribly complicated, and difficult to do on the road. So I took the cards at face value, and decided to write about a nostalgic theme park for particles wishing to see what the universe was like before protons and neutrons formed. The name would be Juratron Park, after Jurassic Park and Juratron, an early name for the Large Hadron Collider.

Due to all the stalking I was doing and concerts I was going to, I didn’t actually get time to write about their chosen cards last week, so I took my first ever week off, and wrote the five of clubs this week instead. I intended it to be reasonably understandable and have a clear moral message of some sort for people who don’t know about particle physics, and plenty of bonus puns for those who do… much like Grand Unification. I am pretty sure I failed at this; the only stanzas which have no explicit reference to particles are the first and the two last ones. That said, I do really like the last two stanzas.

In case you can’t read it in the picture, the CERN card says the following:

t=10-4 seconds; temperature=1013K. Quarks combine to form protons and neutrons. Positrons and electrons annihilate and are not recreated. An excess of electrons remains.

Protons and neutrons are baryons, that is, particles each made of three quarks. So in the poem, the protons and neutrons in the nuclei of atoms are invited to revisit a time when these three quarks were free to roam around in quark-gluon plasma. The interesting thing about quarks is, the further apart they are, the stronger the force is pulling them together. So, strange as it might seem, it’s only when they are very close together that they are truly free to move around. And they need a lot of energy to be that close together. I’d explain how that works but I probably don’t know.

Back in this epoch there was also enough energy for matter and antimatter to coexist. That is to say, they’d annihilate (or nigh elate?) each other in a burst of energy whenever they met, but then they’d pop back into existence again using some of the spare energy floating around. By the time of the five of clubs, the energy had dispersed enough that it was no longer concentrated enough to form new matter and antimatter. Now, matter and antimatter are created in equal amounts, and therefore ought to have annihilated each other by that stage, so that there’d only be energy left. But, perhaps because of slight differences between matter and antimatter known as CP violation, some matter remained. As a programmer, I’m not entirely sure about all that physics, but what I do know is that those surviving matter particles missed their antimatter partners (literally and figuratively), and would like to go and see them in a folk park some day.

Nice as it must have been when quarks, antiquarks, electrons, positrons, and other such things all lived in harmony in one big energetic blob, there’s not much you can do with one big energetic blob. You can’t make neutrons and protons, and without neutrons and protons, you can’t make atoms, and without atoms, you can’t make love or war. So it’s just as well that all those happy quarks were torn out of their commune and forced to live in threes, each group pretty much isolated from the others. At least that way, a quark can identify itself as being the down quark in the proton in the hydrogen nucleus of the water molecule on the side of my left nostril, rather than just another quark swimming around with all the other identical quarks, sharing and loving and so forth.

This is another poem that I wrote to a tune. This is a bad thing, because being almost completely musically illiterate, I can’t communicate the tune to you. It’s difficult to read it without singing it in my head, which means I can’t judge how good it is when you read it without the tune. Music allows a lot more flexibility in terms of rhythm.

The letter of the week is I, which I didn’t specifically account for, but if anyone asks, tell them it’s the first person singular pronoun for all those individualist quarks, or the square root of negative one to represent the purely imaginary nature of this poem’s connection to the letter I.

I had a lot of fun with rhymes and homophones in this poem. I hope you enjoy them too. I recommend reading the poem aloud. Preferably when you’re in a room with many other people who will ask what you’re doing, because I like making people look silly.

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  1. Ace of Clubs: The Island « Writing Cards and Letters
  2. Nine of Diamonds: Willpower Zero (based on a true story) « Creative Output

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