Posts Tagged found poetry

Unintentional Haiku in New Scientist’s Medical Frontiers: The Movie


How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?I’ve made a new version of Haiku Detector. The main changes are:

  • Performance improvements
  • Tweaks to which haiku are identified when punctuation is pronounced differently depending on line breaks and other factors (this includes a workaround for the ‘all numbers pronounced as zero’ bug I found in the speech synthesiser.) In my test data the list of haiku identified is better now.
  • Bug fixes.

To celebrate the new release, I fed in the text from the latest New Scientist ‘Collection’ issue, on medical frontiers. The funniest haiku arose when the last sentence of one article joined up with the headline and byline of the next. For example, this looks like the tagline of a movie about an underappreciated superhero, fighting to save anti-vaxxers from diseases of yore:

They will not thank you.
Dan Jones FIGHTING INFECTION
Small shot, big impact

After the opening credits, we see our hero Dan Jones in his lab, and the subtitle announcing his first challenge.

DRUG: Chlorotoxin
SOURCE: Deathstalker scorpion
CONDITION: Cancer

His superpowers come, of course, from vaccines:

Some vaccines seem to
provide us with a host of
extra benefits

But not everybody is happy with that:

Several groups have been
trying to develop drugs
that block these signals.

These groups spread propaganda:

Half an hour or
so later, you’ll feel a lot
better. Or will you?

They work around rules:

“Because we use cells,
not field-grown plants, we don’t come
under the same rules.”

And they target humanity by zapping the very microorganisms they’re made up of. Here’s a quote from the evil mastermind:

There are more cells in
your body than there are stars
in the galaxy.

These cells can then be
killed using a laser that
penetrates the skin.

And just when Dan thought he had the solution, the problems compounded to the point of suspension of disbelief, precipitating a crisis. The mastermind had cooked up her own microbial minions:

Those microbes can be
in the environment or
a vaccine syringe.

To make matters worse,
there is a shortage of new
antibiotics.

The sequel, which may or may not be a Doctor Who crossover, features a heroine who will live forever:

“Just endless.” Helen
Thomson REGENERATION
Let’s get physical

Yep, it’s definitely a Doctor Who crossover. Here’s a quote from that movie:

“I’m the doctor. I’m
going to tell you what your
feelings really mean.”

She discovered that time, and specifically time travel, is the best cure for a broken heart:

If we can’t fix hearts
with stem cells there might be an
even better way

As the animal
was slowly warmed, it began
to return to life.

But however clever the TARDIS is, there’s one thing Helen Thomson isn’t sure she can do:

But can we ever
turn the clock back to a world
without HIV?

It turned out, weirdly enough, that the answer was in making sure there was enough shelf space for one’s awards. So she went home to Britain to save the Officers of the British Empire:

On her return home,
she applied those lessons in
British hospitals.

So far, two patients
have had OBEs, but neither in
a room with a shelf…

While we’re making sequels, let’s revive an old favourite, which never had any sequels:

The matrix holds a
dazzling array of future
possibilities.

But what is the matrix?

Normally, matrix
is harvested from human
or pig cadavers.

I guess you have to see it for yourself.

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Haiku Detector Update


I’ve been sitting on some improvements to Haiku Detector for a while, and it’s about time I released the new version. I had been planning to put this version on the app store, but I’m waiting to hear back from somebody about an icon for it. So for now, you can download it without going through the store. It should work on Mac OS X 10.6 or later.

This version finds haiku made up of multiple sentences rather than only those made of 17-syllable sentences. I also fixed the bug which caused it to crash occasionally when dealing with very long texts. To celebrate, I’ll go through some of the same texts I did when I first released Haiku Detector, and see what new haiku are discovered. To start with, John Scalzi‘s Old Man’s War. This version of Haiku Detector finds 304 haiku in it. Sometimes, sentences can be included in more than one haiku:

“I’m sorry. My sense
of humor was surgically
removed as a child.”

“My sense of humor
was surgically removed as
a child.” “Oh,” I said.

“Oh,” I said. “That was
a joke,” she said, and stood up,
extending her hand.

Here are some of my favourites of the multi-sentence haiku:

She asked, still without
actually looking up
at me. “Pardon me?”

“Okay,” I said. “Mind
if I ask you a question?”
“I’m married,” she said.

“Well, she doesn’t have
to live with you, now does she.”
“How was the cookie?”

“Our friend Thomas would
make it to mile six before
his heart imploded.”

This one sounds like it could be a metaphysical statement about what consciousness is in general:

Your consciousness is
perceiving the small time lag
between there and here.

“I would not presume
to assume, Master Sergeant!”
‘Presume to assume’?

My wife’s out here, sure.
But she’s happy to live her
new life without me.

“Let me see.” Silence.
The familiar voice again.
“Get this log off him.”

“The question now is
what is really going on.”
“Any thoughts on it?”

I think this one is my favourite:

I can just be me.
But I think you could love me
if you wanted to.

I found a lot of new haiku in the CMS paper announcing the discovery of the Higgs boson, but they were all combinations of names from the stupendous author list. Since I included some from New Scientist last time, here are some from the issue of New Scientist that I am currently reading, a special issue on the human brain:

Imaging techniques
are allowing us to see
the brain in action.

The sound waves broke up
the synchronous firing,
ending the seizure.

Thought experiments
Sometimes an experiment
is impossible.

The ancient Greeks knew
about thought experiments
in mathematics.

These two go together:

Does that mean we should
revise our definition
of intelligence?

Until recently,
the same one had been used since
the 1950s.

I have many ideas for improving Haiku Detector, and I’d still like to see if I can detect the best-sounding haiku using linguistic tagging, but before that I’m thinking of rewriting the whole thing in Swift as a learning exercise. Since I don’t have a day job at the moment, I have a bit of free time if I strategically ignore sections of my to-do list. Actually, on that note, here are some particularly obvious haiku from the Mac OS X and iOS Human Interface guidelines:

At a minimum,
a menu displays a list
of menu items.

A picker displays
a set of values from which
a user picks one.

That will do for now. I hope you enjoy playing with the new version of Haiku Detector.

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Unintentional Haiku from New Scientist on A Better You


It’s been a while since I’ve run an issue of New Scientist through Haiku Detector. Since I’m far behind on holidailies, here are some of the unintentional haiku in their collection issue, A Better You. There were 40 haiku all up, many of which were bylines or captions. Many others were rather underwhelming as haiku, but here are the at-least-passably-whelming ones. First, some about getting smart:

We kick off with the
most important organ in
your body: your brain.

These brain areas
are very active when you
play an instrument.

Then you have to have
the motivation to do
something about it.

Now some about what not to eat:

As a result, health
bodies are gearing up for
a “war on sugar”.

Its conclusion: there
is “no evidence” that food
can be addictive.

Is it simply that
too much sugar equals too
many calories?

Unfortunately,
recent research casts doubt on
their effectiveness.

Headlines have appeared
questioning the benefits
of eating less salt.

The last one on that topic echoes Hank Green’s thoughts on picking the right addiction:

Assuming you will
have some vices, the trick is
to choose them wisely.

Some about growing old gracefully:

Some think the effect
is simply about having
a long way to fall.

What you need is a
bit of excitement along
the way. Take some risks.

What on earth was he
doing differently? What was
cushioning the blow?

Not surprisingly,
one of the most important
is intelligence.

Learning like a child
is easy if you know how,
says David Robson

Whatever you want
to learn, it’s never too late
to charge those grey cells.

He recently took
up Chinese, and has no plans
to stop after that.

Some under the heading ‘Get physical’:

They just haven’t been
very good at telling us
what they’ve discovered.

Could exercise be
a killer lying in wait
for the unwary?

Pain may return on
finishing the exercise,
or the next morning.

So if exercise
is so beneficial, why
won’t people take it?

“I’m sorry,” he says
when I ask about the noise.
“I’m on a treadmill.”

and some recipes for success:

It seems that anger
can make us impetuous,
selfish and risk-prone.

Concentrating in
itself is not enough to
screen out distractions.

Instead of nuking
your friendly bacteria
you should nurture them.

Their wounds were slower
to heal, and they also caught
more throat infections.

One theory is that
CMV plays a key role
in immune ageing.

And good vagal tone
improves emotional and
social well-being.

In conclusion, a haiku from me:

I hope these will lead
if not to better haiku,
to a better you.

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Haiku Detector Achieves its Purpose (and will now proceed to have an existential crisis)


I originally wrote Haiku Detector because my friend Gry saw Times Haiku and wondered whether there were any haiku in her Ph. D. thesis. The other day I heard back about the haiku she found. It turns out that even the title of the thesis is a haiku:

Developments for
studies of the extremes of
nuclear matter

Here’s another one, which could be about anything. The last line is a bit of an anticlimax.

As of today, the
origin of this strength is
not well understood.

When I read this one, I wondered if miniball was a mini-golf style version of another ball game:

At HIE-ISOLDE
the MINIBALL would be used
for the same purpose.

The impurities
of 48,50Ti
are easily seen.

After seeing these, I sent her the as-yet-unreleased new version of Haiku Detector, which can detect haiku made up of several sentences. Having mostly had my name on papers authored by the entire CMS collaboration, I expected her to find a lot of haiku in the author list. But ISOLDE is much smaller, and also this is her thesis that she wrote, not some paper whose author list she got tacked onto. So she got some from references:

Kitatani, S.
Goko, H. Toyokawa,
K. Yamada, T.

C 47,
537
(1993).

and some things with section numbers tacked on:

2.1.1
Open shell nuclei and
collective models

This matrix is the
starting point for the Oslo
method. 45

That last one has so many possibilities. I like to think of it as being about an electronic band called The Oslo Method which released a 45rpm record about The Matrix. Unfortunately, nobody can be told what the haiku is. You have to see it for yourself. And indeed, you can see the other haiku she found on the #MyHaikuThesis tag on Twitter.

I noticed something interesting while writing this post — some of the ‘haiku’ Gry found include gamma (γ) symbols:

The γ-ray strength functions
display no strong enhancement
for low γ energies.

5.2.3
Particle energy-γ-ray
energy matrix

Haiku Detector on her Mac has treated them as having zero syllables, as if they are not pronounced, and I think I recall characters like that not being pronounced in the Princeton Companion to Mathematics. But I just checked on my Mac running Mac OS X Yosemite, and the speech synthesis (which Haiku Detector relies on for syllable counting) pronounces γ as ‘Greek small letter gamma’, so Haiku Detector does not find those erroneous haiku. I think that this might be a new feature in Yosemite.

But here’s where it gets weird: you’d think that it’s just reading ‘Greek small letter gamma’ because that’s the unicode name of the character. I tried with a few emoji and other special characters, and that hypothesis is upheld. But the unicode character named ‘chicken’ (🐔) is pronounced ‘chicken head’. Spooky. Another strange thing is that there is no unicode ‘duck’ character.

If you’ve been paying attention, you probably know why I happened to come across those oddities. I’ll have to investigate them later, though; right now I’m in Edinburgh for NSScotland, and it’s about time I looked at some tourism information.

So, Haiku Detector; what now? Maybe look for supersymmetric haiku?

Update: It seems that in Mac OS X 10.8, γ is not pronounced, and 🐔 is pronounced ‘chicken emoji’. Other emoji also have ’emoji’ in their pronunciations, while still others are not pronounced. I wonder if pronunciations were added (and later edited to remove the ’emoji’) for certain emoji, and now the default pronunciation has changed from nothing to the unicode name. So ‘🐔’ ended up with the explicit pronunciation ‘chicken head’ while others which were not previously pronounced use their unicode names. So this should be a haiku in Yosemite, though for some reason Haiku Detector does not detect it:

🐒🐔
🐔🐒🐒
🍄🍄🐍

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Unintentional Haiku Spoken in a Courtroom 241 Years Ago


When I discovered that the court proceedings of the Old Bailey were available online, naturally I had to see whether they contained any haiku. The archive is too huge to put into Haiku Detector all at once, so I just checked the ‘on this day in…’ link whenever I had time. The most haiku-rich I’ve seen so far was from a wounding case on 8 September 1773, which, now that I think about it, should not have appeared as an ‘on this day…’ link yet. I had to clean up the text a little first, to remove all the Q.s and speakers’ names. Here are some of the 55 haiku that were left.

These ones sound like some kind of metaphor for the fiddly final steps towards achieving goals, and the monsters that might demotivate us from climbing toward those goals, but which are secretly part of ourselves:

How far is it from
the upper step of the stairs
to the door itself?

Upon the landing.
Was the door within view of
you at that time?   Yes.

The General must
have seen you coming up two
or three steps at least?

How far had you got
up stairs before you saw Hyde?
Did you hear Hyde’s voice?

Who else was with you
there?  I cannot remember
any one but me.

Where did you wait while
Hyde went into the house?   At
the top of the street.

The world’s simplest riddle:

Yes. Where did you go
when you came into the house?
Into the entry.

And some more intriguing questions:

After Lee struck me:
the knife dropped upon the ground.
Was it by a blow?

Had he no blow with
the butt end of a pistol?
Not that I know of.

You say you knew the
General very well; do
you think he knew you?

When you came back what
part of the family did
you find below stairs?

In what condition
was the door when he fired
the second pistol?

What did he tell him?
That a parcel of fellows
were below with sticks.

Did you observe the
hole in the door case that was
made by the pistol?

Did you look through the
door to see the direction
the ball had taken?

Was the General
upon his legs or not? He
was upon his legs.

Some which sound like bloody massacres until you get to the last line:

I believe this is
the knife you was cutting the
bread and butter with.

Was James in the room
with you while you was cutting
the bread and butter?

Finally, a few which sound a bit dirty (or so I am told) if you have that kind of mind:

Read the rest of this entry »

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The First Attack


In one of the workshops I went to before the official start of the 13th International Conference on the Short Story in English, we were given four pages of text from various sources (see if you can recognise them!) and instructed to cut each page into four pieces, mix them up, lay them out on a table and note down any interesting phrases we found by aligning lines from different pieces of paper. We were free to slightly alter the sentences so they’d make sense. What I ended up with rather amused me, so I’ll post it here, as a sort of found poetry:

The first attack, where ignorant armies clash
Where the sea meets the shadow of the moon of death
The thing they would not stand was back, and back, and fling
Stand together to win the war against steel, but they cannot dent the steel.
A great people has been moved to naked shingles of the world
The President agreed, in the white immunity, “I fear no evil, for I implemented our government’s. Tonight, I ask for your prayers for all the three-shilling tea, and the best worlds have been shattered.”

I was particularly amused by the two chance juxtapositions that led to ‘in the white immunity’ and ‘I fear no evil, for I implemented our government’s’. So far at the conference I’ve met all sorts of interesting people and learnt many things (it is strange to see a partially-academic conference that has nothing whatsoever to do with particle physics) and heard many stories. I can’t say much about them now, though, as I’d like to get a half-decent amount of sleep before I read a story and introduce a few others at the conference tomorrow. I’m too tired to even read the entry on aleatory poetics in the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics.

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Unintentional Haiku from New Scientist on The Unknown Universe


I added some features to Haiku Detector so that it will find haiku made of more than one sentence, though I haven’t released the new version yet, since I’d like to release it on the Mac App store (even though it will probably still be free, at least at first) to see how that works, and to do that I’ll need an icon first. If you know anyone who can make Mac icons at a reasonable price, let me know. Meanwhile, New Scientist has released a new ‘collection‘ called The Unknown Universe, so why not mine it for haiku? The topics are ‘The early universe’, ‘The nature of reality’ (again), ‘The fabric of the cosmos’, ‘Dark materials’, ‘Black holes’, ‘Time’ (again) and ‘New directions’.

Let’s start at the very beginning, the early universe:

Can we really be
sure now that the universe
had a beginning?

At first, that seems like a terrible place to break the sentence to start a new line. But what if we pretend, until we get to the next line, that ‘Can we really be?’ is the whole question? Because that’s the real reason people wonder about the universe.

Now, here’s a multi-sentence one, which conveniently has a full sentence as the first line:

“We’re back to square one.”
Tegmark agrees: “Inflation
has destroyed itself.”

Deep. But what is this inflation thing, anyway?

Well, for one thing, it’s
not clear what actually
does the inflating.

Only then will we
truly know what kind of a
bang the big bang was.

“I am not convinced
the cyclic model is that
grander idea.”

But I think this is my favourite. There’s a monster at the end of this universe, and it’s making crosswords.

Cosmic monsters that
have survived into our times
also pose puzzles.

Now for the nature of reality:

“It pulls the rug out
from under us to prove a
theory right or wrong.”

Maybe we just need to look around us.

There is also down,
and, for that matter, left, right,
forwards and backwards.

Have we figured out what we’re looking for yet?

What it is, though, we
do not have the words or the
concepts to express.

Maybe E. L. James can help us figure it out:

“This experiment
allows us to see the shades
of grey in between.”

These ones are about the fabric of the cosmos:

“If you go by what
we observe, we don’t live in
space-time,” Smolin says.

We battle against
them each time we labour up
a hill or staircase.

“But where did the weak
primordial fields that seed the
dynamo come from?”

The same force that keeps
our feet on the ground also
shapes the universe.

I like this one for the contrast between the first and last lines:

The information-
loss paradox dissolves.  Big
questions still remain.

Here are some of the ‘dark materials‘ haiku, about dark matter and dark energy:

The discovery of
dark matter would be the find
of the century.

I love how this contrasts ‘discovery of’ with ‘find of’; I didn’t notice that in prose form.

We still don’t know what
it is. It is everywhere
and we can’t see it.

That opens the door
to a dazzling array of
possibilities.

This chase through space will
be thrilling, but the quarry
may still elude us.

“It seems like a long
shot,” he says. But others are
being won over.

“But we don’t see a
fifth force within the solar
system,” says Burrage.

Though maybe the array of possibilities isn’t so dazzling after all:

It is limited
to perhaps three things. First, dark
energy pushes.

There are only two haiku about black holes, but one of them sounds like an idea Dan Brown might write about, probably without first reading New Scientist:

A BOMB made out of
a black hole is a rather
unsettling thought.

And the other sounds like it belongs on an episode of Doctor Who:

One of them will have
to blink if this paradox
is to be undone.

There are no more haiku on time, but luckily there were some in the last collection. I love this one about new directions, though:

Put that to many
physicists, and you will get
a grumpy response.

Ah, those physicists, always hopeful:

“Historically, these
things have usually led
somewhere,” says Davies.

They even have a solution to that ‘we still don’t know what it is’ problem from earlier:

“We don’t know what it
is so we have to give it
a name, a symbol.”

After that, it gets
a lot more speculative,
but here’s the best guess.

But they’re not that confident about it:

There are also good
reasons to think it is an
unwarranted one.

Paths to a theory
of everything will become
even more winding.

For instance, it could
decrease with time, or even
become negative.

Infinity makes things even more difficult:

INFINITY. It
is a concept that defies
imagination.

But it is at the
big bang that infinity
wreaks the most havoc.

The first line of the first infinity one reminds me of a CERN friend’s recipe for gravity: you just put ‘it’ in gravy.

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Unintentional Haiku from New Scientist, on Shakespeare and Stuff


I’m still behind on New Scientist, so I’m now reading the issue which has a special feature on Shakespeare. It seemed like a good issue to look for poetry in. Here are the haiku that Haiku Detector detected in the articles about Shakespeare. The first is a strategically-syllabicised book promo:

His book The Science
of Shakespeare is published this
month (St Martin’s Press)

The next has a supporting quote from the Bard himself:

Supporting quote: “If
sack and sugar be a fault,
God help the wicked.”

but this one is my favourite:

Most of all he swings
between moods superbly high
and desperately low.

That doesn’t seem like enough stuff for a blog post. Luckily, the issue just after the special issue that I already found haiku in has a feature on ‘stuff’, so here’s the only haiku from that:

His leather backpack
is today’s bag to haul our
essentials around.

In case it’s still Star Wars Day when you read this, you might want to check out my post from last Star Wars Day featuring a video in which I read my poem about not having seen Star Wars.

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Unintentional Haiku from New Scientist, on Self, Sleep, and Death


Following on from the posts on reality, existence, and God and consciousness, life, and time, here are the unintentional haiku that Haiku Detector found in the last three sections of New Scientist’s special issue with the ‘big questions’: the self, sleep, and death. The ‘self’ section has a haiku in an image caption:

The self may be a
necessary illusion
(Image: Darren Hopes)

I suppose it could make sense if somebody named Darren hopes that the self is an image:

The self may be a
necessary illusion
(image, Darren hopes)

The others are from the main text:

But we surely still
have the same self today that
we had yesterday.

For most people, most
of the time, the sense of self
is seamless and whole.

These ones are about sleep, perchance about dreaming:

Our emotional
undercurrents seem to be
the guiding force here.

This one requires ‘2008’ to be pronouned ‘two thousand eight’, not ‘two thousand and eight’:

In 2008,
hints emerged that these might be
the deeper stages.

The fountain of youth
may have been as close as our
bedrooms all along.

So it’s puzzling that
we still don’t really know why
it is that we sleep.

And finally, one on the final sleep, death:

When the risk is slight,
mild concern may be all that
is appropriate.

That’s all from that special issue of New Scientist, though the latest issue is dedicated to Shakespeare, so I hope to find some poetry in it. If there’s anything else you’d like me to mine for haiku, let me know!

While I was writing a poem a day, there would be times when I’d just feel like writing prose, for a break. I was hoping that this prose pressure would build up and I’d write something amazing when NaPoWriMo ended. Now that I’m trying to prioritise writing a short story for a competition, poems are trying to force their way out. So I still could manage 30 poems in 30 days, but I’m not going to pressure myself to post them by each midnight, and I won’t feel bad about posting found haiku when I don’t have a poem ready.

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Unintentional Haiku in Time Cube


I’m not sure if I’ll keep up the daily poems for NaPoWriMo for the rest of the month, because I remembered that the deadline for a short story contest I plan to enter is also at the end of the month, so I’ll need time to write something for that. But today’s What If reminded me of the hilariously incoherent ‘Time Cube‘ website, and I wondered if there were any unintentional haiku in it. I ran Haiku Detector on it, and I found these ones on the first page:

I have so much to
teach you, but you ignore me
you evil asses.

Humans ignore their
4 corner stages of life
metamorphosis.

All 4/24
hour days occur within
1 Earth rotation.

I have created
simultaneous 4 day
rotation of Earth.

Your God claimed to have
created a single day
rotation of Earth.

Singularity
educated humans are
not intelligent.

I like the first one best. I hadn’t read this far before, but it turns out the second page has some weird statements supporting racial segregation on it, so if you’re likely to be bothered by ridiculous-sounding racist statements by a crackpot, read no further.

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