Posts Tagged reality

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

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:

is a concept that defies

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 Consciousness, Life, and Time

I’m going out tonight and won’t have time to finish writing a poem for NaPoWriMo, so here are the haiku that Haiku Detector detected in the next three topics of New Scientist’s special issue with the ‘big questions’. I posted the unintentional haiku on reality, existence, and God last week.  This seemed like a good place to find interesting unintentional haiku, so I ran Haiku Detector over the first three sections. Perhaps I’ll do the rest on later Saturdays, to give myself a weekly break during poetry writing month.

There’s only one unintentional haiku on the subject of consciousness, but it’s a good one:

You may think you know
the reasons, but they could be
a work of fiction.

Two about life:

These discoveries are
bringing an old paradox
back into focus.

There is a simple
way to get huge amounts of
energy this way.

One of these days I’ll add in some linguistics-based heuristics or a learning algorithm to rank the haiku; haiku lines ending in prepositions are often not as good, for example, and splitting the adjective from the following noun is a little weird too.

The section on time has the most and best haiku. This pleases me, because the largest text I tested Haiku Detector on when I first wrote it was the forum thread about the xkcd Time comic. There were a lot of haiku in there, and pointing them out encouraged people to write more.

So clocks tell us that
time is inextricably
linked somehow to change.

Now, more than ever,
we have to face up to our
ignorance of time.

If time’s arrow is
not in the laws of physics,
where does it come from?

Why do human brains
only remember the past
and not the future?

WE ALL, regardless
of our cultural background,
experience time.

Traditionally they
have lived by small-scale farming,
hunting and fishing.

Nonetheless, we could
do some interesting things with
our own time machine.

On the subject of time, I’d better hurry up and go out. Tune in next week for New Scientist’s unintentional haiku on the self, sleep, and death.


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Unintentional Haiku from New Scientist, on Reality, Existence, and God

I’m not only behind on poems, I’m also behind on reading New Scientist magazine, so I’m just starting on a special issue with the ‘big questions’ with articles about reality, existence, God, consciousness, life, time, self, sleep, and death. This seemed like a good place to find interesting unintentional haiku, so I ran Haiku Detector over the first three sections. Perhaps I’ll do the rest on later Saturdays, to give myself a weekly break during poetry writing month.

There’s only one unintentional haiku on the subject of reality:

Afterwards, we map
the locations of all the
thousands of flashes.

These three are about existence:

“Small simulations
should be far more numerous
than large ones,” he says.

Sadly that means you
will never be able to
meet your other you.

A few researchers
even think it could happen
in the next decade.

That last one works for many great scientific quests, at any time. Here are some about God… or… Santa?

More interesting still
was a second version of
the experiment.

Santa knows if you’ve
been bad or good but does he
know all that you do?

Because of this, they
are highly susceptible
to false positives.

I wonder what the second version of God’s experiment would be like.

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Four of Clubs: On Hospitals and Reality

I felt like reading this one aloud. In retrospect, I should have taken the trouble to memorise it and set up a proper camera rather than recording it with a webcam while reading it from a screen. The story I refer to, which I did not actually reread before writing this, is after the break.

A card with pictograms for disability and toilets and food

When I was a teenager I wrote a story about my experience staying in Starship Children’s hospital for a while, and presented it to a writing class. I mentioned that I was somewhat glad, after several weeks there, to get back to the real world.

“But surely you can’t get much more real than a hospital,” a middle-aged woman in the class responded.

This puzzled me at the time, but I think I understand now. Reality is pain, and sickness, and IV drips, and wheelchairs, and bed pans, and rarely going outside, and machines that beep all night, and parades of doctors taking turns prodding and asking if it hurts, and teenagers who know they will not live to adulthood, and healing, and nurses at your beck and call, and surprisingly good food delivered to you in bed, and visitors that bring better food to overcompensate, and a play specialist who comes by regularly to play with you, and a games cart that comes by less often with new games, and glass lifts facing the atrium that have a view of the playground and all seven different-coloured storeys, and an in-house movie channel that shows mostly The Lion King, by request, and an in-house radio station that plays mostly Mysterious Girl and Wonderwall, also by request.

Anything else you think you experience is merely the product of your deranged imagination.

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