Squinting at Divine Glory #poem #poetry #solar #sun #solarsystem

Egyptian sun godHail to you, Ra,
Perfect each day!
Or so it appears
As skyward we gaze.

The sun burns too bright
For humans to bear,
As said of the gods,
It’s blindness to stare.

But sometimes through clouds,
If hazes are thick,
You’ll glimpse some strange spots
That blemish the disk.

No longer dependent
On weather to view,
Is solar observing
That daily we do.

Much more fantastic
Than imagined of old
Is the vast sphere of plasma
Today we behold.

Kate Rauner

Inspired by a recent solar cycle study reported in newsweek.com

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Life Always Surprises, Won’t Stay in Your Categories #biology #genetics #poem #poetry

Yoruba twin statues

The Yoruba have the highest twinning rate in the world, as reflected in this art, but still no sesquizygotic twins as far as western science knows.

Sesqui – zygotic
Makes babies most exotic.
Rarest people you could meet,
Their genes are quite quixotic.

Buckets you put words in
Are only there as stand-ins.
Cling to them
and fool yourself,
The word is not the thing.

Nature’s not confined
By what is in your mind.
When shadows dance in Plato’s cave,
Escape the chains that bind.

You’ll never force reality
Into the form you want to see.
The world is bigger,
stranger,
more
Than claimed by you and me.

Kate Rauner

We humans are so invested in language, we sometimes forget that words are imperfect representations of reality. Like the words “male” and “female.”

The twins in Australia are 4 years old now… the second known case [of] ‘sesquizygotic twins’: not identical, but not fraternal either. They’re somewhere in between.

The twins are actually chimeras, meaning they both have a mix of XX and XY cells in their body, but in different proportions. The one who looks like a boy has an XX:XY mix of 47:53; the girl has a mix of 90:10. In the 2007 case [the first reported occurence], one of the twins actually had ambiguous genitalia, which is what tipped doctors off to something previously unknown about the twins. The Atlantic

Farther, Colder, Darker Than Sun’s Other Planets, if it’s there… #poem #poetry #solarsystem #space #planet

Orbits of extreme trans-Neptunian objects

Orbits of extreme trans-Neptunian objects

Are objects in the Kuiper Belt
Clustering in truth?
Or is that simply how they seem
Because of how we sleuth?

Bias observational
May lead
analyses astray,
Create this Planet 9 that we
Hypothesize today.

If it’s there,
It’s far away,
And very hard to see,
And yet the theory’s testable
As theories
all must be.

Kate Rauner

There’s an intense international search underway. If Planet 9 is out there, far from the Sun, “it is the solar system’s missing link of planet formation. Over the last decade, surveys of extrasolar planets have revealed that similar-sized planets are very common around other sun-like stars. Planet 9 is going to be the closest thing we will find to a window into the properties of a typical planet of our galaxy.” phys.org Not that we’ll get a probe there anytime soon.

Screen shot from Plan 9 From Movie, Outer Space

I’m rhyming about Planet 9 in outer space, Not Plan 9 From Outer Space!

Fascinating Glimpse of Ancestors’ Lives Exposed in Ancient Writing #poem #poetry #history #archeology #ancient

Cuneiform tablet

Early writing tablet recording the allocation of beer in southern Iraq, 3100–3000 BC

What do you share with ancients,
With people lost in time?
Messages in cuneiform
Reveal that
our worries rhyme.

Advice to sooth a baby,
Betray a brother’s fear,
Invoice
your meal’s delivery,
Including all your beer.

Maps to aid your travels,
Proof your taxes
have been paid,
Seals that are signatures
That eons couldn’t fade.

Will future anthropologists
Revere your grocery list?
Concern themselves with UPS
From kin they can’t dismiss?

The world was once so different
At civilization’s s dawn,
But we are human,
as they were,
And our heirs
will carry on.

Kate Rauner

Thousands of cuneiform writings remain to be translated so we can understand the Mesopotamians who gave us the wheel, astronomy, the 60-minute hour, maps, economics and politics, and the story of the flood and  ark.

The records give us a picture of day-to-day life in ancient Mesopotamia, of power structures and trading networks, but also of other aspects of its social history, such as the role of female workers.

Thanks to advanced imaging techniques, anyone with an internet connection can now access treasures.

New imaging techniques are making the job of working with such ancient, often damaged texts easier… machines will eventually be able to translate more complex Sumerian tablets, and other languages like Akkadian. bbc.com

On This Day in History, Remembering a Genuine Genius #physics #poetry #poem #RichardFeynman #Feynman #quantum

Fifty-three years ago today, Richard Feynman gave his Nobel lecture on Quantum Electrodynamics. Even if you don’t remember him for his Nobel Prize or for Feynman Diagrams, you may recall how, during a televised hearing, he demonstrated what caused the shuttle Challenger’s disaster with a simple experiment using a glass of ice water.

Feynman was also a fascinating human being and you should read about his life.

But on this blog, I celebrate Feynman for his challenge to poets.

Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars – mere globs of gas atoms. I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them…

Far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined it. Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? Who are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?

In honor of Feynman, I’m re-posting my poem inspired by his Lecture 1: Atoms in Motion, from the book Six Easy Pieces.

Your cup of tea sits quietly, its surface still and calm.
A tiny wisp of steam is all that’s going on.
Now magnify your vision, expand the scale up.
A cup as big as planet Earth with atoms big as cups.

Tea is a glob of atoms, each jiggling in the heap.
Atoms that are water and jiggling that is heat.
Cup-atoms block tea-atoms, despite how fast they seem.
But if tea-atoms hit the air they pop right out as steam.

Hot tea-atoms jiggle fast – move randomly in air.
If jiggling down, back to the tea, they’re stuck again in there.
Now blow away the steam – atoms don’t return to tea.
Hot atoms still keep popping out; removing heat, you see.

And so atomic theory
Allows your mind to see:
If tea’s too hot for you to sip
Then blow to cool your tea.

Kate Rauner

Should Space Art be Absolutely Banned? Our Use of Space Turns to Insidious Orbital Clutter #poem #poetry #space #satellite #spacecraft

News follows the poem:

NASA concept of items in near-Earth orbit

Stuff orbits the Earth like a swarm of gnats

Every satellite we send
Turns into space junk in the end

Runs out of batteries and fuel,
Orbits decay, a physics rule.

It may break up,
It may crash down,
Strike other craft,
Or hit your town.

Will a loose bolt
Cause a war
When one of mine
Runs into yours?

Perhaps an artificial moon
Will light your streets
Sometime soon.

The space above us
Once seemed grand.
Limitless,
No need to plan.

Who gets to choose?
What uses should?
Profits? or spies?
What’s public good?

Kate Rauner

I’ve rhymed about space junk and apparently limitless natural resources before.

The news is longer than today’s rhyme. Maybe a Space Sanitation Force is what we need:

City officials recently announced plans to build an artificial moon, launching it to hang over Sichuan province’s capital city by 2020, Chinese news site People’s Daily Online (PDO) reported… [it] will be eight times brighter than the natural satellite.

Regarding concerns about the Chinese artificial moon interfering with astronomical observations or disrupting animals that are active at night, Kang Weimin, the director of the Institute of Optics of the Harbin Institute of Technology in China, said that the light would amount to only a “dusk-like glow,” PDO reported.

However, research has shown that many animals are highly sensitive to the light and phases of the moon. livescience.com

What belongs in space? What deserves a spot in our crowded orbit? Is your opinion different if what’s launched is called art?

There are more than 1,800 active satellites currently in orbit around Earth, carrying out a myriad of jobs: collecting weather data, helping drivers navigate roads, spying on enemy targets, the list goes on.

[Soon, SpaceX will carry a CubeSat into orbit. When the] CubeSat reaches a point about 350 miles above Earth, it will break open. Its silver, plasticlike contents will then unfurl into a 100-foot-long sculpture in the shape of a diamond. The result is called Orbital Reflector, the work of the artist Trevor Paglen… The sculpture reminds some astronomers of another satellite, launched in January: the Humanity Star, a three-foot-tall spherical object built by the U.S. spaceflight company Rocket Lab and covered in dozens of highly reflective panels. Its purpose, too, was simply to be seen from Earth. theatlantic.com

Planet X in the Far-flung Outer Solar System #poem #poetry #astronomy #solarsystem #planet

Man From PLanet X movie poster

This is the best I can do, since there is no image of Planet X yet

Watching perturbations.
In planets far away,
In cold realms way-past Jupiter,
Past Saturn, wobbles sway.

When Lowell discovered Pluto,
A store of luck was spent.
The famous dwarf is just too small
To tug
Neptune’s
trident.

But orbital mechanics
Cannot be denied.
Something’s out there, far away.
Perhaps a Planet Nine.

Dwarf planets with companions
Among the plutoids hide.
The more we find, the better guess
Where Planet X resides.

Kate Rauner

Thanks to space.com for their article on Goblin (2015 TG387), another Pluto-sort of object tripped over in a long-term, ongoing sky survey that may ultimately find Planet X.

Hypothesized,
And we expect
Someone will spot
This Planet X.

The more plutoids
That we find,
The more our theories
Are refined.