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.
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.