Saturday, January 10, 2015

Dangerous Candy

Dangerous candy: conjectured tomography
DANGEROUS CANDY

Hey little girl
Hey little boy
Lend me your ears.
And responsible grown-ups too.
This may be the most important news
You and your loved ones ever will hear.

There's a new candy going round
Made in physics labs.

Don't even look at it!
Its color is produced by
Triple-conjugated poly-peptides.

Just looking at this candy
Will pop the retinas of your eyes
Into 3 quantum states at once:
What you'll experience
Thru your triple-entangled retinas
Makes the Schrödinger Cat state
Look like Hello Kitty.

Don't look at this candy
Unless you're prepared to peek
Into hidden dimensions
No human has ever imagined.
Don't look at this candy
Unless you're prepared to see
Into the hearts and minds
Of the people around you
In ways you never dreamt possible.

If you've already looked
Stop right there.

Little girls, little boys,
Responsible grown-ups.

Don't touch this candy!
Its surface is made of layers
Of room-temperature interfering plasmons
That will jack your body directly into
What some scientists call the "Unified Field"
And what others describe as:
"Really weird shit
Outside the realm of science."

Little boys, little girls,
Responsible grown-ups.

Don't touch this candy
Unless you're prepared
To be swept away
Into the deep quantum currents
That make the stars shine
And hold the world together.

Don't touch this candy
Unless you're prepared
To knowingly experience
The warm invisible tentacles
That connect us to all living things
And to every particle of matter.

If you've already touched
Stop right there.
 

Little girls, little boys,
Responsible grown-ups.

Don't put this candy into your mouth!
This candy was made
By the same folks
Who work and play on a first-name basis
With quarks, gluons and the Higgs boson.

Little boys, little girls,
Responsible grown-ups.

Don't put this candy into your mouth.
Don't taste this candy with your lips and tongue
Don't chew up and swallow
This miracle of modern physics.

Little girls, little boys,
Responsible grown-ups.

Don't take this miracle
Into your body.



Fruitful Nature (photo by August O'Connor)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Verse & Universe

Happy New Year 2015 !

Browsing through the Capitola Library on Christmas Eve, I came across a real gem. It's a big anthology of poetry about science and math called Verse & Universe. The poetry is mainly by non-scientists, taking the material of science as their inspiration. John Updike's justly famous poem about neutrinos is included but none of my own verse -- not even the eminently anthologizable Physics For Beginners. I am enjoying this big book in small bursts as if eating a box of chocolates. Reading this anthology is a good way for a scientist to begin the New Year, to appreciate so many fresh new perspectives on the craft of doing science. So far, having gobbled up only about 40 pages of the 300 plus in the box, my most favorite poem is one by Serbian-American Charles Simic which I reprint here:


MADONNA TOUCHED UP WITH A GOATEE

Most ancient Metaphysics, (poor Metaphysics!)
All decked up in imitation jewelry.
We went for a stroll, arm in arm, 
                                 smooching in public
Despite the difference in age.

It's still the 19th century, she whispered.
We were in a knife-fighting neighborhood
Among some rundown relics 
                      of the Industrial Revolution.
Just a little further, she assured me.
In the back of a certain candy store 
                                 only she knew about,
The customers were engrossed in 
              the Phenomenology of the Spirit.

It's long past midnight, my dove, my angel!
We'd better be careful, I thought.
There were young hoods on street corners
With crosses and iron studs 
                           on their leather jackets.
They all looked like they'd read Darwin 
                             and that madman Pavlov,
And were about to ask for a light.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

No Torture Please

Alan Dershowitz, Harvard law professor

NO TORTURE PLEASE

"Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz 
OKs torture in USA" -- New York Times

Torture Dershowitz, not me
I'll tell you all I know
Of freedom-hating terrorists
And poisoned H2O.

Here's what I'll say if tortured
So you can skip the rack
No shock machines: I'll spill the beans
And never answer back.

I'll finger all conspirators
Turn in my mom and fadda
Don't torture me -- here's what you need:
Al Dershowitz is al Qeadda.

Could lawyer's guise conceal a spy?
Is Al the man behind our troubles?
Is Dershowitz the terrorist
That turned our Towers into rubble?

At first he will deny the charges
But the truth is near at hand
For Harvard profs respond to torture
More smartly than the common man.

He'll confess to kissing Satan
While his testicles are fryin'
Al engineered the Holocaust
And wrote the Protocols of Zion.

Torture Dershowitz, not me
Barbarism's not my diet.
Is Dershowitz so fond of torture?
Then let him be the first to try it.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Abduction by Aliens

Dr Future Show at http://www.drfutureshow.com/
Allan and Sun Lundell (also known as Doctor and Mrs Future) host a radio show every Tuesday in which they interview folks working (and playing) at the edge of science, technology and consciousness. A few days ago they convened a Conclave of Mad/Glad Scientists at a secret beach house location in Rio Del Mar, CA. Most of the scientists invited to the Conclave had appeared on the Dr Future Show and included people demonstrating Russian hand-held electro-vibratory healing devices, brain stimulating machines, light-pattern projectors; people claiming channeled and otherwise inspired visions of the future and reports from Amazon explorers concerning ayahuasca-mediated connections to the Mind of Nature. Musicians, singers (including the remarkable Caroluna) and splendidly-inventive cooks added spice to the Mad/Glad Conclave.

Nick Herbert attended mainly as a spectator, expecting at most to be goaded into battle against some champion of the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) hypothesis of which he had recently expressed his reasons for skepticism over the airwaves on the Dr Future Show.

But instead, during a break in the stream of speakers, Nick was called to the stage and asked to do whatever he pleased. He obliged by recounting his Abduction by Aliens story which was captured by Dr Future on video and posted on YouTube.


Later, away from the food, the drink and the music, away from the buzzy touch of the Russian healing machine, away from the rushing buzz of the responsive audience and presenters, Nick and Al slipped outside, walked across the sand, took off their shoes and renewed their age-old connection with the sea.



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The New Physicality

June Jordan (1936-2002)

Poem Number Two on Bell's Theorem
Or the New Physicality of Long Distance Love

There is no chance that we will fall apart
There is no chance
There are no parts.

----June Jordan

June Jordan's marvelous little poem is one more piece of art inspired by Bell's Theorem. Just in time for the Queen's College exhibit in Belfast, Ireland which closes Nov 30: Action at a Distance: The Life and Legacy of John Stewart Bell.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Salvia Divinorum

WHERE SHE TAKES ME



it starts suddenly with a circle


circular motion


a sense of movement


going counterclockwise


and it feels 


it feels like it comes


out of my mouth


out of my forehead


the left side of my face


a scatter pattern


a pattern


a scatter


left to right


a pull and circularity


around me above me 

from me


inside a huge room


a cathedral


I am both


the inside and the outside


and I don't know


I don't know how


I don't know how to


move


or swim


through this space


and I keep thinking


its growing


growing out of my face


out of my body


spinning


out of my body


and wondering


where my body


is


I want to relax


just wonder


at the beauty


of it all


and part of me 


is saying


where am I


not as in what is this place


where is this place


but


where is my body


because its 


pure consciousness


without


any physical sense


and I feel like I


should be inside


this space I've created


instead


I


am


the


space


and this time it is pastel green


but another time it was


pink luminescent light


and its made of


me


its made of


my face my body


repeating


over & over & over & over &


like a patchwork 


or finely woven fabric


and it would be peaceful


except for me


wondering 


where my body's gone


and if it will ever come back


or will I ever find my way back




so I let go and swim and


it's huge


it's vast


it's cavernous


and afterwards


there is this 


deep profound


sense of


regret


because I couldn't 


stay 


longer


this place I have always


wanted to be


this place I have always


looked for

-- by Laura Pendell

Salvia Divinorum from Erowid


Friday, November 7, 2014

Bell's Theorem Blues

Irish physicist John Stewart Bell (1928-1990)
 During the month of November the Naughton Museum at Queen's College in Belfast, Ireland, is hosting events and exhibits related to one of their most famous alumni, Belfast-born physicist John Stewart Bell. The festival is entitled Action at a Distance: the Life and Legacy of John Stewart Bell. The director of the museum, Shan McAnena, contacted me for advice and as a possible exhibitor. Her exhibits were to be centered not around physics but on art inspired by John Bell's work. Shan was interested in me not for my books about quantum physics, nor for my published papers on Bell's theorem but for something I wrote long ago as a joke.

In my book Quantum Reality which describes attempts to conceptualize quantum theory in human understandable terms, I write a lot about John Bell and his famous theorem. During this book's progress I exchanged letters with this brilliant physicist and Bell even wrote a blurb for Quantum Reality (along with Heinz Pagels and Isaac Azimov). Finally at the end of the book I included a song that I wrote that summed up Bell's Theorem in a nutshell. This song Bell's Theorem Blues was what Shan McAnena wanted to include in the Queen's College tribute.

A bit about Bell's Theorem and why it is so extraordinary: Most accomplishments in physics are either about theory or experiment -- some new piece of mathematics that explains the facts or some new piece of machinery that permits us to measure those facts. Bell's Theorem however is neither about theory nor about experiment but about Reality Itself. It is very unusual to find a sane person that attempts to speak coherently about Reality Itself. But Bell not only spoke about Deep Reality, he actually MATHEMATICALLY PROVED something important about this invisible nature which lies beneath everyone of our theories and experiments. Bell's accomplishment is unique. I challenge you to find another human being in the history of human thought who has produced anything even close to what this astonishing Irishman has done.

And what was the physics community's response to Bell's remarkable achievement? His physics colleagues either ignored Bell's work (which was initially published exactly 50 years ago in a new and obscure short-lived little journal called Physics). Shortly after it was published, physicists either ignored Bell's Theorem-- or dismissed it entirely as "mere philosophy".

Fifty years later, the importance of Bell's Theorem is generally recognized and has inspired work in quantum computing, quantum cryptography, quantum teleportation and many aspects of physics that employ quantum entanglement. (Part of the story of Bell's Theorem's rise from obscurity to stardom is told in David Kaiser's book How the Hippies Saved Physics.)

So I wrote this song as a joke at the end of my book. In one of his last videoed physics lectures at CERN in 1990, organized by Antoine Suarez, Bell actually shows off the text of Bell's Theorem Blues to an audience of physicists. But Bell quickly adds  "I'm not going to sing it." Bell merely quotes it. In his Irish accent.

Boulder Creek Blues Trio: Galt, Bowers and Rush
The Belfast museum required a song, so I persuaded my favorite local musicians to perform this little bit of musical physics. One Sunday morning in October at pianist Jack Bowers's Santa Cruz, CA, studio, the Boulder Creek Blues Trio consisting of Joy Rush (vocal), Jack Bowers (piano) and George Galt (harmonica) transformed for the first time my words on paper into a musical quantum number. You can hear Bell's Theorem Blues here (full lyrics plus an audio file). Sheet music, an mp3 recording and a video of the recording session were shipped to the Naughton Museum in Belfast to be presented as "art inspired by Bell's Theorem". Here's the first verse of Bell's Theorem Blues:

Doctor Bell say we connected
He call me on the phone
Doctor Bell say united
He call me on the phone
But if we really together, baby,
How come I feel so all alone?

A young John Bell on his Ariel Motorcycle
Here's the BBC report on the Belfast celebration and here's an account of the honoring of John Bell by the Royal Irish Academy. Several researchers whose work was inspired by Bell's Theorem are giving public lectures at various Belfast venues. A motion to name a street in the Titanic quarter after Bell was denied by the city council because of their policy not to name streets after people. As a compromise the city fathers voted to name the street Bell's Theorem Crescent, possibly the only street in the world named after a mathematical theorem. The City of Belfast also designated Nov 4 as "John Bell Day" to commemorate that big day 50 years ago when John Bell published his famous proof which demonstrates that reality is non-local.

Belfast City Hall illuminated in rainbow colors to honor John Bell.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Aphrodite Award

Nobel Prize Medal: Alfred Nobel & Science Unveiling Nature

THE APHRODITE AWARD

Each year a few win Nobel Prizes
And a few win the grand Golden Gloves
But of all the awards this society affords
How many prizes are given for love?

Why not honor your very first crush?
And the first time you kissed in the dark?
The first time you actually "did it"?
And the first one who shattered your heart?

With whom did you first 

do THIS crazy thing?
And with whom did you actually 

first attempt THAT?
Why not honor your own 

personal best sparring partners?
And give medals to your love's 

own champ diplomats?

As the audience applauds
As the musicians soar
You announce your own picks
For the Grand Prix d'Amour

For the Award of Aphrodite
and of the lesser muses
Who taught us love's delights
And the body's pleasant uses.

Be generous in giving out trophies and prizes
For unforgettable lips and sensual surprises.
Praising much what thou lovest well
You shall be your own Nobel.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Always a Reckoning: a Review

Life on a Killer Submarine by Sarah Elizabeth Chuldenko
Last week at the Live Oak Library on Corcoran Lagoon I discovered a Charles Bukowski book I had not yet read (War All the Time) and right next to it on the shelf I found this remarkable collection of poetry Always a Reckoning. The author was a Navy lieutenant in the US submarine fleet under Hyman Rickover "who goaded us to reach for higher dreams and duties than the mediocre". Of his life inside a nuclear sub, this military poet wrote:

LIFE ON A KILLER SUBMARINE

I had a warm, sequestered feeling
deep beneath the sea,
moving silently, assessing
what we could hear from far away
because we ran so quietly ourselves,
walking always in our stocking feet.
We'd listen to the wild sea sounds,
the scratch of shrimp, the bowhead's moan,
the tantalizing songs of humpback whales.
We strained to hear all other things,
letting ocean lenses bring to us
the steady, throbbing beat of screws,
the murmurs of most distant ships,
or submarines that might be hunting us.
One time we heard, with perfect clarity,
a vessel's pulse four hundred miles away
and remembered that, in spite of everything
we did to keep our sounds suppressed,
the gradient sea could focus too, our muffled noise,
could let the other listeners know
where their torpedoes might be aimed.
We wanted them to understand
that we could always hear them first
and, knowing, be inclined to share
our love of solitude, our fear
that one move, threatening or wrong,
could cost the peace we yearned to keep,
and kill our hopes that they were thrilled, like us,
to hear the same whale's song.

This warrior bard was a poet of place like Carl Sandburg: his place was not Sandburg's Chicago Midwest but America's rural South: many of his poems describe a boy's Huck-Finn-like experiences growing up in a society where racial segregation was the law of the land. Like Sandburg, his poems show him to be an perceptive student of nature, including the nature of human beings. The poet also became a Southern politician and wrote about that too:

My First Try for Votes by Sarah Elizabeth Chuldenko

MY FIRST TRY FOR VOTES

Uneasy in my first campaign,
I feared the likely ridicule,
but got up nerve and neared
some loafers I saw shooting pool.

I caught the eye of an older man
who seemed to know who I might be.
When I went up to him to speak
he cocked a bleary eye at me.

"Now wait, don't tell me who you are,"
he shouted out. I stood in dread.
Bystanders paused. I blabbed my name.
He frowned. "Naw, that ain't it," he said.

Politician poet was a family man. He wrote love poems to his wife, rhymed affections to his father, to his friends and to his dog (some included here). And his grand-daughter Sarah Elizabeth made line drawings to illustrate each of her grandfather's poems.

This family man was also a diplomat, mediating conflicts in every continent except Antarctica: his world-wide arbitrations earning this diplomat poet a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. A philanthropist as well, this poet worked successfully to reduce disease in Africa, to provide affordable housing to the poor and to fight injustice and inhumanity in his own country and elsewhere in the world.

Not only his words but his deeds as well prove this warrior/diplomat/family-man to be one of the most thoughtful, high-minded and moral figures of his day -- all these character traits (and this man's modesty too) clearly shine through his poetry. Reading these simple yet skillful verses, one is left to wonder, in such an amoral and barbaric nation as our own, how such a noble and high-minded man as this warrior poet could ever have been elected president of the United States.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sex

The Consequences of Decision by Jacob Livengood

SEX

(for Henry Stapp
who once conjectured
that consciousness is our reward
for collapsing the wave function.)

Could sexual cravings explain the equations
Of Heisenberg, Schrödinger, Born and Dirac
Is it sex that bedazzles the great Milky Way?
Is it sex that explains why quarks interact?

Sex that's animalistic
Sex that's deeply dirty and raw
Sex that feeds on Quantum Reality
Sex that fucks with Natural Law.

The hottest mystery in physics is this:
Out of what conceivable gateway
Do fresh new realities spring?
O World, please lead me to quantum temptation
Could "how matter gets real" be a sexual thing?

Sex that's subtle, sex that's delicate
As a single photon of light
Sex that tentatively fingers the Darkness
And, finding it good, impregnates the Night.

Innocent and uninhibited
By the ignorance of today
Sex that's teasing us to discover
How this Universe wants to play.