Tuesday, January 27, 2009

John Updike, RIP (The Gall!)

Sad news, hearing of the death of John Updike. I've only read a Rabbit or two and kept up with him in the New Yorker, but no physicist can avoid "Cosmic Gall": one of the only poems I can think of dedicated to an elementary particle.

Oddly, I just came across this poem this last sunday, while literally racing through Murray Gell-Mann's The Quark and the Jaguar (excellent stuff, but not a good enough fit to RHIC physics for us to pursue him as a speaker this summer...). But it's not that strange of a coincidence -- the poem is everywhere in the physioliterasphere, i.e. Gell-Mann was certainly not my introduction to it. I've seen it tacked on cubicle walls, reproduced in physics books, pasted into blog posts (July 2005 Cosmic Variance). And now, I repeat it again, in (but certainly not by) memory:
NEUTRINOS, they are very small.
They have no charge and have no mass
And do not interact at all.
The earth is just a silly ball
To them, through which they simply pass,
Like dustmaids down a drafty hall
Or photons through a sheet of glass.
They snub the most exquisite gas,
Ignore the most substantial wall,
Cold shoulder steel and sounding brass,
Insult the stallion in his stall,
And scorning barriers of class,
Infiltrate you and me! Like tall
and painless guillotines, they fall
Down through our heads into the grass.
At night, they enter at Nepal
and pierce the lover and his lass
From underneath the bed-you call
It wonderful; I call it crass.

1 comment:

coffee said...

John Updike's conventional wisdom seems to have affected a lot of people -- I see little quotes of his all over