The following four “space” sonnets are in memory of Chinese astrophysicist, Fang Lizhi (b. 02/12/1936 – d. 04/06/2012) and Indian musician Ravi Shankar (b. 04/07/1920 – d. 12/11/2012).
Fang Lizhi was a prominent Chinese researcher in astrophysics and cosmology. His liberal ideas inspired the pro-democracy movement leading to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Both Fang Lizhi and his professor wife had been in and out of Communist hard labor camps for speaking out about human rights since the late 1950’s. During the height of the Tiananmen crackdown he and his wife took refuge for over a year in the American Embassy in Beijing. With the help of Henry Kissinger and U.S. President George H.W. Bush they were able to leave China. Fang then taught at Cambridge, Princeton and finally the U. of Arizona and continued to speak out about human rights in China. Readers may like to read his book, Bringing Down the Great Wall: Writings on Science, Culture, and Democracy in China.
Ravi Shankar, who also passed away in 2012, was born 95 years ago (04/07/1920) this Tuesday. I’ve often thought when they make the soundtrack to be played for future long distance space travel that sitar music by Ravi Shankar and Nikhil Bannerjee, sarod music by Ali Akbar Khan, bamboo flute music by Hariprasad Chaurasia, and other classical Indian music should be on board. Their classical Indian music is soothing, yet energetic; improvisatory yet contained within a musical form called ragas; engrossing and contemplative at once. It both rests and invigorates one’s mind. There will be a need for such music during the long passages in the darkness of space.
Black Holes are Beckoning
Throughout the universe black holes are beckoning
a bright star in the cosmos rises among them
Stephen Hawking has done some reckoning
shedding light on the holes he explains them again
Black holes reach their event horizon; Shelley wrote,
“O’er the faint cold starlight of heaven is thrown…”
Hawking’s computer assisted voice is rising
universal cosmic inflation has been shown
Nuclear fusion in stars keeps the night awake
super nova, red giants, white dwarfs in division
cosmic symphonies play thru birth, marriage, and wake
M- theory is now in quantum superposition
Size, distance, numbers, it’s almost beyond us to grasp it
we must expand our minds in order to clasp it
Rack em Rocko: Understanding Quantum Theory
In my trying to understand quantum theory,
I found Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle,
that it is impossible to determine the
position and velocity of a particle
at the same moment. Which led me to more query.
Schrodinger took this theory into quantum mechanics,
past Einstein to TV and computer antics.
Einstein never accepted that the universe
was governed by chance and said,“ God does not play dice.”
Think of particles as waves and waves as particles.
Use Planck’s constant and then leave out the articles.
Perhaps a cosmic nine ball billiard game would be nice
Use Occam’s razor to cut out what you can’t see
Interference will provide you with duality.
Kosmikophobia: Fear of Cosmic Phenomenon
You were scared when you saw your first eclipse
Then awed by Aurora Borealis polar
Lights till you learned their sole origin was solar
Sun flare radio interference made you do flips
Then you read an article on particle physics
Stepping outside you started to count shooting stars
But thought you’d get hit so you counted shots in bars
Most of us are freaked out by cosmic statistics
In the accumulated power of photons
Go crazy about comets in the Oort Clouds
You worry about whether black holes have burial shrouds
About Nutty Professors colliding with neutrons
Come back to earth get centered around gravity
Cosmic hope equals Einstein’s relativity
We are All a Bunch of W.I.M.P.s
(W.eakly I.nteracting M.assive P.articles)
All over out there—disappearing dark matter
Far beyond—far beyond the outer most depths of space
Works a fantastic macrocosmic mad hatter
Hear the stellar pitter patter dancing taking place
On a South Pole radio telescope we hear
A’ la recherché du temps perdu—we all hang
Cataclysmic cosmic surfers—hang ten—No Fear
Of bending waves at the moment of the Big Bang
Its dark out there, we don’t know what the matter is
A new old cosmological situation
Since Big Bang’s rapid exponential little fizz
Gravitational waves in cosmic inflation
Underground linear accelerators glimpse
All us galactic gimps limping towards W.I.M.P.s