Poet Robin Chapman studies the language learning of children -- and has collaborated with physics professor Julien Sprott on a lovely and fascinating collection The Art and Poetry of Chaos: Images from a Complex World (World Scientific, 2005). In the following poem Chapman offers (as she does throughout the poetry of the collection) a human interpretation of technical terminology.
The Nearest Neighbor Rules by Robin Chapman
To your four nearest neighbors
offer keys, pet-sitting, lawn mowing,
on vacation days, extra bloodroot.
To your eight nearest neighbors,
a hand raised in greeting,
praise for their flower beds,
inquiries about grown children.
To your sixteen nearest neighbors,
a wave on walks, comments
on their child's new bike,
visits in the spring and fall.
To your thirty-two nearest neighbors,
common cause in
nods in passing, park clean-up,
To your sixty-four nearest neighbors,
a look in lit windows
on winter night walks, a knock
to offer voter registration.
"Nonlinear Function," another Chapman poem from The Art and Poetry of Chaos may also be found in the anthology Strange Attractors: Poems of Love and Mathematics (Eds Glaz, Growney, A K Peters, 2008).