Monday, October 14, 2019

Using poetry to open dialogues with science . . .

     Recently I have obtained a copy of Sam Illingworth's book, A Sonnet to Science:  scientists and their poetry (Manchester University Press, 2019)  -- a collection of essays-with-poems that features these six scientist-poets:  Humphrey Davy, Ada Lovelace, James Clerk Maxwell, Ronald Ross, Miroslav Holub, and Rebecca Elson.  
       A dust-jacket blurb describes the author:  
            Sam Illingworth is a Senior Lecturer in Science Communication, where his work involves
                   using poetry to develop dialogues between scientists and non-scientists
                   especially amongst traditionally under-served and under-represented communities. 
             Illingworth also is a poet -- with a poem-a-week-blog available at this link.
From Rebecca Elson (1960-1999), an astronomer and poet whose life was cut short by cancer, we have these math-linked lines (written in 1998 and on page 168 of A Sonnet to Science):

     Is there any language, logic
     Any algebra where death is not
     The tragedy it seems   
     A geometry that makes it look
     Alright to die
     Where it can be proved
     Some theorem
     If P then Q and all is well
     If not P then not Q either and all is gone
     Or if not P then Q

Illingworth credits the lines above -- entitled "Transumanza" -- to p. 136 of Elson's posthumous collection, A Responsibility to Awe (Carcanet Press, 2002).  Tranzumanza is an Italian term for transhumance, the practice of moving livestock from one grazing area to another as the seasons change.

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