Tag Archives: physics

Parasitic Oscillations: new ecopoetry from Madhur Anand

If you’ve been following Scientist Sees Squirrel for a while, you’ll know that one of my pet topics is the intersection between science and the arts. This intersection is certainly smaller than it could be, but it’s not as small as common (mis)interpretations of CP Snow’s “Two Cultures” essay would have it. So I’ve been happy to discover and share with you some particularly interesting mashups between science and poetry – like Richard Kelley Kemick’s collection Caribou Run, and Madhur Anand’s A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes.  We can add to that little collection today, because Anand has a new book of poetry, Parasitic Oscillations, and I’ve just finished reading it. Continue reading

Music Mondays: Strangeness and Charm

Once more, it’s Music Monday!

Today: particle physics, from Florence and the Machine. Strangeness and Charm is a bonus track from the band’s first album, Lungs.

Strangeness and charm are also two of the six flavours of quarks in the standard model of particle physics; quarks occur tightly bound together to make up the subatomic particles that in turn make up matter in the universe. In the song, the quarks are a metaphor for attraction:

Hydrogen in our veins, it cannot hold itself, our blood is burning
And the pressure in our bodies that echoes up above, it is exploding
And our particles, they’re burning up
Because they yearn for each other
And although we stick together
It seems that we are stranging one another

There’s some artistic license here, as it’s up and down quarks that make up most everyday matter (neutrons and protons); strange and charm quarks are involved in more exotic particles like kaons and D mesons. In particular, a strange quark and a charm quark together make up a particle called a strange D meson, and that particle has a mean lifetime of about 5 x 10-13 seconds. So, those quarks can stick together – just not for very long. But Upness and Down wouldn’t have been a very good song title, I don’t want to make the mustard seed mistake, and I like the metaphor at a more general level.

And now for this week’s I-just-like-it bonus: Amy Millan, from her fabulous 2006 album Honey From the Tombs. This is Baby I:

There’s one week left of summer – or at least, I’ll define it that way, since my fall semester starts after Labour Day. So, I’ll see you next week for one last installment of Music Mondays.

© Stephen Heard  August 30, 2021

Image: Standard model of particle physics, public domain via Wikimedia.org.

Is biology beautiful?

Photo: Glasswing butterfly, probably Greta oto, on Asclepias curassavica; Eddy Van 3000 at flickr.com CC BY-SA 2.0

We could quit now, with our eyes on that glasswing butterfly: of course biology can be beautiful. Birds of paradise, lynx, ladyslipper orchids, Spanish moss*, orcas; can there be any doubt? But that’s not really what I mean. Is biology as a science beautiful, the way math is beautiful, and physics is beautiful? Continue reading