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Quantum Physics and Poetry

  1. Jan 15, 2013 #1
    Greetings to everyone.

    I am currently a student of Writing and Literature and an absolute ignorant in anything related to Physics. However, as a possible consequence of having too much free time, I find it amusing to watch documentaries and reading randomly on the subjects of quantum physics and astrophysics. Thinking about the radical counter-intuitive implications they bring on the understanding of reality - as well as of ontology and metaphysics - is to me a very entertaining and curiously comforting exercise. This kind of "displacement" that quantum physics causes on me seems similar to the effect I get from the reading of some kinds of poetry - the greatest example being the work of the surrealist Portuguese poet Mário Cesariny. I'll try to explain this briefly: in surrealist poetry as in quantum physics, I do not understand the majority of what I read or see, but for some reason(s) I am left with instruments, with keys, that allow me to think the world in an otherwise inaccessible way - some sort of indirect paths to little epiphanies. The curious thing about all this is the fact that I can (as obviously anyone can) experience aesthetically something I don't understand at all. This said, I am obviously interested in the ideas of mathematical beauty of physicists such as Paul Dirac. Etc, etc.

    In addition, I find the art of the theoretical physicist somehow comparable to that of the poet, as they both try to translate the invisible. And so on.

    So: I have to write a (literary) essay and I thought it would be pleasurable for me to write on this (very subjective) "subject". I am very disoriented - I still don't know exactly what I want to talk about or if, at all, the essay may turn out to be anything coherent or real. I came here to ask if anyone can help me with books or articles or essays or even personal accounts that may give me ideas or some sort of enlightenment to my task. Random questions: can you describe the aesthetic side of the experience of having read for the first time a paper on string theory? Does the aesthetics play part in your interest (I suppose, for many of you, academic and professional) for quantum physics?

    I am sorry for any mistake I may have made - I am not an English native speaker and I feel I did not express myself clearly. And I am sorry if the odd nature of this thread makes it undesirable here. I totally understand if you feel the need to delete this. Finally, if you think this doesn't make any sense at all, please tell me: it will be a great help and I will think of something else to write about.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 16, 2013 #2


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    If it were up to me, I wouldn't delete your post; most definitely not.

    Here is an online article that I read some years ago. It's definitely got surreal implications, and I think most will find it absolutely fascinating. Anyhow, here it is: Time-Symmetric Quantum Mechanics
  4. Jan 16, 2013 #3


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    "In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it's the exact opposite."
    Paul Dirac
  5. Jan 16, 2013 #4


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    Do you have any of your poetry online?
  6. Jan 16, 2013 #5
    Even if I had, it wouldn't be of much use since it is all written in Portuguese.

    Anyway, thank you very much for the article you posted, it sure gave me some ideas.
  7. Jan 16, 2013 #6

    Ivan Seeking

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    Hmmm, Quantum poetry.

    To be, and not to be...
  8. Jan 17, 2013 #7


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    You're very welcome. :)
  9. Jan 18, 2013 #8
    You should write an essay that shows how quantum physics is not at all subjective.
  10. Jan 22, 2013 #9


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    I think it is misunderstanding of quantum mechanics. The correct poetry would be

    To be plus not to be ...
  11. Jan 22, 2013 #10
    I'm sorry to the others, but this is going in portuguese.

    Olá antoniopedro, eu sou um estudante de mestrado em fisica teórica e apesar de nos moldarem o pensamento para um pensamento lógico e rectilineo não posso deixar de compartilhar essa admiração e espanto pela beleza constrangedora da fisica moderna. Mais do que aquilo que poderá ver-se nos documentários, a fisica moderna nos seus meandros mais obscuros é de uma beleza impressionante e que nos deixa a questão de como pode ela funcionar tão bem. A fisica quântica é um dos temas mais constrangedores, e a tentativa de a unir com a relatividade, que chamamos teoria quântica de campos, é ainda mais misteriosa, por detrás de uma quantidade enorme de conceitos e métodos matemáticos que tornam impossivel extrair alguma verdade mais metafisica. Eu acho que na fisica moderna a ideia da beleza matemática, juntamente com a ideia da beleza pela simplicidade na explicação de fenómenos complexos, e a ideia de unificação dos fenómenos fisicos numa mesma e única perspectiva, é tão importante para quem faz fisica teórica como qualquer outro detalhe matemático.
    A teoria das cordas é uma teoria quântica de campos, daí a sua complexidade e o seu carácter quase puramente matemático. Esta é também um dos grandes mistérios, pelo menos para um fisico: a ideia que algo como a matemática, nascida da pura abstração da realidade, pode ser usada para descrever a realidade ela mesma é uma ideia absurda só por si.
  12. Jan 23, 2013 #11
    ... there is of course the odd chance that you missunderstood poetry; being correct is not necessarily one of it's specifications if it sounds better in another version :tongue:
  13. Jan 23, 2013 #12


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  14. Jan 23, 2013 #13
    ^ does not mix.
  15. Jan 23, 2013 #14


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    Reminds me of that song that goes "I'd rather be happy than right..."
  16. Jan 23, 2013 #15
    This is the closest quantum poetry in English I've come across:

    You put your right hand in,
    You put your right hand out,
    You put your right hand in,
    And you shake it all about,

    You do the hokey pokey
    and you turn yourself around
    That what it's all about.

    2) left hand
    3) right foot
    4) left foot
    5) head
    6) butt
    7) whole self
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