Monday is Valentine’s Day, so I’m following my yearly tradition and posting a poem about love and physics. If you like it, be sure to check out my poems from past years here.
A physicist once dreamed of a life like a crystal. Each facet the same, again and again, effortlessly until the end of time. This is, of course, impossible. A physicist once dreamed of a life like a crystal. Each facet the same, again and again, not effortlessly, but driven, with reliable effort input energy (what the young physicists call work). This, (you might say of course,) is possible. It means more than you’d think. A thing we model as a spring (or: anyone and anything) has a restoring force: a force to pull it back a force to keep it going. A thing we model as a spring (yes you and me and everything) has a damping force, too: this slows it down and tires it out. The dismal law of finite life. The driving force is another thing no mere possession of the spring. The driving force comes from o u t s i d e and breaks the rules. Your rude “of course”: a sign you guess a simple resolution. That outside helpmeet, doing work, will be used up, drained, fueling that crystal life. But no. That was the discovery. No net drain, but back and forth, each feeding the other. With this alone (and only this) the system breaks the dismal law and lives forever. (As a child, did you ever sing, of giving away, and giving away, and only having more?) A physicist dreamed, alone, impossibly, of a life like a crystal. Collaboration made it real.