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The Poetry of Science



My efforts at the Journal are coming to an end after 50 issues. If you are interested in continuing this science column, please e-mail the editor, Hank Sims, at Among many questions I am leaving for others are the nature of corals dredged off Shelter Cove (see photo) and the origin of balls of grass found on our beach by Jenny Finch (see photo of typical ball).

I take this opportunity to present Richard Feynman's thoughts on our place in the universe:

I stand at the seashore, alone, and start to think:

There are the rushing waves

mountains of molecules

each stupidly minding its own business

trillions apart

yet forming white surf in unison.

Ages on ages

before any eyes could see

year after year

thunderously pounding the shore as now.

For whom, for what?

On a dead planet

with no life to entertain.

Never at rest

tortured by energy

wasted prodigiously by the sun

poured into space.

A mite makes the sea roar.

Deep in the sea

all molecules repeat

the patterns of one another

till complex new ones are formed.

They make others like themselves

and a new dance starts.

Growing in size and complexity

living things

masses of atoms

DNA, protein

dancing a pattern ever more intricate.

Out of the cradle

onto dry land

here it is standing:

atoms with consciousness;

matter with curiosity.

Stands at the sea,

wonders at wondering: I

a universe of atoms

an atom in the universe.

-- Reprinted with permission from Engineering and Science, December 1955.

My thanks for help from Sharyn Marks of HSU was dropped from my article on newts.

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