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Monday, 18 May 2009

The Heart and Mind of Physics - Broken Symmetrics

Broken Symmetrics
by A. Van Jordan from his book Quantum Lyrics,
Inspired by Richard P. Feynman Lecture, Broken Symmetrics

Symmetry walks between two worlds. To the hands it tries to
touch us from either side; to the feet, it simply wants us not to
stumble but to saunter; and to the heart, it gives as much as it
takes. Protons have neutrons; matter has antimatter. It's all a
negotiation of will, a charade of dominance and submission, and
we play like adults play with memories of our youth. We believe
that love is equal to hate, but nothing is perfectly symmetrical.
Why, for example, does the earth orbit elliptically, as if these old
hands had drawn the path, instead of following an elegant circle.

In the city of Nikko, Japan, stands the Yomei-mon gate.
Elaborate in design, the gate has princes and lions and nymphs
and other elements carved in -- what appears to be, at least --
perfect symmetry. But, if you look closely, you'll notice that one
of the princes is carved upside down. And if you ask the people
of Nikko why, they will tell you that it's carved so the gods
won't get jealous of the perfection of man. But I put the mirror
up to that statement and say the laws of nature are nearly
symmetrical because God didn't want to make man jealous of
her hand.

And in the mirror, the clock ticks a little slower, the heart beats a
little delayed. Watch the hand touch your face and, for a
moment, one hand brushes both cheeks at once. But then you
begin to pick the body apart: one foot is longer than the other,
one breast hangs a little lower, one eye winks and the other can
only blink, and, suddenly, you're not the woman you thought you
were. But then you look at a tree growing cherries or a flower
sating a bee and you count the branches or the petals and you
realize nothing is as beautiful as you once believed. And through
our eyes we continue coveting our reflections: The blade of
grass wants to be a rapier; the clouds want to be smoke circles
blown over the lips; the eclipse wants to bring back the light.

Poem in prose by A. Van Jordan

Sources and further links:
"The Physics of Poetry (or the Poetry of Physics)" from Laura Orem

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