Eddies in the Stream

When rain clouds rise from oceans
like sea-waves in the sky
from sea to land and onward,
to hills and mountains upward,
to pour down from up high.

Where storm-rains lash the heather
to soak in moss and peat,
where dark deer-runnels ooze and drain
and ocean’s loss is nature’s gain,
for streamlets swell to run again
to rivers pure and sweet.

Where alders dip above the run
and boulders break the stream,
and eddies, whirling as they go,
dance with each other in the flow
like dancers in a dream.

They turn and fill and ebb and flow –
and catch the eye so well –
small points of action in the stream,
the focus of the swell
as though the river’s swelling run
is focussed in their spin and turn
and river, sea and rain are one;
a cosmic carousel.

We spin in busy circles,
swirled in life’s foray
while the great stream flows forever
to an ocean that is ever
beyond this little day
where the depth and breadth and wonder
of this turning cosmic reel
is just a little bay
in which the eddies play.

Two weeks ago I suggested that you watch two interesting ‘You Tube’ illustrations of eddies and harmonics:

‘Physics Girl’ Dianna Cowern here, and James Dann here.

If physics girl held her plate in a running stream instead of a still pool the eddies would be relatively still while the stream runs powerfully on.

If you watch James Dann’s setup closely you can see flickering waves within the ones he shows. Later, when he shows the first harmonic, at the wave’s highest and lowest points, top and bottom, there are nodes in the string outline which are not part of the demonstration. You can capture them, as well as the flickering internal nodes and harmonics, by pressing pause at various points. They can be seen as wobbles in the slow motion capture by the high-speed camera. They happen because the  string is never fully at rest before the demonstration starts. Dann moves from one example to the next without letting it fully settle down, but even if he did there would still be a fine wave background due to circumstances outside his control, an in-built uncertainty.

We are used to the idea that energy and matter are compatible and can be transformed, one into the other (E = mc2). Matter has been described as the collapsed waveform or point of action of waves of energy – the ‘hit’ where energy makes its impact. It forms interactive, bound clusters of these points of action which we call particles, atoms, molecules, compounds, chairs, tables, you.

Another word for the particles of which all things are built is nodes, from the latin for knot. It is as though energy is a vibrating violin string whose action, such as playing the note C, is marked by a point at which it is held at the bridge or the violinist’s finger.

These slower, harmonic notes point to a strange possibility. Nodes have little of the energy of the string, they are points of relative inaction. If we think of particles of matter as harmonic nodes in the total cosmic energy, then they are not points of action or collapsed waveforms, they are foci or regions of relative steadiness, eddies in the stream as the stream runs powerfully on. They swirl dramatically, like points of active energy in a stream’s flow, but the stream’s energy is far greater though less visible than its eddies. It is more like the dark energy unexpectedly accelerating cosmic expansion. Seen this way particles are not points of action or building blocks, they are eddies in this expanding cosmic ball; harmonics in the cosmic wave-function.

And is this universe what Dame Julian saw in a vision? something as small as a hazelnut in the hand of God, our Father and Source of all creative energy?

A Hard World

The table pains the falling fist,
fragile glass resists the wind in the wind-eye.
The open sky bears birds on wings,
leaves blow, turning, overhead,
whirled under the cloud-race.
Air I cannot see cools my face,
warms my breath.

A million billion atoms,
particles beyond number,
each an uncertain focus,
a rippling point of action.
Their seeming infinite waveforms,
their flowing, ordered disorder,
are this cosmos.
Cosmos, an ancient word for order,
universe, uni-verse, one-Word,
with echoes rolling, calling,
from space-time’s first beginning.

But why are hard things hard
if made of shimmering space?
a mere focus of waves?

Why not?
The particles in the table
are focussed, no more, no less,
that those that jarred in my fist.
Can mere waves hit hard?
Ask a tsunami.

And when a tsunami dies, and the sea is calm,
where is it?
To every action there is a reaction.
The tsunami’s passage, its strike and fall,
the deaths it shares in its own,
echo and re-echo in the sea, the land.
The whole earth,
the whole cosmos,
rings with its toll.

Send not to ask for whom the bell tolls,
it tolls for thee.

Our World

What is our world made of?

Hills and mountains, rivers and seas.

What are the seas made of?
Water and waves, salt and sand;
sand that goes between your toes,
salt that gets in your mouth and nose,
waves that wash on the beach and rocks,
water that gets in your shoes and socks.

What is the water made of?
Rain and rivers that run to the sea
for fishes to swim in like you and me,
for crabs that creep and gulls that cry
and creatures that never see the sky.

But still I wonder, now and again,
the water that comes in the rivers and rain,
that runs in the gutter and down the drain,
that splashes in brooks with a tinkling refrain,
and flows to the sea in the sunshine again –
what is it made of?

Tiny atoms too small to see
build all the world and all the sea.
They make the clouds that float in the sky,
and little children that wonder why.

Show me the atoms I cannot see.
What are they made from?
Where can they be?

Sticks and stones may break your bones,
bricks and beams may build your dreams,
but words, words…
Can one Word build a uni-verse?
a uni-world from a uni-Word?

Show me the atoms I cannot see,
Of what are they made?
Where can they be?
The sea is made of waves.
The waves are made of sea.

And the particles, the particles,
the tiny, tiny particles,
are each the focus of a wave
wider than the widest sea
that stretches through all infinity
and shimmering, makes you and me
and all we feel and all we see:
a universal harmony.

Hazelnut Forest revisited

In March I wrote a puzzle poem Hazelnut Forest, its title an equation,
λ = 2πħ/p
so here is, as I said would be, the promised explanation.

The forest is the universe when the Word made all things new,
and the Spirit found the first conditions good and proving true.
Its leaves, the smallest particles of which the world is made,
the calling birds swift flying in the dappled light and shade,
are photons that were called to be when light was first displayed.

Its title is a formula, a particle’s waveform,
for everything is energy,
and particles just seem to be
the focus of a mystery,
the fine eye of the storm.

Another poem followed that wondered at the size
of the forest (or the world) as seen by wiser eyes.

How small the forest? We really cannot see.
We cannot give position, speed, time or volition;
to what is all around us, a truly strange admission.
As size get small and smaller, in the atoms heart and less,
in proton, quark or photon, and spacetime’s emptiness,
there is a finite limit bound in uncertainty.
How small is the forest? It’s just too small to see,
for in that finite limit is all infinity.

Men like Werner Heisenberg,
Max Planck and de Broglie,
worked out the math, and many more
have worked at detail and for sure,
where you and I give up and snore,
they plucked cherries from the tree.

A Circle With a Volume, I recall,
the last and strangest poem of them all,
came from Planck’s discovery
that length, like time, just cannot be reduced
infinitesimally small.
No matter what dimensions that we tell,
the smallest there can be, that we call Planck’s Length, L,
gives structure to the rest. There is no spell
that lets us cut fine finer till there’s nothing there at all.

The smallest, fundamental space,
the smallest, fundamental time,
are bound with that uncertainty
that binds the forest leaves.

Centre to edge is less than width,
the wheel’s centre to its rim,
your nose to your ear,
less than the wheel’s width,
less than ear to ear.

But the width of a fundamental
is the smallest distance possible .
Where can its centre be?
How far from its edge?

W. B. Yeats’ troubled poem The Second Coming that I quoted in this poem sums the uncertainty and the resulting fragility astonishingly aptly:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

From the inbuilt uncertainty of this fundamental seed, spacetime burst in an instant, followed by an immense expansion phase.
From fundamental to universal in microseconds.

This volume, this conundrum,
too veiled for us to see,
a mystery its diameter,
its radius an enigma,
the Sybil of Cumae,
time in eternity.

Ah! The Sybil of Cumae! Who was she?
Tis said she asked Apollo, who wanted her to wife,
that she might have, though mortal, as many years of life
as the grains of sand held in her hand.

False promises were made and when her wish was gained
her favours were withdrawn – Apollo raged.
Trapped through the years, her body aged;
kept shrinking in a jar ’til just her voice remained.

And why a hazelnut forest? In the mid-fourteenth century, following a vision, Dame Julian of Norwich compared all creation to a hazelnut held in God’s hand.
Such a tiny thing, encompassing all creation, shown her by God in a series of visions in which she saw the depth and greatness of His love for all mankind.

Hazelnut Forest

This perhaps should come with the warning, ‘Let the reader who can, understand.’
(Why a hazelnut forest? LHC? Who was the Sybil of Cumae?)

Small clues: LHC is the Large Hadron Collider, the largest machine ever built on Earth (27 kilometres across) with which many new particles, some expected, some not, have been discovered. Other clues are hidden in the tags, but not in the correct order (WordPress shifts them into alphabetical order).

Some time in April (I promise!) I shall write an explanation. I also promise (don’t look at my crossed fingers) that the explanation will not itself need explaining.

λ = 2πħ/p

How small is the forest?
How tiny its leaves?
Where the pattern of branches
tosses and weaves;
and the canopy sways,
and the summer winds moan,
until shortening days
say summer is gone.

Halfway in the forest
its deepest heart;
where calling birds fly
to its farthest part,
and the leaves’ rustling sigh
gives place to the sky,
and the height of the trees,
and the birds’ flying free,
and the tiniest leaves,
are the forest to me.

How Small is The Forest?

How far is it from constancy
to Heisenberg’s uncertainty?
A tiny length defines
a volume that we find:
the smallest we can know.
A fundamental distance
that we call Planck’s length (L)
shows there is a thickness
we cannot go below.

A circle has a volume just like a carousel
the volume of a circle is pi times r squared L,
(by this we come to see
there is no ‘true’ 2D
and a circle without volume,
is an anomaly).

A Circle With a Volume

This volume hides a mystery.
How small can it be?
How can it be measured,
a space too small to see
by eye or LHC?

The smallest space we cannot see:
the rings inside, the rings inside,
the rings inside a tree,
is found from four-thirds pi
times its depth to power of three.

This volume, this conundrum,
too veiled for us to see,
a mystery its diameter,
its radius an enigma,
the Sybil of Cumae,
time in eternity.

Radius is half of width,
we know that very well
but half a fundamental
is a word we cannot spell.
Diameter equals radius,
it flickers to and fro,
in the tiniest of instants,
the shortest we can know.

Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold.
Fission and expansion, a cosmos to unfold.

A whole that ever seeks
the shimmer and the chime,
Infinite from finite
in the infinite-finite rhyme:
the Word that ever speaks
at the birth and death of time.