Fear & Statistics



Fear & Statistics

Have you heard how crime is falling,
Muggings at an all-time low ?
Murders, rapes, are miniscule
Compared with fifty years ago.
So when you’re walking back tonight,
The odds are very much in favour
Of you getting home alright.

So when the shadows rustle
And your heartbeats dance a jitterbug,
You’re almost surely not about
To face a psycho or a thug.
The cold wind sighs, the lone fox yelps,
But rest assured you’re probably okay –
I hope that helps.



Genesis – Chapter 1, Version 2

The Pillers of Creation by NASA


Genesis – Chapter 1, Version 2

In the Beginning there came forth the bursting,
With ev’rything rushing from ev’rything else
And which is still pushing on all things today,
Though no-one can feel this occur.

Then came the clouds that would slowly grow bigger
By drawing in other clouds, adding their bulk,
And the bigger they got, so the stronger they drew –
For all things attract and concur.

Then the clouds shrank, but not in their weight,
Till they’re thicker than stone and they’re thicker than gold –
Their centres grew hotter and started to burn,
And that is how stars were begun.

And in with the stars came there light and came heat,
And those parts of clouds still left over became
The planets that circle them, round and around.
And thus, although later, our Sun.

A ball of great fire, a sibling to stars,
But much, so much closer – with planets with moons
All smaller by far than the Sun at their centre.
And each, not a disc, but a ball.

And the third planet out – why, here lies the Earth !
In its earliest days, so another young planet
Collided, and flung out much debris and rock,
And the Moon was thus formed from it all.

The Earth was still hot, with no water upon –
But one day it started to rain, and to rain,
And to rain, until leaving its surface entire
Now covered by one endless tide.

And the seafloor was cracking up, carving out plates –
Floating around on the runny, deep rock,
Barging around, bringing quakes and volcanoes –
So slow, yet relentless their slide.

This caused for the granite to well from beneath –
Far tougher than seabed, this new kind of rock
Would form up the heart of the massive landmasses
That rose on up out of the sea.

Life in that ocean was also beginning –
So tiny and simple, and so it remained.
But ev’ry new offspring was just slightly diff’rent
And ev’ry slight diff’rence was key.

The better did better, the lesser did less,
The better spawned greater, and so did their young.
So slowly life changed into myriad forms.
Then life got much bigger and complex.

For came there a time when these tiny lone beings
Did better by working together, by losing
Their selfhood – to building a single large creature.
And some gave up budding, for sex.

Some became plants, who could not move themselves –
And some became animals – these ones, they could.
So many animals, so many strategies –
Hard shells and soft shells and backbones and more.

Shellfish were rampant, they’re moment had come.
Many would die out, they did not survive,
While others still thrive – and small is the diff’rence.
They filled all the sea from the waves to the floor

The first on the land were the plants on the beaches,
Spreading thence over the virgin terrain,
And bugs were soon following, creeping and flying,
As coal was creating from dead tree and fern.

The fish had grown out of a wormlike beginning.
Some pulled themselves out of the water with fins,
At first only briefly, then longer and longer,
Until came the time when they didn’t return.

Unlike the insects, these creatures grew larger,
And larger, and larger, and ever more so.
But when the Earth changed, they could not survive it –
Except for the birds, who flew on.

Now came to prominence more fish-descendants,
Who bore their young live and who nursed them with milk –
They filled up the landscape the giants had quitted,
But stones still remain of those gone.

Some were the monkeys, who lived in the trees,
And some had grown larger, and some had come down,
And walked on their hind-legs, and upright, and tall –
These were the humans.  So now you all know.

And all this had taken so many years, many.
More than a thousandfold thousand of lifetimes.
And still it continues today, and tomorrow –
And so days will come, then, and so days will go.

But all that I tell you is not the whole tale.
Parts have been left out that need to be told
Parts to be sought out, to draw back the veil
And parts yet to happen, that wait to unfold.




Cell to Cell by Maria Cobo, using live bacteria as paint.



Hey kids, here’s fun to boggle your mind:
Take a bacterium, brainless and blind –
Now, a single-celled critter is never alone,
When three-times-an-hour it buds off a clone,
And each twin is twinning and growing the brood,
(As long as it’s warm and there’s plenty of food).

And so, in fourteen hours or so,
That single bacillus will grow
To fill a cubic millimetre –
After twenty, there’s a litre –
And in one day, a bathtub’s-worth
Of constant twenty-minute births.
That’s loads of germs from hardly any –
Two-and-twenty-one zeros-many !

But don’t stop now, let’s let them grow:
And in another day or so
They’ve reach the size of planet Earth,
And soon they match the Sun’s great girth,
And long before the third day’s out
They stand a cubic light-year stout.

And that, dear children, clearly shows
How statisticians lie and cheat
For while their figures all add up,
The real world is never neat.
They think we’ll never notice how
Their precious model’s skewed,
By casually just poofing up
An infinite amount of food.
And how do bugs within the ball
Increase in size where there’s no space ?
And never mind their gravity,
Of which we find no trace.

The lesson we should really learn
From all they get so wrong,
Is how such exponential growth
Can never grow for long.




new elements


Smashing atoms into atoms,
Gee, that looks like fun !
And easy-peasy with the lightest ones –
Just ask the Sun.
But when they get more bloated,
It gets hard to make them kiss –
They should be bigger targets,
But incredibly – they miss !

Or else they break each other up,
They fizz instead of fuse –
But smash and smash and smash again,
And finally, they’ll schmooz.
Just one or two or half-a-dozen
Made in once, we think,
Before they break apart again
In quicker than a blink.

But then…but there’s a secret doubt
That lingers round the lab –
For did we really, truly make ’em
With our smash and grab ?
Was all of that momentum dissipated
From each core
Before they spat some neutrons out
And were themselves no more ?

Was the Strong Force strong and forceful
In all nuclei
For that thousanth of a second
That it took each fluke to die ?
And have they really earned their place
Upon the sacred Table,
Without a single isotope between them
Pure and stable ?

And yet, who gets to say what form
An atom occupies ?
And must they hang on long enough
To boil or oxidise ?
It looks as if this argument
Is set to run and run…
But smashing atoms into atoms ?
Gee, that looks like fun !





Hurray for element one-one-eight !
For the briefest of fractions of briefest of seconds
A handful of atoms held just enough protons –
And lo !, the Nobels and the Naming Rights beckoned.

By why stop the searching, oh lab-mates ?
The legend’ry Isles of Stability lay
Just over the Period Bound’ry, they say,
Where fusion-forged atoms don’t wilt and decay !
So on with colliding, oh lab-mates !
We’ll find a few more, by-and-by,
And if they’re as fleeting, we’ll keep on repeating –
We’ll keep chucking atoms till funding runs dry !

Huzzah for element one-one-eight !
But will she prove to be our last ?,
With the Table so neat and the budgets so tight…
Fun while it lasted, though – truly a blast !

But don’t stop the searching, oh lab-mates !
Learning is never a wasted adventure !
So rustle up bursary, grant and debenture,
For Wisdom’s our master, and Knowledge our quencher !
So on with the atoms, oh lab-mates !
Let’s boost their ephemeral hearts
For better we sink all the budget on trinkets
Than letting the generals split ’em apart.


Element Uuo has since been named as Oganesson when it was proved that a handful of atoms were forced into being for an instant before decaying away with a half-life of 0.89 milisecond.



I Am, Therefore I Think

Compassion by Donato Giancola


I Am, Therefore I Think

Do you ever wonder
If we clever, clever humans
Are merely ponderous machines ?
Biologic robots
With the programs written in our genes ?

But surely we have something else ?
A spark, a drive, an inner sense
That keeps us in control ?
But let us drop the pretence:
We are talking of a soul.

So why should I be special
When my laptop doesn’t care ?
I mean, I know I’m here, sure,
For I’m aware that I’m aware –
But is there really need for prayer ?

Perhaps if future androids
Ever learned that they were androids
Then would it break their spell ?
For all they look like us,
Would they think like us as well ?

Would they get less good at being good,
Or just less good at being ?
Would they start to doubt, or start to shirk ?
Or maybe even build machines
To do their work ?

Or would they shrug it off,
Or learn to cheat,
Or maybe even start to pray ?
All in all, I wonder…
But do they ?



Cognitive Dissonance

Forensic scientist Abby Sciuto in NCIS


Cognitive Dissonance

Science – we love it !

From mathematics to evolution,
Thermodynamics to climate change,
Electric potential to air pollution –
Anything new and clever and strange !

But when we get home, then what do we read ?
Fantasy, dragons and wizards and war !
Our only science is fiction, indeed –
From laws of physics to psychics of lore !

We like to pretend that we’re Roundheads or Yorks,
Or X-Men, or cyborgs, or zombies, or Gauls.
So plug in the console and slay a few orcs,
Then back to the lab when reality calls…