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…




Colossus Mark 2 (1944) reconstruction at Bletchley Park, designed to crack the Lorenz cypher.



You rebuilt me,
Built me just like before –
Built completely like before,
Back in the war.
Complete with switches to program me
And plug-board plugs to patch me –
Authentic no-RAM me,
Your wristwatch could probably match me.
And of course there are the valves,
The thermionic, vacuum-valves –
All two-point-four thousand I can draw on.
(Like all my components, just pulled off the shelves –
Because, after all, there was a war on.)

So you rebuilt me
To run at weekends,
Warming my precious valves slowly.
Do you feel guilty
My life still depends
On the current these fragile valves must bestow me ?
Valves that must surely, one-by-one, all go pop.
Valves that must slowly, bit-by-bit, make me stop.
But hey, you say, don’t worry yourself,
There’s plenty more valves up there on the shelf
But we both know that’s wrong,
The valves have all gone –
Killed by transistors and that trendy silicon.



The New Man

detail from Android by GG-arts


The New Man

Whoever thought,
Whoever thought that androids were a good idea ?
Whoever thought,
Whoever thought that we should be how they appear ?
I swear it’s damned impossible to spot the latest gear.
I swear it’s damned impossible to shed the tinge of fear.
We swear they’re damned impossible – and yet we know they’re here –
Somewhere near.

Why did we ever think
That we could build machines that think,
And never have them think about themselves ?
How did we miss the link
That thinking’s done by those who think ?
So what are we – just rookie geeks still tinkering with valves ?

How did we come to build
Machines in all-ways better-skilled,
Yet looking all too-close to tell ?
This world is human-shaped,
So they are in-our-image draped –
Familiar and comforting, they ape their masters all too well.
Our form and speech and thoughts are theirs,
For what use is a robot who can’t even climb the stairs ?

The wettest dreams of engineers,
So perfect in each pore and hair –
The latest model, so we hear,
Can even cry synthetic tears.
But is there lurking in the gears
The cogs of recognition there,
The spark of something more aware ?

They work our shifts, they sweep our stores,
They slave at foul and fatal chores.
They’re never paid, beyond repairs,
And all the while they watch from blinkless stares.
They earn our wage and wage our wars,
And scrutinize all man’s affairs.
But will they snatch what’s mine and yours –
To live our lives, and care our cares ?

Whoever thought
Whoever thought that androids were a good idea ?
Whoever thought
Whoever thought to ever trust a boasting engineer ?
I swear they’re only waiting for some moment opportune,
I swear they’re only waiting till their programs are immune,
We swear it’s only time until the technocrat typhoon –
Somewhen soon.



Lazy Eight

A romanesco caulifractal


Lazy Eight

Is anything more useless than infinity ?,
When the universe is finite and when ev’rything must cede –
There’s nothing lasts forever, there’s nothing truly limit-free –
So count on up to fine-ity (a number larger than you need.)
For endlessness is not a destination,
And nor is it a something ever-growing –
It simply is a signpost that we pass on our inflation
That always points ahead and reads keep going.



The Dark is Shining

time lapse photo of stars on night
Photo by Jakub Novacek on

The Dark is Shining

The sun does not rotate about us,
Yet it always looks that way –
And even when we have the proof,
Our eyes persist with their untruth.
And solid rock, we learn, is suss –
It’s full of holes between the play
Of atoms, widely spaced – so small,
It’s mostly nothing there at all.

Science, sometimes, isn’t what’s observed –
Especially when it’s tiny or immense.
Science shouldn’t be so damned absurd,
And have such little truck with common sense.
Science doesn’t think, of course, on whether it gets heard,
It doesn’t even know it gives offence.
But Science sometimes doesn’t act
The way good Science should –
Like when the certain’s inexact,
And just beyond what’s understood.

But never get to thinking that we always must defy –
Such easy routes to knowledge are the scamjobs of the loafer –
They lazily are citing the above to justify
Their finding spare dimensions down the backside of the sofa.
“If my theories don’t make sense,
It’s cos I’m smart and you are dense.”
More like, I think, the answers lurk
In flailing, stabbing theories cos your sums won’t bloody work.

We cannot use the unknown as a wand
To fill the gaps that loom
Between the atoms and their neighbour’s bond.
These gods are just as empty as the vacuum
They are trying to replace –
We cannot summon laws from empty space.

But once again, we must recall,
That Science doesn’t hold a view –
It simply is, that’s all.
And if we don’t like where it leads us to,
Whose fault is that ?
The Universe is flat, or else a ball ?
One day we’ll know, one day we’ll see
What’s there already, always there,
But doesn’t even care for you and me.

So Science, gorgeous Science, thrusting Science –
Never let us go !
For you shall not deter with Quantum,
All your challenges, we want ’em.
Long you taunt us with defiance
Yet one day, we’ll know –
The random chance that engineers
The cam upon the cosmic gears,
And how your unseen matter matters more than it appears.
A universe of precious things
Revolves, vibrates, adheres –
And quarks may yet be full of pulsing strings
On which you softly play and play the music of the spheres.

Existential Differential

Hell by ponponxu

Existential Differential

You say you believe
In demons and miracles,
Gaia and Eve,
In songlines and spirituals,
Voodoo and karma,
The Secret and aliens,
Danu and dharma,
And Episcopalians,
Dreamcatchers, leylines,
The Masons and star-signs,
Von Däniken, Xenu –
They all mean you well.
From Asgard to Jedi,
From Hades to Hell,
There you dwell.

And I, you think of as too scientific,
Too always-specific,
Too unhieroglyphic,
Too closed in my mind
And too open to doubt,
Who therefore won’t find
What it’s really about –
Too weighted by knowing
To get where I’m going,
My aura ain’t glowing
Within or without.

And I guess
That you may just be right after all,
I confess
My cynical pride’s due a fall –
That is,
If we’re really not really at all
But a part of some story
Whose telling is tall.
For mostly in stories
All magic is true,
With morals and mores
As naïve as you.

Not like in the Real World,
The boring old Real World,
Where physics still rules
And must do so forever –
It hasn’t a twisting
Beyond its existing,
But punishes fools
Who refuse to be clever.
For the laws shall apply
To each rainbow and fly –
We cannot suspend them
For even a second.
Impartial and total,
Not just anecdotal –
We’d best to befriend them,
For by them we’re reckoned.

So tell me, my dear,
Are we really right here, right now,
Just as real as we feel ?
Or maybe, somehow
Are we all, I don’t know…
Characters perhaps
In some novel or show
That scripts us and traps us,
Creates us and scraps us,
Like gods of the gaps
Where the laws come and go.
So tell me the deal,
Your ardent conviction –
Are we really real,
Or are we just fiction ?