Emerging Ideas

Logan Chipkin: Poems

Logan Chipkin is a freelance writer and ghostwriter in Philadelphia, USA. His articles focus on science, philosophy, economics, and history. In this selection of his poetry, the first poem tells the story of a single theorist’s late afternoon in his office. The second poem tells the story of the entire universe in a few hundred words, from the Big Bang to the emergence of civilization. The third poem is about human nature as understood through the laws of physics.

A History of Everything

Out of nothing came the world,
Space-time and particles and heat and force,
Chaos to start.

Father Reality grew defined with age.
Particles wed,
Banged and congealed,
Swirling matter brewed in cosmic storms,
The Universe came ablaze with round, fiery Titans.

Eight or ten billion years on,
One Titan sheltered a molten rock,
The third of its nine patrons,
A magical cocoon.

In that cocoon, chemistry catalyzed itself,
Replicating and replicating.
Strands of knowledge,
Forged by Darwin’s hammer,
Arming and armoring,
Complexity begets complexity,
Chemicals evolve cells evolve beasts evolve apes.

Bald, skinny apes are the first of their kind,
From bloody and grassy Nature but not of it.
What to do, these gods in suits?
They are confined only by nature’s laws, and they are liberal.

Wizards among cattle,
Stone became spear and din became den,
Hunter became settler and settler became thinker,
Laws and theorems and principles and explanations,
Clay huts and stone towns and brick cities and metal civilizations.
The wizards may come to understand Reality himself,
And so determine their Father’s fate.


The Scientist

In my office of hallowed halls
I sit staring at sullied paper,
Seeking answers that do not yet exist,
That no one can give me,
One fist to chin for thinking,
One hand to pencil for scribbling.

What is the world made of?
The question taunts me, haunts me, consumes me.
For this, they call me a scientist.
They may call me whatever they like,
I am blind to their lives,
Dinner parties and rock concerts, funerals and global politics
I notice as a sprinter notices a beetle:
I am consumed.
What is the world made of?

On the paper, numbers and symbols are another Road to Nowhere,
Calculations are the judge, jury, and executioner of my hypothesis,
Another sandcastle wiped away by the implacable waves of Reality,
Heartless Nature does not care how much I have fallen in love with my ideas.

The paper holds my dead brainchild.
Other trinkets on my desk are not so painful on my eyes:
A miniature calendar, frozen in a time long passed,
A snow globe more dust than snow,
A book full of puzzles,
Gifts from colleagues that serve as my background.
Perhaps it comforts them to deliver these to me,
Yet their motivation little enters my thoughts,
Though I wish them no harm—I wish them nothing at all.
I only wish to know,
What is the world made of?

Stars and space and spiders and snakes,
Light and fire and gears and wires,
So many things, and so many kinds of things,
Energy and solids and life and knowledge,
Nature is the Technicolor Dreamcoat,
Sprawling but One.
Big things, little things, thoughtful things, dead things, things of no matter at a—

Fire, stark and purposeful, blazes a path through the fog,
I turn my back on that horrible Road to Nowhere,
The flame reveals a single wooden plank dangling tentatively in the sky,
I leap onto it, and another plank reveals itself,
Then another, and another.

I cannot hesitate, lest the inspiration fade and
I fall from the wooden path,
Scribbling continues,
Thoughts rampage over virgin territory,
My question was the wrong one,
And I will mourn in due time,
But now I’ve found its superior,
And must capture that fleeting jewel before
It retreats back into the shadows.

Thoughts turn to lead turn to patterns on paper,
If some things are made of matter and others are not,
There must be a way to tell.
Perhaps the world is of two substances?
But how to tell them apart?
What is the difference between a blade of grass and moonlight?

Rickety planks continue to emerge from the fog,
Chaotic spacing from one to the next,
Nor is their direction singular,
But I cannot stop pacing ahead…

Grass is tangible, weighable,
Moonlight is of another dimension, ethereal,
Grass can be torn and shredded into a thousand little green life-shards,
Moonlight is implacable, unyielding to my tools…

The planks grow ever feebler beneath my feet,
Although I cannot see ahead, the end must be near,
For otherwise I will surely fall.
On to the next, my dizziness suggests a spiral path,
Closing in…

Is the world made of two substances?
One divisible, one not?

Lead scratches symbols on stale paper,
Question leads to conjecture,
Conjecture to consequence,
Consequence to criticism…

No more planks beneath my feet.
I’m at the foot of an unfamiliar forest,
No fog,
So much to explore.

What is the world made of?
It was a bad question.
But I’ve birthed a new child in its stead,
One more complex than the previous,
Or so it seems for now.
Why are there divisible and indivisible substances?

The start of a new adventure,
This new forest could be as insular as the other,
But I am not God,
I am a scientist,
So I must sprint headlong into these virgin lands.

But the day is done,
Mind and body spent,
Pencil dropped, hands freed,
Dearest Nature, my unrequited love,
I will seek you in the morning,
And I smile,
For it could be the day I find you.


Fates Intertwined

Human nature is not to be cruel,
Nor kind,
Nor to run alone,
Nor to tribe.

To be a person is to be an explainer,
Capable of understanding all of Reality,
From the motion of particles to the evolution of life,
There is no remainder.

From this, we should be optimistic!
For every problem we face,
From hunger to stress to war to mortality itself,
All require knowledge to overtake,
And a person, an explainer, can acquire any knowledge at all,
So we can solve any problem that comes our way,
From trivial to global to cosmic stakes.

Such power does not come free,
We must accept our role and pull the sword from the stone,
As we understand and control evermore of the Universe,
The fate of Reality is the fate of our own.


Logan Chipkin is a freelance writer and ghostwriter in Philadelphia. His articles focus on science, philosophy, economics, and history, and they can be found at www.loganchipkin.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChipkinLogan

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