How many electrons for one Higgs?

I’ve been sitting for over an hour at these keys,

Calling to mind that snippet of prose drifting

like cirrus in the darkening Jupiter sky that was

my mind, as I fell asleep last night.



A suitable poem, or fragment of story with which

to greet you with on a certain, special day. It was not:

A Higgs particle may contain the energy of 244,593 electrons.

(A statement that meant nothing, to anyone, only 39 years ago. And, truly,

scant little to me either, except for E=mcc).



Nor was it There is life on Europa. (I repeat: There is life on Europa).

spoken in a voice with the faint traces of an accent from Guangzhou,

by Dr Tsien, from the surface of that icy satellite, as he stood there dying

millions of miles from home. `Twas Clarke that dreamed up that still oft-visited universe.


It was a snippet colored with the shades of beech bark and falling red

oak leaves, from that treeline just beyond that couple sitting by the edge of the field,

and sprinkled with flakes of snow, a view of the seasons through electronic Palantiri,

but in prose


It’s turns of phrase held the smell of coffee beans and

the clean crisp air about Mount Monserrat,

and of laundered linens, packed snug, among bags and pouches,

leather, and a faint scent of sampaguita and camomile tea


It was a longish fragment, worn of splinters by three and four years of time.

In those words were held still the memory of embraces, in farewell,

with two much loved childhood friends, and other words exchanged, and not

lightly spoken


It’s cadences hinted at all the magic things that the year had brought to light,

of exoplanets barely a pixel or more to the sight, of springtime come to desert climes;

of the marshalling of pages of thought, as bulwark against the dust of ages


Spoken, it would have described an oh so slightly overly exuberant

joy, and of affection, and described – precisely! – my abstract gratitude

for a universe rich enough to have

generated you.


Sigh. So much for the precision of the somnolent mind. Can’t even frickin parse words into a usable poem, tsk.


Milady Luthien, dearest little big sister, you rock. Maligayang Kaarawan, Charm!!

Ear to the Edge of Time

They sent up a dog in the Sputnik, once

in the interests of science.She didn’t know that there was only

six days air inside.

And so what – dogs die everyday. Give one over.

Put down in kennels. Neglected.

So why, now, am I so haunted by

this whimpering canine, locked in a cab,

and shot into space?


Did they give her a window, at least?

Some evidence of where all that blasting rocket fuel was taking her?

Did it break the heart of the scientist who had told her

to sit nice and still – and did his training work?

Or when the rubbish dropped back to earth,

was the inside of the ship covered In deep grooves

and marked with scratches?


– Excerpt from the play Ear to the Edge of Time

BBC Science in Action podcast (22:54)