Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Poetry and Physics

When we look at the creative process, its interesting to compare the two great P's of human intellectual endeveavor, Poetry and Physics. Each produces deep insights into the world that surrounds us, but their disciplines seem very different. However, this dissimilarity makes even a brief comparrison useful in enlarging our understanding of emergence and the creative process.
Despite the differences, some of them deep, creative activities in poetry and physics have much in common. Both the poet and the physicist strive to get beneath the surface of events, the poet concentrating on the human condition, the physicist on the material world. Both depend on the guidelines and tools that come from tutoring, discipline, and experience working within forms and constraints suggested by their respective disciplines.
For the poet, discipline supplies format(the sonnet), universal myths(the legend of Orpheus), and symbols(the rose); for the physicist, discipline supplies standard models(the billiard ball), universal laws(the conservation of energy), and mathematical formalism(differential equations). For both, broken symmetries and rythmic shapes signal possibilities and opportunities. For the poet a broken ryhme invokes close attention and unusual interpretation; for the physicist, a lack of symmetry in an interaction suggests new particles. Intuition, taste, and leaps of faith based on experience are indispensable to the production of either a poem or a scientific theory. Even if one wants to break the canon, discipline plays a crucial role; both poet and physicist subscribe to Bacon's aphorism, "Truth comes out of error more readily than out of confusion."
The differences in product are as instructive as tthe simmilarities in process. The poem aims at obliqueness and ambiguity to engage the reader at multiple levels; a scientific theory aims at elimination of ambiguity through a rigorous line moving from premises to conclusion by truth-preserving steps. The poet relies on the conventions of grammar to tie familiar elements into a framework to direct the reader to levels of meaning not obvious on the surface. The scientist relies on the conventions of logic and mathematics to tie observations into a framework that makes prediction possible. the generalizations provided by mathematical characterization direct the practitioner from specific observations to widely applicable laws.
In a sense, the poetic framework is too loose, wheras the scientific framework is too tight. The looseness of the poetic framework limits the possibilities for a cululative structure. Though the discipline of poetry has evolved, particularily in the accumulation of technique, the insights remain much the same. Arisophanes' plays hold their own in the modern context. In scientific theory, the rigorous use of prior models as a source for newer, more encompassing models provides a regular succession. Keplar's insights have been succeeded and surpassed by Newton's insights, which in turn have been succeeded and surpassed by Einstein, and so it is likely to continue beyond the forseeable future. Yet this very rigor restricts the scientists ability to deal with the broad, ill-defined domains that are so much a part of human experience-domains characterized
by words like "beauty", "justice","purpose", and "meaning". The insights of poetry far surpass those of science in these domains.
It is not impossible that poetry and physics can be brought into closer conjunction. Hermann Hesse's Das Glasperlenspiel is suggestive. Perhaps there is a 'game' with a rigor of a cgp that permits insightful combinations of the powerful symbols of poetry. It is a vision that has held me since the days when I first read Hesse's masterpiece.

from: Emergence, Chaos to Order by Holland.


Kaz Maslanka said...

I enjoyed you post about the differences between poetry and physics … I happen to write poetry within physics equations, mixing the aesthetics of both and trying to bridge the spiritual with the physical. You may find this link of value which compliments your most interesting post.

Candy Minx said...

Thank you and I will check out this link. Thanks also for stopping by this site and leaving a note. GReat! I WISH I had writtent he above, it's from an incredible book called Emergence by Holland in 1999. There are many physics equations combined with easy to understand explanations and diagrams for emergence. It is a subject dear to my heart. I believe there is anatural bridge between the spiritual and physical and part of the evidence is found in poetry! Thanks again for stopping by.

Kaz Maslanka said...

I posted a link to this page on my Blog ... you may check it out (it is near the bottom of my links column)


Anonymous said...

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” - that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’

The exact meaning of those lines is disputed by everyone; no less a critic than TS Eliot considered them a blight upon an otherwise beautiful poem. Scholars have been unable to agree to whom the last thirteen lines of the poem are addressed. Arguments can be made for any of the four most obvious possibilities, -poet to reader, urn to reader, poet to urn, poet to figures on the urn.

But the likeness is more important than the difference. The likeness is more helpful in making us understand that the concepts of science are like the concepts of value, monuments to our sense of unity in nature.

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