29 Mar 2013

Feynman Point Poems - Join In - Write Your Own!

When I was a kid, I would happily play around with both words and numbers – I still do. Both have their aesthetic appeal. Whether it is constructing and deconstructing mathematical puzzles or cryptic crosswords, they appear as small artefacts that reveal a grander architecture. Combine this with the serendipity of the internet, and Pi Day was just a hop, skip and jump away from Richard Feynman and pilish poetry.

A couple of weeks ago, John Baez posted a link to Cadaeic Cadenza by Mike Keith; an epic work, albeit a short story, due to it being written entirely in pilish. Pilish is a form of constrained writing such that the lengths of the words follow the decimal expansion of the number π; Cadaeic Cadenza itself being 3835 digits (and words) long. Mike Keith later outshone himself by publishing a pilish novel entitled “Not A Wake: a dream embodying π's digits fully for 10000 decimals”; but that’s another story.

Returning to the thread, John Baez’s post included the suggestion to go and look up the Feynman point within the Cadaeic Cadenza. The Feynman point is a sequence of six 9s that occurs in the decimal expansion of pi starting at the 762nd decimal place. It has been so named because Richard Feynman once stated at a lecture that he would like to memorise π just up to that point so that he could finish off with a  flourish, “... nine, nine, nine, nine, nine, nine and so on!” as if π were rational. But the question in this context is: what does Mike Keith do with six consecutive nine-letter words in Cadaeic Cadenza? Here is the answer:

  "Something's wrong", I murmured. "Despite Ravenesque timbres, so mesmerizing (the echo
survives, for example), my intellect detects wrongful alteration. This imitation, simulated Raven!..."

The six ‘nevermores’ are thus both echoes to Edgar Allan Poe’s Raven and to themselves. So how does Keith handle the same Feynman point in “Not A Wake”?

“Collective courage is everlasting, its core
Blameless, bloodless, guiltless, ceaseless, limitless, boundless.” 

The website Cadaeic.net is a wonderful syncopation of mathematics, words and music. However, I couldn't find within it an exploration of the Feynman point as a stand-alone structure for a really terse literary form. And so I come to my own point.

Feynman Point Poems

As a tribute to the playfulness of words and numbers and in honour of a physicist who shed much light into otherwise esoteric areas of physics, I would like to celebrate Richard Feynman’s Birthday on the 11th May with a collection of the finest (and hopefully funniest) Feynman Point Poems.

The rules should by now be fairly self-explanatory. A Feynman Point Poem consists of six 9-letter words. That’s it! You may add punctuation as needed. Any deviation from this standard will be treated commensurately with its ingenuity.

If 9-letter words don’t readily spring to mind then just do an online search and a myriad of crossword and Scrabble sites will come to light. There are thousands of them – words, not websites.

Not delving too deeply into the forest of possible words available, I came up with this not-quite-right poem, or possibly epigram:


Enjoy the juggling!

Add your Feynman Point Poems in the comments below.

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