Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Poem for #PlutoFlyby

Out of the Sun
from the sign of the Hunter she comes,
like the swing of a hammer
past one belt into another.

After billions of years
the king of the underworld
greets a new visitor to his court,
a brief nearest neighbor
though she will not tarry—
shining as bright in this
new world’s nitrogen sky
as this world does
at her home world.

We can look forward
to the honeymooner’s pictures
slowly uploaded to the web.
And may our latter-day
live long.


The usual suspects decided we'd write some poems to commemorate the New Horizons flyby of Pluto, happening now (basically).  I wrote one a few years ago for the 2012 National Poetry Writing Month, here's my new one! I've kept to the ethic of not spending too long on it, hopefully it doesn't show too badly...

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Those of you who follow my Twitter feed know that I spent a lot of time over the winter working on a proposal to NASA to fly a mission, named MANTIS. For a variety of reasons I won't get into too many details about what the mission does, but I'm happy to link to a short abstract we wrote about it.

I gave a short talk about MANTIS a few weeks ago, and am giving another one again today.  These are the first presentations of MANTIS to the community, and to celebrate I'm linking to a song I wrote for the mission.

This was written a few months ago to accompany a music video I made for an APL event.  It actually does a pretty good job of covering our science objectives for the mission. :)

So, here again:  The MANTIS Song

Thursday, April 30, 2015

2015 Poetry Post 30: A Farewell

We can all share the feeling,
can’t we?
It wasn’t as flashy
as other rides
at school or work,
but it was loaded
with extras
and it had so much power!
There was the sunshade
that might have looked dorky
but you used it
and never melted a cassette.

You didn’t take it
to the usual places
with the popular crowd.
Instead you explored
the shadiest nooks
and the steamiest hollows,
and found the last of the places
that the ancients
would have heard of
but never seen.
You’d take it out under the stars
and watch comets pass by.
You and your friends
felt like you’d used it
to see the whole damned planet
(though you’d admit
you perhaps saw some parts
better than others)
through days and nights
that seemed to last for months.

But mostly that workhorse
gave you uncounted miles
and let you earn your keep.
Eventually, you knew
its tank was emptying
for the final time.
You knew you’d never
see another vehicle like it.
So you got
the most out of it
you could
and drove it into the ground.
Did you forget to empty the tape deck?
No matter.
You have lots and lots of pictures
to remember it by
and smile.


This is a double commemoration, of the end of NaPoWriMo and the end of the MESSENGER mission, the first-ever Mercury orbiter. While I have no work connection with MESSENGER, I have many dear friends who have devoted years of their life to that project. While I have no right to share in the pride they feel, I do understand the bittersweetness of this day for them.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

2015 Poetry Post 29: The Shouting

All over but the shouting,
but there should be
more shouting.
Others have accomplished less
but done so more loudly.
The house lights may rise
too quickly for my taste,
but your curtain calls
from iron-core fans
are well deserved.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

2015 Poetry Post 28: Not Knowing

we romanticize not knowing
call it bliss
and innocence
the way we label people
who have committed
no crime.

what a happy, blameless
people we must be, then.
and how much more
we consider ourselves
when our cities are
struck by a bolide
we could have seen coming.

Monday, April 27, 2015

2015 Poetry Post 27: The Short Life and Rapid Death of the Royal Orbiting Dageurrotype Mission

Mycroft entered the briefing room,
bowed to the ministers
and opened his folder.

“We have enough data
to deduce the answer
to any question
we could ask.”
Dyson and Christie
shifted uncomfortably
in their chairs.

“Knowing the planets
have been
in their orbits
in perpetuity;
knowing that the
have common origin
in an exploded body;
knowing all the matter
in the entire universe
must be observable;
I find the proposal
to launch a daguerrotype machine
about the Earth
technically feasible
but scientifically unnecessary.”

“God Save the King!”
said the exchequer.

The Astronomer Royal
moved to speak
“But what of the projects
the Americans study?
With Moriarty leading
a mission to study
the dynamics of an asteroid?”

Mycroft shook his jowls:
“For what it’s worth
regarding Moriarty
and others,
my brother defers
to my judgment
and he also agrees with me.”

Sunday, April 26, 2015

2015 Poetry Post 26: Some Perspective

A click moves
hundreds of tons of metal
six time zones away
to spend five seconds
collecting photons
emitted decades ago
trillions of kilometers from here,
bounce them onto a crystal
of antimony and indium
to loosen electrons
and create an image
of a star
more than
one hundred times fainter
than a human eye can see.

Still, I am impatient.


(Image from the Mount Hamilton Landolt Standard Star List: https://mthamilton.ucolick.org/techdocs/standards/Stds_Landolt_16to20.html)