Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Science Poems for January 2011: 12

Last April I posted a science sonnet a day in celebration of National Poetry Month (index with links here). This January I am posting a science poem a day, written in various traditional forms, in honor of Science Online 2011.

The "fifth annual international meeting on Science and the Web" occurs Jan. 13-16, 2011. Click on the logo below to access their daily digest (already active) on

As with the sonnets, my January poems take their cues from science-based articles. I also have two works in a special science poem section (vol. 33 #5/6) of Star*Line, journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. You can read my "Ciliate Sestina" here.

Also, two sonnets from last April's collection, "In Development" and "Manipulations," have made it into Open Laboratory 2010 Click on the badge below for links to the 50 essays, 6 poems, and 1 cartoon in the collection.

Today's poem takes its cue from "Fish as Good as College Students in Numbers Test" (Matt Kaplan, National Geographic News, Jan. 7, 2011). Click on the article link to learn more about the research. To learn more about the traditional poetic structure used, click on the form name below the title.

Counting Schools
(Form: Double Acrostic Verse (first and last letters of the lines))

Orders of magnitude distinguish fish from me or you.
"Not so fast!" a study says, where numbers have been shown.
Enter the mosquitofish. Alone, she is distressed,
Trying to find companions. But what does she see?
Written symbols on one door, more numerous symbols on another.
One door leads to friends, so the fish starts tallying.
Three versus six, 100 versus 200, doesn't matter.
Here she's learned to choose the right arena.
Ratios of numbers work until that ratio is decreased.
Eight symbols versus 12 works but not 9 versus 12. Could you
Easily tell which door has more? Quickly? Without a
Fleeting chance to count?
One door looks too much like the one on the other side.
Undergrads couldn't tell the difference, either. If
Ratios stump fish and us in similar ways, I
Fear we both need schools. But I digress.
It's a common ancestor that calculated thus, which
Vindicates some ancient beast. No matter. We
Each did what counts. Our primordial math skill survives.

Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other Journeys
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