Squaring up to the poetry of science

"Energy's easy, you just make an 'E'By timesing an 'M' and squaring a 'C'."

It is science, but not as Albert Einstein, the Nobel prize-winning physicist who first advanced the theory E=mc2, would know it. The British Association for the Advancement of Science has commissioned scientists and science writers to compose short poems on the themes of time, space and energy to mark the centenary of Einstein's three landmark scientific papers.

This will launch a national competition for primary and secondary children to expound scientific theories through rhythm, rhyme and scansion.

Annette Smith of the association said: "Einstein's was an imaginative endeavour. It wasn't just test-tubes and explosions."

But the scientists' verses display little reverence for either Einstein's groundbreaking advances or the poetic form. Motion is no longer just the subject of Newton's three laws, it is also a handy rhyme for ocean. And while Sir Isaac may have defined the laws of gravity, he can still be invoked to complete a couplet containing the phrase "darn tootin'".

Science-fiction author Terry Pratchett writes: "Aeons beckon, if I want 'emBut I can't have 'em, cos of Quantum."

Mr Pratchett said: "Advanced physics is hazily understood by a lot of people. But you need to strike a spark to get people interested."

Meanwhile, Bunsen and Beaker, the mad-scientist duo from The Muppet Show, composed a tribute to their profession entitled "Science=nifty squared."

They write: "Science, we say, is empirically nifty. Ask Einstein, Hawking or Sir Isaac Newton. Do they concur? And I quote: 'You're darn tootin'!"

Paul Cornell, writer for the new series of Doctor Who, said: "Science and art are seen as two sides of the brain. But people forget that limerick-writing is a difficult science. Especially when you have to include wave-particle duality."

The closing date for poetry entries is February 11. Winners will be announced during National Science Week in March.www.the-ba.netuniverse News 16

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