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LETTERS TO THE EDITORS

Poetry and Science Still Talk

To the Editors:

I’d like to comment on two items in the Science Observer article “Epic Science” (September–October). First is the statement that by 1900 “the long poem designed to inspire interest in science … was gone.” True, long poems are rare, but occasionally they are produced. A fine example is “The Dance of the Solids” by John Updike. It is not book length, like those discussed, but it cleverly describes the multidisciplinary field of materials science and engineering.

Second, in paraphrasing Hugues Marchal, the article suggests that there are “several reasons for the fall of the longer scientific poem,” one of which is “the increasing speed of scientific discovery (which contrasts with the time required to make good poetry).” One could argue that the time required to do good science is often appreciable and may easily exceed the time needed for a talented individual to produce a good poem. The apparent speed of scientific discovery results from open communication involving thousands of investigators, whereas most poems are produced by individuals. Both require effort and both are valuable.

David A. Rigney
The Ohio State University


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