This Japanese mini poetry has seventeen syllables in three lines of five, seven, and five.

Science is great, and so is Literature. These two might not seem like a great couple, but that’s not how love works, you know. Scientists are often thought of as being unimaginative folks of just pure logic. Not fair, they revolutionize our world, y’all. Of course, you surely have to be a little creative to brainstorm the smartest way to test a hypothesis. However, science meets literature, and scientists are using a short poetry to refine their creative ideas. This is the Japanese poetry of Haiku.


Related media: How To Write A Haiku Poem (Step-By-Step Tutorial)


Poetic Science

There’s this quote that’s usually attributed to Albert Einstein that goes like:

“If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you really don’t understand it yourself.”

Of course, that’s probably not true, but all the same, its quite a good advice. Science could be really hectic when explaining just how a ball rolls off a ramp (that’s in your face physics). So in attempts of simplification, some scientists are now using haikus — a form of Japanese poetry in three lines that each contain five syllables, then seven syllables, then five more syllables.

In 2013, and ever since, oceanographer Gregory C. Johnson has written and illustrated a series of haikus to summarize their annual report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This is a really heavy subject to blabber about, and one that doesn’t sink in to our minds easily. That’s why scientists have come up with simple poetic summaries like this one:

“Fast, strong action will

reduce future warming, but …

Rising seas certain.”


Atomic Poetry

There is even a Twitter account (@climate_haiku) that hosts a lot of haikus to follow to stay abreast with climatology; and this is not even the only source of scientific haikus (or better yet still poetry). The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2017 released a poetic periodic table featuring 119 different haikus — one for each element, with a bonus for even Ununennium, that might make you jiggle as you read ‘em. Of course!

Image: Climate Haiku | Periodic table of elements with haiku of Oxygen

Hydrogen’s own is really straight up:

“Your single proton

Fundamental, essential.

Water. Life. Star fuel.”

Carbon is the basis of life indeed:

“Carbon increases:

Air warms through centuries past.

More heavy rains fall.”

Magnesium, too, has a tale of time:

“Child of aging stars,

However bright you burn,

They will not return.”

Yttrium is a little less reverent:

“That is not a name.

That is a spelling error.

Or a Scrabble bluff.”


Rhythm, Or That’s Just Rhyming

As Jane C. Hu wrote for Quartz, she made it point blank that searching #sciencehaiku could be a great way to spend an afternoon. The  technique of turning your expertise into a poem is good for more than just science, she says. This is a really good opportunity to change any complicated topic into very easy poetry.

Take your own area of expertise and start jotting down ideas that get to the heart of what you like about it. After you’ve filled a page, return to pull out some of the most vivid descriptions you came up with. Take a break if you need to, then edit your work to get its ideas across in the clearest, most pleasing way possible.

Here’s our own haikus for The Factionary.

“The Factionary.

I Learn; Therefore I Know. But …

I Still Wanna Learn!”


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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Fri, Jul 19, 2019.


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