Madathil Rajendran Nair

Gold Star - 26,729 Points (3rd December 1946 / Bombay, India)

Basic Units Of Science - Poem by Madathil Rajendran Nair

When I said I weighed seventy kilos
I didn’t bother I weighed seventy times
The weight of an alloy cylinder
Made of platinum and iridium
Preserved near Paris at Sevres

To it the physicist so far clung
When he measured the weight of things
Like a life-boat on choppy seas
And alas today he is dismayed
The thing at Sevres can no more be guide
Everything is subject to change
Environment and wear and tear
Presided over by tyrant time
The cylinder sure has lost some weight
Despite careful handling strict

The need of the hour, nay minute
Is therefore to redefine weight
How can that be ever done
If we are to design matter alone
When change through time afflicts
Everything at every place?

An insurmountable conundrum indeed
Over-awed brains are losing sleep
“We have no problem” someone quipped
'With distance, say a meter, as it is
Measured against the speed of light
A natural constant without change
Unlike the sanctified alloy piece”

He didn’t bother the pace of light
Is reckoned against plaguing time
Whose unit the second derives
Sustenance from matter atomic
Of a particular type
In a particular state
In transition betwixt
Two levels hyperfine

Back to square one that is
A vicious circle indeed!
How could one ever rely
On matter alone to define
The basic units of science?

Caught we are in a flux
Trying to make sense
Lost like a ship in mid-seas
With no land or star in sight

Yet so sure are we
That we are right
To think that light escapes
The tyranny of time and change
Unaware of the Light that shines
Light and the constructs of space and time

Topic(s) of this poem: science

Form: Prose Poem


Poet's Notes about The Poem

This poem was written in October 2013 after reading a newspaper report that the kilogram unit piece preserved at Sevres (see image) could have lost some weight, infinitesimal though, through environmental wear and tear.

Comments about Basic Units Of Science by Madathil Rajendran Nair

  • Rajesh Thankappan (3/28/2015 10:55:00 AM)


    Matter as we see it have various physical laws governing them at the micro and macro levels. Moreover, we do not know whether we live in a Universe or multiverse. If in a multiverse, these multiverses may have different physical laws which may be in total variance to the one we have in this universe. The reality of Universe or an presumed multiverse is stranger that any magic or fiction and with the growing understanding of its sheer mysteries and magnitude we stand more and more bewildered. A wonderful poem. (Report) Reply

    1 person liked.
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  • Kelly Kurt (3/28/2015 12:42:00 AM)


    I love physics and poetry. You, sir, have melded them into a wonderful synthesis. We mortals presume too much and as a result, our hubris mocks our attempts to measure that which we do not and may not ever fully understand. Our little corner of this universe is as a grain of sand and not representative of the multiverse or any 'constants' therein. Measurement intrinsically alters the measured and the measurer is blind. Thank you for this wonderful piece. It was very much enjoyed.
    A thousand daily joys (and peace.) : -)
    (Report) Reply

  • (3/27/2015 12:31:00 PM)


    weighed with a
    How could one ever rely
    On matter alone to define
    The basic units of science?
    (Report) Reply

  • Tirupathi Chandrupatla (3/27/2015 4:37:00 AM)


    Beautiful poem dealing with standards that have been established for mass, length, and time. The basic measuring objects need to be calibrated against the standards. Poem also states how variable are the standards themselves and how better standard measures are established with time. The poem is a great attempt to bring it to the attention of all, a unique way indeed. Thank you. (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, March 26, 2015



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