Wednesday, December 31, 2008

leaping seconds


Slight slowing of the world’s rotation
requires, top chronologists have reckoned,
slight horological inflation
of New Year, to which they will add a second.

If you could add a second to
your life, would you attempt to leap and stretch it,
and could inflation give to you
a second chance of being far less wretched?

No. New Year offers when it leaps
an opportunity for adding time
to clocks, but not to life which keeps
you on the spot, and only leaps with rhyme.

Rhyme and the imagination
creating it are all that when the year
is new can leap with elevation,
and from a second be a profiteer.

The way clocks by horologists
may be controlled won’t help our lives;
we must be mere apologists
to time, to husbands and our wives.

The BBC reports at the countdown to midnight by Big Ben will last an extra second tonight, New Year’s eve.
Revellers will have an extra second to enjoy the New Year celebrations. Drunken partygoers may not notice but, thanks to the Earth's erratic rotation, the countdown to 2009 will last a moment longer. British physicists and official timekeepers around the world will insert a "leap second" to bring the most accurate atomic clocks in line with the astronomical day. London's Big Ben, whose bongs bring in the new year across the UK, will be adjusted while the BBC adds an extra "pip" to mark the delayed start to the year. Peter Whibberley, a senior research scientist at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington which is helping to coordinate the update, said: "The difference between atomic time and Earth time has now built up to the point where it needs to be corrected, so this New Year's Eve we will experience a rare 61-second minute at the very end of 2008 and revellers all over the UK will have an extra second to celebrate." Around 25 radio time signals around the world will need to implement the leap second, plus navigation systems such as GPS and its Russian equivalent, Glonass. BBC Radio 4's hourly six pips will be extended to seven to denote the change. The problem occurs because rotation of the Earth is gradually slowing down. Mr Whibberley added: "The Earth's rotation varies unpredictably due to factors such as changes in the atmosphere and the molten core. Atomic clocks like those at NPL are now more than a million times more stable than the Earth's rotation. "As a result, the two methods of measuring time slowly drift apart and we occasionally have to add or subtract a leap second to the atomic clocks to make sure astronomical and atomic time remain synchronised."

© 2008 Gershon Hepner 12/31/08

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

treason with the atom


More evil than reptilian,
destructive as a million
A-bombs, and discovered
by scientists who hovered
above the surface of
the chaos God with love
transformed with primal light,
than H-bombs far more bright,
the weapon from Los Alamos
developed in the thalamus,
the lowbrain that destroys
tranquillity with noise.

Producing such a nuke
could not have been a fluke,
and now that it exists,
though primal light persists,
mere humans can be rashand put out in a flash
the brilliant inspiration
that started the creation.
Explained by Einstein first,
the process led to thirst
for knowledge––not from trees,
but PhD degrees.

Let’s say goodbye to Adam,
for treason with the atom
more treacherous than trees
that merely made him freeze
when naked in the Garden,
leaves him no chance of pardon
from God, who’s washed His hands
of earth and its badlands.
Belief in Him, outmoded,
has long ago exploded,
and nuclear is our
rejection of His power.

All flesh is bound to pass,
but now’s the time for mass
destruction. Hello Atom,
we’ll see you in Manhattan,
if not first in Jeru-
salem if you’re a Jew.

Inspired by an article in the NYT by William J. Broad, reviewing a book by Thomas C. Reed and Danny B. Stillman suggesting that the H-bomb devised by Andrei Sakharov in 1955 was probably based on the one invented Edward Teller and Stanislaw M. Ulam in 1951. (“Soviets Stole Bomb Idea From IU.S., Book Says,” NYT, December 30, 2008:
A defining moment of the cold war came in 1955 when Moscow detonated its first hydrogen bomb — a weapon roughly a thousand times more powerful than atom bombs and ideal for obliterating large cities. The bomb ended the American monopoly and posed a lethal danger. So Washington dealt far more gingerly with Moscow, beginning a tense era dominated by fear of mutual annihilation.Now, a new book says Moscow acquired the secret of the hydrogen bomb not from its own scientists but from an atomic spy at the Los Alamos weapons lab in New Mexico. Historians call its case sketchy but worthy of investigation, saying the book, “The Nuclear Express: A Political History of the Bomb and its Proliferation,” by Thomas C. Reed and Danny B. Stillman, adds to a growing number of riddles about who invented the Soviet H-bomb a half century ago. “It’s quite intriguing,” Robert S. Norris, a nuclear historian, said of the book. “We’ve learned a lot about atomic spies. Now, we find out that a spy may be at the center of the H-bomb story, too.” A surprising clue the authors cite is disagreement among Russian nuclear scientists over who deserves credit for the advance as well as some claims that espionage played a role. The book details this Russian clash and questions the popular idea that Andrei D. Sakharov, who later became known as a campaigner for human rights, independently devised the Soviet hydrogen bomb. The book does not name the suspected spy but says he was born in the United States, grew up in a foreign country, fell in with communist sympathizers during the depression, and worked at Los Alamos during World War II. Afterward, it says, he became “deeply involved” in the American effort to develop the H-bomb.

© 2008 Gershon Hepner 12/30/08

Monday, December 29, 2008

clash of civilizations


With prescience, he sang the about the clash
that faces our uncivil civilizations,
whose differences might lead to nuclear ash
descending from the skies on all the nations.
He wrote that peaceful plowshares would be turned
to swords because of differences between
religions whose intensity still burned,
destructively addictive as morphine,
far more intensely in the heart and mind
than ideologies that atrophied
like plants for which the prophet Jonah pined
when Ninevites accepted his new creed.
The clash that Samuel Huntington foresaw
materialized, we saw, on 9/11
when we found out some people wish to soar
straight from earth’s kingdom to hubristic heaven,
and in autos da fe compound their error
by their rejection of reality, and try
to change the universe with acts of terror
performed the very moment that they die.
Sam Huntington may once have been a loner,
but since his views do not defy belief
we must now all acknowledge this late Jonah,
Greek chorus of aggression and great grief.

Inspired by Tamar Lewin’s obituary in the NYT, December 29, 2008 of Samuel P. Huntington, who died on December 24, 2008:

By the late 1960s, Dr. Huntington had turned his attention to foreign affairs. His 1969 book “Political Order in Changing Societies,” still widely used in graduate seminars, analyzed political and economic development in the third world. In recent years, Dr. Huntington was best known — and, since 9/11, acclaimed — for “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order,” a 1996 book based on a 1993 Foreign Policy article. The book predicted that in the post-cold-war world, violent conflict would arise from cultural and religious differences among the major civilizations. The spread of American pop culture, he wrote, did not mean the spread of American attitudes. The book has an almost uncanny image of what was to come: “Somewhere in the Middle East, a half-dozen young men could well be dressed in jeans, drinking Coke, listening to rap, and between their bows to Mecca, putting together a bomb to blow up an American airliner.”

© 2008 Gershon Hepner 12/29/08

Sunday, December 28, 2008

requiescas in pace


In pace requiescas, Harold,
while you’re being Christmas caroled,
having died, most people say,
on what is known as Christmas Day
to goyim, but as Hanukkah
to Jews. Not just your moniker,
but all your history declares
that you were Jewish. But who cares?
Just those who think ethnicity
provides the electricity
that keeps a man alive, but you
denied this. For you, being Jew
became irrelevant, it seems,
as unremembered, drifting dreams
that self-extinguish, like the lights
of Hanukkah’s eight-candled nights.
Antisemites bothered you
as a youth, but when you grew
you came to see it as uncouth,
and deviated from the truth,
which is that Zion’s protocol
still takes from Jews a dreadful toll,
though one that didn’t toll for thee,
undone when from your Jewroots free.
Not atavistic was your tale.
All remnants, like the coccyx tail
reminding us we come from apes,
you thought of as mere phantom fetish,
a burden when you’re being British.
You specialized in silence. Rest
in silence, for you were the best
practitioner of this deep art,
which with your death will not depart
from all those who will long enjoy
what sounds the same to Jew and goy.

Inspired by Harold Pinter’s death today, December 25, 2008, the fourth candle of Hanukkah, 5769.

© 2008 Gershon Hepner 12/25/08