In most observed galaxy hearts,
Massive black holes reside,
Formed from dark-baryon parts,
As huge stars collapse or collide.
Telescopes secrets divulge,
Hinting at coevolution,
The key: a galaxy’s bulge?
We do not yet know the solution.
Whence the crucial gas-fuel
With which to feed a black hole?
Do galaxies, holes often duel?
Or play a more symbiont role?
Next, we tackle all spectra;
Our tools, from low to high climb,
Sensing waves from far plectra,
Over the whole Hubble time.
The Formation and Evolution of Massive Black Holes, M. Volonteri, Science, 2012
This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “Black Holes” first appeared on Allen’s website on Aug. 6, 2012.
With life, legged and finned, Earth had been teeming,
Slitherers, predators, graceful trees tall …
Now, of these species, we are only dreaming:
Glossopteris, trilobites, eurypterids, all.
Creatures of intrigue, lords of the past!
How did they grow; their color, what hue?
Why did some perish, and why did some last?
In Earth’s litholibrary, sometimes a clue.
Catastrophe beautifully carved into stone,
Graveyards ‘neath graveyards, so deep do we ply,
Silent yet eloquent, shadows of bone,
The greatest extinction, the big one – but why?
Deserts and oceans spanned latitudes wide,
Lava erupted as oceans of fire,
What means of death? It’s hard to decide:
Heat, acid, darkness, a host of things dire.
Yet from these strange ashes (if ashes they be)
Life rose up gorgeously, brilliantly new!
From lucky survivors, a vast, branching tree;
Some tendrils persisted, and weird, wild things grew!
Time is the key to death and new life,
And time can lie hidden, awaiting fresh eyes.
A haze of uncertainty, cut with a knife –
From zircon in China, chronologies rise!
To stand at the Permo-Triassic, it seems,
One faces a shockingly sharp, razor brink;
Of rapid events, the Meishan bed screams …
The “Great Dying” flew by in a mere cosmic blink.
An extinction in the blink of an eye, MIT News, 2/10/14
Earth’s Greatest Killer Finally Caught, LiveScience, 12/12/13
This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. You can read more on Allen’s website.
If you went to Greenland, almost 80 North,
And drilled your way down … a mile, then more,
You’d find some strange layers, a story’d come forth
A record of ice ages locked in a core.
You’d find glacial ice that is clearer, more soft
Than Eemian ice (long crystals, more rigid)
And clues that the ice height was higher aloft
Than thought for that time (with air temps less frigid).
A puzzle indeed, this view down a hole –
If NEEM endured warmth, whence the sea rise?
Some question the records, some look to South Pole …
In the decades that come, are we in for surprise?
This is one in a series of poems based on science news, written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “Greenland Ice” first appeared on Allen’s website on Jan. 25, 2013.