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Physics Limericks

A total of 190 limericks were received since the contest was announced in the December 1996 issue of APS News. Although most entrants sent in one or two limericks, one sent in 22 and a 'team' from Harvard sent a record 37. Schrodinger's cat, which was the favorite subject, has reason to feel paranoid; reviewers for Physical  Review came in a close second. The longest poem, a finalist, had 13 limerick-form stanzas.

Contest Selection Process

The APS News editor at that time, Barrie Ripin, collected opinions from members of the March and April Meeting (1997) program committees, APS visitors and staff members. Every reader had diverse tastes, to say the least, and many limericks not included among the finalists below had ardent admirers.

The final selection was our editor's (as is the blame for most of the titles). Some are acknowledged 'groaners' - but punsters have to live, too.  Some titles don't scan well but had other redeeming qualities. 

As promised, each author received a dunking bird; the winners received a flock (3). Enjoy.


Doin' its Own Thing
by Edward H. Green


The first law of Newton I sing
My voice has a relevant ring:
"An object left free
Of hassles will be
Engrossed in just doing its thing."


May the Force Be With You
by David Morin, Eric Zaslow, E'beth Haley, John Golden, and Nathan Salwen


On a merry-go-round in the night,
Coriolis was shaken with fright.
Despite how he walked,
'Twas like he was stalked,
By some fiend always pushing him right.


Condensed Story of Ms Farad
by A. P. French


Miss Farad was pretty and sensual
And charged to a reckless potential;
But a rascal named Ohm
Conducted her home -
Her decline was, alas, exponential.


Wish I Were a Fly on the Wall
by Robert D. Cowan


There once was a fly on the wall
I wonder why didn't it fall
Because its feet stuck
Or was it just luck
Or does gravity miss things so small?


A Brief History of Gravity
by Bruce Elliot


It filled Gallileo with mirth
To watch his two rocks fall to Earth.
He gladly proclaimed,
"Their rates are the same,
And quite independent of girth!"


Then Newton announced in due course
His own law of gravity's force:
"It goes, I declare,
As the inverted square
Of the distance from object to source."

But remarkably, Einstein's equation
Succeeds to describe gravitation
As spacetime that's curved,
And it's this that will serve
As the planets' unique motivation.

Yet the end of the story's not written;
By a new way of thinking we're smitten.
We twist and we turn,
Attempting to learn
The Superstring Theory of Witten!

Limerico di Galileo [13 stanzas]
by Martin J. Murphy


While watching a cannonball's motion,
Galileo conceived of the notion
That natural laws,
Not a mystical Cause,
Ruled the physical world's locomotion.


Though its own view was mostly confused,
The Church was not greatly amused
With this flaunting of Deo
By old Galileo
And ordered it quickly defused.

So the Pope sent some priests who inquired
If it wouldn't be best he retired?
"Undoubtedly you know
What we did for Bruno;
Do you also wish to be fired?"

He asked an old Cardinal's opinion:
"Pray tell me, Your Grace, if you will then,
Does this mean what I think?
That henceforth I must shrink
From discussing my clever perception?"

Said Bellarmine, "No, it is not a ban;
If you want to keep teaching of course you can.
They merely have said
To take care where you tread
And smile when you say thing Copernican."

Unbeknownst to our venerable dissident
The records said something quite different.
When the Pope saw the note
The inquisitors wrote
He lost what remained of his temperament.

The message the Vatican sent
Was blunt in its stated intent
"Recant all this heresy
Quick or we' harass thee,
Now 'til your life has been spent."

In facing the dread inquisition,
Few men could defend their position;
So it shouldn't surprise
When we are apprised
Of old Galileo's decision.

"Explaining celestial motion
Needs more than just faith and devotion.
But to save my poor head
I'll recant what I've said
(Though I'll secretly keep to my notion)".

So our friend the illustrious Florentine
Spent his last years in Vatican quarantine,
Locked up in his home
By the prelates of Rome
For being a cosmical libertine.

The Church caused a major imbroglio
By correcting Copernicus' folio
Yet it couldn't discern
The abuse it would earn
In forbidding the whole Dialogo?

By killing Sidereus Nuncius
For the news that their views were defunctus,
The renaissance ended
And darkness descended
Upon the Dominican dunces.

In spite of the Vatican's dissuasion
Galileo still rose to the occasion.
Though once deemed heretical,
He proved more prophetical
Than those of a clerical persuasion.

Cole's Lost Soul
by A. P. French


There was a young fellow named Cole
Who ventured too near a black hole.
His dv by dt
Was quite wondrous to see
But now all that's left is his soul.


On Liquor Production
by David M. Smith


A friend who's in liquor production
Owns a still of astounding construction.
The alcohol boils
Through old magnet coils;
She says that it's "proof by induction."


Goodnight Irene
by Ken Kiger


There once was a girl named Irene,
who lived on distilled kerosene.
But she started absorbin'
A new hydrocarbon,
And since then has never benzene!


Cool Cruel Test
by Kay R. Devicci


The thermo exam was quite near-o,
And he thought everything was quite clear-o;
"Why study this junk
I'm sure I won't flunk,"
But they gave him an Absolute Zero.



The Bose-Einstein Story (Condensed)
by Jonathan P. Dowling


A couple of young guys in Boulder,
Cooled their gas cloud down colder and colder.
Then with much exhortation,
They hit Bose Condensation,
And beat out their rivals (much older).


Relatively Good Advice
by Edward H. Green


Dear S': I note with distress
The length of your yardstick is less
And please wind your clock
To make it tick-tock
More briskly. Your faithful friend, S.


Proton Decay
by David Halliday


A proton once said, "I'll fulfill
My long-term belief in free will.
Though theorists (may) say
That I ought to decay
I'm damned if I think that I will."


And Then There Were Photons
by William Rolnick


An electron, while trav'ling in space,
Met a positron there "face-to-face."
The electron then sighed,
At the sight of his bride
And they "died" in a loving embrace.


Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen
by David Halliday


Two photons, close-coupled at start,
Flew several parsecs apart.
Said one, in distress,
"What you're forced to express
Removes any choice on my part."


Fussy Electrons
by David Morin, Eric Zaslow, E'beth Haley, John Golden, and Nathan Salwen


An electron is sure hard to please.
When spread out, it sometimes will freeze.
Though agoraphobic,
It's still claustrophobic,
And runs off when put in a squeeze.


The Cat in the Tree
by Peter Price


Another great Dane has made free
With a question of Be or Not be.
Now might Schr"dinger's puss,
In descending by Schuss,
Leave one track on each side of a tree?


Protecting Schrodinger's Cat
by Devlin Gualtieri


PETA was out in full force,
But not for a dog or a horse.
At Schr"dinger's place
They pleaded their case
For the sake of his cat, of course



Desperately Surfing for Science
by David Morin, Eric Zaslow, E'beth Haley, John Golden, and Nathan Salwen


Who needs the balance and check?
Screw peer review -what the heck!
Send all of your crap
To the internet -zap!
Who cares if it's nothing but dreck!


On What's New and True
author unknown


A certain Phys Rev referee
Considers all papers with glee:
"What's new is not true,
And what's true is not new,
Unless it was written by me."
[Editors Note: Several varients on this theme were submitted.]


The Past Isn't What it Used To Be
by Bruce Elliott


A professor of Physics named May
Complains of the classroom today,
"The problem, you know,
Is that they're too slow.
We were far better students than they."


His friend, a professor named Beecham,
Said "It's true, you don't seem to reach 'em.
But they're not to blame,
For they haven't the same
Class of teachers that we had, to teach 'em!"

See You at Work
by Steve Langer


The chairman of AT&T
Said, "Your graduate physics degree
Is not worth a - penny,
Of your kind we've too many.
Perhaps you can program in C?"


Great Lies
by Beall Flower


There are several Great Lies that we know.
One is "I'll love you tomorrow."
Here's another false word
That we've recently heard,
"With less money your research will grow!"


Quark-Dork Symmetry Group
by Kay R. Devicci


When we physicists talk about quarks,
And "sleptons," "sneutronos," and "squarks,"
We shouldn't be stunned
When the Congress won't fund
Our big projects - they think that we're dorks!


A Physicist from Nantucket
by Michael Van Leeuwen


There once was a man from Nantucket
...oops...just got a life.