Science Poetry

Pause for Thought

“Thanksgiving waits on the horizon:
The moods in the classes are rising.  
It’s been a long term, so
Pause study of thermo; 
Avail selves of break energizing.”

The 25 November 2019 limerick notes some themes of thermodynamics in addition to an imminent, welcome holiday weekend. 

“Thanksgiving waits on the horizon: /
The moods in the classes are rising.”  
The 2019 poem here commemorates a typical shift in a typical semester, in which a sense of accomplishment and shift towards optimism are evident as we near the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, with winter break relatively soon after. 

Fall 2020 is far from typical in terms of this term’s flow; my campus, along with many others, removed any midterm breaks or holidays, in order to finish all on-campus work by Thanksgiving.  I hope this year that, as we proceed through November, being able to see the impending holiday and the associated break “on the horizon” will still provide some mental relief to students, faculty, and staff alike, after a compressed, challenging term.  

“It’s been a long term, so /
Pause study of thermo…’ 
The chapter on thermodynamics traditionally falls near the end of the autumn semester.  Thermodynamics is often described via the shorthand “thermo”; “thermo” and “…term, so…” provided the rhyme that inspired this poem.

“Avail selves of break energizing.”
In thermodynamics, we consider a system of interest and its energetic interactions with the surroundings.  The change in energy experienced by the system depends on the heat energy transfer between the system and the surroundings and the work that is either done by the system on the surroundings or on the system by the surroundings.  (These concepts sound deceptively simple; many fascinating questions arise from the laws of thermodynamics and the related vocabulary and calculations!)  

This poem’s last line moves from the scientific context to the everyday context in terms of the word “energy,” acknowledging that the pause provided by the Thanksgiving weekend provides some welcome relief and restoration.