Science Poetry

Primary Findings

“Red shift, blue shift:
Info proves a
Useful topic.
As the data
Tilt aesthetic,
Make conclusions

The third poem posted on 2 March 2020 for Dr. Seuss Day was similar in structure to the second, again borrowing from “Red Fish, Blue Fish.”  Here, even the colorful theme of the first line persisted, as this verse highlighted the spectroscopic phenomena known as red and blue shifts.

Somewhat fittingly, this was the last poem I posted before quite a historic “shift” of its own kind: the move of our entire curriculum online in Spring 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic.   

“Red shift, blue shift: /
Spectroscopic /
Info proves a /
Useful topic.”
A “red shift” is a phenomenon seen in multiple scientific fields.  For chemists, it indicates that the observed wavelength of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) seen for a characteristic signal in a sample has lengthened.  [Within the visible light spectrum (represented by the familiar rainbow of ROYGBIV), red light has the longest wavelength.]  Conversely, when a “blue shift” occurs, the observed wavelength has shortened.  

Multiple phrasings of these concepts can be expressed.  Because wavelength is inversely proportional to frequency and energy, a red shift also demonstrates a shift towards lower-energy and lower-frequency EMR; a blue shift also indicates a shift towards higher-energy and higher-frequency EMR.  (The most precise chemical terms for these effects are “bathochromic” and “hypsochromic,” respectively.  Intriguingly, these also fit the trochaic rhythm present in this poem!) 

For a chemist, this information often arises in spectroscopic investigations, “prov[ing] a useful topic”: giving insight into what type of structural effect in a molecule might increase or decrease the characteristic wavelength at which a particular peak or signal is observed.  For instance, an interaction that stabilizes a particular molecular motion would lead to lower energy and thus a longer wavelength observed for that characteristic vibrational frequency, as demonstrated via a red shift on the pertinent spectrum.      

“As the data /
Tilt aesthetic, /
Make conclusions /
As stated above, if a sample is exhibiting a “tilt aesthetic” in its spectrum– the presence of a red or blue shift for a characteristic peak, via a fair bit of poetic license– a chemist can often infer important information about a chemical structure or make other “conclusions energetic.”