people who are nice enough to publish me, poetry

My Scientific Shame

I’ve been reading the legendary Carl Sagan’s Cosmos recently and when I came to the part where he talks about the doppler shift and its use in determining whether things are moving toward or away from the Earth I realised that the line in “Are We There Yet?” about “coming at you so fast I’m bathed in red light” is arse-fucking backwards.

Because the Doppler Effect causes wavelengths to shorten when the things that are emitting them are approaching (and to lengthen when they’re moving away from you),  and because blue light has a shorter wavelength than red light, if I’m coming at you that fast I’d be bathed in blue light, not red.

My first instinct was to blame someone else, like, for instance, Mr. David Gilbey. If he’s so hot with the comma placement and stuff, how’d such a basic element of astrophysics get past him? What kind of editor–

But no. We know who’s to blame. I know whose fault it is, really. Shoulda checked my facts before I declared the poem fit for human consumption.

My apologies to you all. I have left the erroneous line where it lies in the poem as it appears on this blog as a token of my shame, and of my commitment to you, my dear readers, that if I ever namedrop science in my poems again, I will check and double-check it before submitting it for your consideration.

4 thoughts on “My Scientific Shame”

  1. What a man. Sagan was a legend.

    Have you read The Demon Haunted World? Such a wonderfully rational and fully explored thesis. He should have written a slightly less technical version for little kids. Fear of monsters under the bed and ghostly apparitions would be a thing of the past. I know a few superstitious adults who could get a lot out of it.

  2. I was trying to explain the Doppler effect to my son tonight, but couldn’t remember which way the light went for sure and admitted as much. Just as well I didn’t check Are We There Yet? as reference ;)

      1. Well, given that the effect was only adequately described (and even then only as it related to sound) in 1842, after thousands of years of human endeavour and poetry, I think you’re being a little hard on yourself. But, that said, your promise to be more thorough next time is appreciated.

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