Ready, Set, Go!

The news in the fall of 2011 from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Large Hadron Collider near Geneva and the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy that they have measured particles traveling faster than the speed of light was certainly an exciting, puzzling development. The thought that something, anything, could travel faster than light, opened up a new frontier, which somehow got me thinking about one of my favorite sing-song poets, a bard of the vast unexplored spaces, Robert W. Service.

I looked over The Cremation of Sam McGee and The Shooting of Dan McGraw to get that rhythm in my head, and wondered what Service might do with the latest scientific scuttlebutt.

In the Gran Sasso, below rock and snow
that’s where scientists discern
measurements of speed as they keep a bead
on the stuff that’s launched from CERN.

The monotony generates ennui
in the physics racing game.
When the flag goes down they bestow their crown
on one candidate. The same.

It is always light that takes home the bright
shiny trophy they bestow.
Light is faster than any beast or man.
Light to win, to place, to show.

That’s the racing line set by Al Einstein,
who gauged E and MC’s burst
The result, said he, with great certainty
is that light MUST finish first.

Still the races ran with nary a fan
for each time just like the last
When results were shown, ‘twas already known
‘twas the light, by far, most fast.

Then one darkling day down along the way
came a stranger small but game
As he whizzed around it was quickly found
That Neutrino was his name

When he challenged light to a race that night
oh, the merriment was thick.
But when all was said the speed meters read
‘twas Neutrino, by a tic.

Oh, the hew and cry. The Italian sky
was vibrating with the din.
For no one could say what it meant the day
when light raced, but did not win.


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