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Basic Units of Science
by Madathil Rajendran Nair
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When I said I weighed seventy kilos
I didn’t bother I weighed seventy times
The weight of an alloy cylinder
Made of platinum and iridium
Preserved near Paris at Sevres

To it the physicist so far clung
When he measured the weight of things
Like a life-boat on choppy seas
And alas today he is dismayed
The thing at Sevres can no more be guide
Everything is subject to change
Environment and wear and tear
Presided over by tyrant time
The cylinder sure has lost some weight
Despite careful handling strict

The need of the hour, nay minute
Is therefore to redefine weight
How can that be ever done
If we are to design matter alone
When change through time afflicts
Everything at every place?

An insurmountable conundrum indeed
Over-awed brains are losing sleep
“We have no problem” someone quipped
"With distance, say a meter, as it is
Measured against the speed of light
A natural constant without change
Unlike the sanctified alloy piece”

He didn’t bother the pace of light
Is reckoned against plaguing time
Whose unit the second derives
Sustenance from matter atomic
Of a particular type
In a particular state
In transition betwixt
Two levels hyperfine

Back to square one that is
A vicious circle indeed!
How could one ever rely
On matter alone to define
The basic units of science?

Caught we are in a flux
Trying to make sense
Lost like a ship in mid-seas
With no land or star in sight

Yet so sure are we
That we are right
To think that light escapes
The tyranny of time and change
Unaware of the Light that shines
Light and the constructs of space and time

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October 25, 2013
More By: Madathil Rajendran Nair
Views: 796      Comments: 12

Comments on this Poem

Comment A very analytical, well written poem that questions certain long standing principles! Kudos Nairji, for having conceived of this novel topic! Good going indeed!

Padmaja Iyengar
11/01/2013 06:16 AM

Comment Thanks Nair-Saab. I am humbled by your good heart.
Yes, Neelakantan-ji. I am with you. "Certainty of Uncertainty" - beautiful; you ought to crash into the realm of poetry. Thanks.

11/01/2013 00:26 AM

Comment Man keeps plumbing the depth of Maya using science. The Certainty of Uncertainty is often forgotten in this endless quest. Ironic, isn't it?

PK Neelakantan
11/01/2013 00:19 AM

Comment Only from a bright mind can such a poem germinate. Keep on composing your works that are capable of illuminating other minds. Congratulations! R.C.Nair

10/31/2013 09:08 AM

Comment Thanks Saleem-ji and Krishnamoorthy-ji for your kind feedback.

10/31/2013 05:42 AM

Comment Good thinking that we are using measures which are themselves under wear and tear though infinitesimally small but surely.

10/31/2013 03:10 AM

Comment After the reading the poem, I had to bother Google, just to get in touch with an old news that Kilo has already lost it's weight and is not anymore worth a Kilo.

As scientists still do not have converging opinion on speed of the light (being a constant), the news turned out to be a another nail in the coffin of the poet’s trust in the basic laws of physics….

Saleem Thaliyappadath

Saleem TK
10/31/2013 02:49 AM

Comment Thanks Balagopal-ji and Vijayan-ji.
Sathees-ji: Yes. Light with a capital L. Thanks.
Rian-ji: This site has a rule which grants the editor ten days time to publish a selected poem. So, when publication is delayed due to any reason whatsoever, the poem gets pushed down in the list and might not appear on the home page. Please send me your e-mail id to I will inform you whenever there is a new poem from me. I will keep your good suggestion in mind. Thanks.

10/31/2013 01:57 AM

Comment THE GOD PARTICLE may be around the corner to say, hey, i give you the mass; heck with your kilo weight, wait i may play around with that too; what r u going to do about it - You have answered that question by writing the poem. Poetry survives all.

Keep on keepin on Madathil Ji.

10/31/2013 01:13 AM

Comment Hi Nair.

How come I missed this poem of yours? It didn't appear on the homepage. A friend sent me the link.

A thought-provoking piece indeed. Admire the ease with which you handle topics ranging from the infatuation of adolescence to profound scientific concepts.

Only one request - can you leave the messages at the end subtle and less explicit and let the readers figure them out on their own? Hope you don't mind this suggestion.

Keep the good work up. All the best.

- Rian John

Rian John
10/31/2013 00:41 AM

Comment In essence everything is sub to change. Very scientific to understand for layman. Good one. regards

10/31/2013 00:34 AM

Comment If everything change nothing changes :) Something constant can perceive changes; Light ?

Sathees Chnadran
10/31/2013 00:11 AM

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