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The poetry of (POP) science

Thomas Otto, a TE Departmental Safety Officer, won the English category of the POPScience poetry competition, with three poems inspired by CERN


The poetry of (POP) science

After participating as a volunteer in the 2014 European Researchers’ Night – when the POPScience poetry competition was officially launched – Thomas Otto decided to take part in the contest with three poems inspired by CERN. “I’ve always been interested in poetry, but only as a reader,” says Thomas. “At that point I felt inspired and I began to think about all the associations and metaphors I could create to describe CERN and its life to a non-scientific audience.”

The three poems pay homage to the LHC, the CMS experiment and life at CERN. During LS1, Thomas spent time walking in the tunnel, and that was where he found his inspiration. “I couldn’t help wondering how I could put my thoughts into images,” he explains. He thus chose the “cold” theme for the LHC poem, to represent the uniqueness of the machine, colder than outer space, and went on to describe the acceleration of protons using evocative images.

Among the CERN experiments he was particularly inspired by CMS “because of its elegance and compactness,” he explains. “When visiting CMS you can see the whole experiment and realise how beautiful it is.” Thomas also thought about the magnetic field that “moves” the particles and visualised the giant and colourful CMS detector as “a mythical animal hunched deep in its cave, swallowing bunches of protons”, which then collide to “recreate the origins” of our Universe.

After writing two science-related poems, he decided to dedicate his last one to the people working at CERN. “I find it rather funny that scientists and technicians are addressing very complex issues in their daily working routine, but then have to face the apparently trivial problem of finding a parking space or queuing endlessly at the restaurants,” he concludes.

You can download Thomas Otto's e-book here. All the e-books by the POPScience winners are available here