Sunday, 6 February 2011

Computer works 01: Diana Syder's String

Diana Syder is a poet and artist and her book String (Smith/Doorstop Books 2007) is still a rare thing. The result of a residency in Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Sheffield, funded by an award from the Leverhulme Trust.

Coming from a programming background, we might define string as, a sequence of characters (a data type storing a sequence of data values) and this book contains a poem on Boolean logic. Just the fact of that is enough to delight a programmer! Boole's inspiration is also the poet's

If a great idea is a pin of light
or a highlight placed carefully in the pupil,
it makes of our heads some racing,
slight-rigged thing with sails skin-tight....

and is much more pleasing to think of
than molecules hauling luke-warm cargoes
through plasma in the sticky dark;
noradrenalin, acetylcholine, gamma aminobutyric acid -
even their names are supertankers
that cannot manoeuvre quickly.

Boolean logic Diana Syder

Having spent a lot of time whipping cards in and out of computers, the observational poem Look Inside a Computer is less evocative for me.

But of course this is not the only card up Syder's sleeve, her string is superstring theory - the idea that the smallest entities in the universe are made up of strings (rather than points) which vibrate at resonant frequencies. And to simplify, differently scaled resonance would effect a variety of fundamental forces. This idea would imply the existence of perhaps up to ten dimensions to work theoretically.

These poems inspire a real Donne-like excitement at the world of computing and physics; still recommended. Look forward to pointing out a few more informatic-informed works in the future...

String, Smith/Doorstop Books £7.95 available from: Smith/Doorstop Books, Bank St., Arts, 32-40 Bank St, Sheffield S1 2DS or Amazon etc.

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