Thursday, 9 April 2009

Twinkle Twinkle

The stars and the planets of our solar system have been the subject of many a poem; just take Jupiter or Neptune as examples. Yet, as physicist Richard Feynman accuses in his book Six Easy Pieces, production on those poems seems to have ceased once we started understanding the true nature of these objects.
If anything, as Keats had done in his unweaving the rainbow accusation, poets have been blaming scientists for ruining the beauty of this world for all of us. I, however, take the opposite side, Feynman’s side, when he asks where all the great poets had disappeared to when no one can come up with a poem worthy of the marvel that is a massive giant cloud of gas ala Jupiter.

In my opinion, the worst offenders are children songs. Having had the opportunity to listen to many of them lately (as if I had a choice), it became obvious they suffer from lyrics that are stupidly archaic and often make no sense whatsoever. Stuff that was written in an age when prevailing morals were significantly different to ours and when many children didn’t live to adulthood (e.g., "One two three four five six seven, All good children go to heaven": how can a child get to heaven without dying first?).
The problem is that these songs can actually hurt a kid’s sense of curiosity and dumb them up. Take one of the most popular nursery rhymes ever:

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky!

Well, kid, let me break the news to you:
we know what these little stars are, and they’re not little at all. They are not really “above” us, because our world is round; they’re around us. And they’re nothing of the likes of diamonds, although they are responsible for the manufacturing of all the carbon out of which diamonds (and you, for that matter) are made.
These stars that you see, child, are distant suns.

Now, where can one find a poet capable enough to add that explanation to the song so that our kids can be kept up to date?

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