09.07.2020by Barbara Terhal

Poem: Betelgeuse & his little brother

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by Barbara Terhal

Barbara Terhal, faculty member at QuTech, wrote a poem about the tiny virus that holds the world in a firm grip these days, which we have printed below. We also invite anyone who has converted their thoughts in these unusual circumstances into poetry, to add their poems in the comment section at the bottom of this page.

Betelgeuse & his little brother

What if,
Now that the stocks are down
And the virus is up
Betelgeuse bursts
Like a balloon
Spewing hot radiation
Into space

Would we think that the small
And the large are connected?
Shaking hands across space

We can’t even see
The little copy machine
Crawling over us!

How wrong such interpretation

And still, how much we don’t know:
Blind, deaf and dumb towards the
Living creepy nanometer

Who knows proto-life ladders
All the way down to a few molecules
Mixing this or that way
Like those belches of Betelgeuse
Who also wish to become
In their impatient energetic strivings
Stable reproducible forms

They just shoot for the steady eons
rather than the unambitious span
of some human centuries

Cover picture: the star Betelgeuse in December 2019. Picture made using the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO/M. Montargès et al.).


Barbara Terhal is currently Professor at the EEMCS Department at the TU Delft and research staff member at QuTech. As a theorist she has been trying to get people to build quantum computers since her PhD in 1999 with mixed results so far.


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