Babar et les variables cachées

Abner Shimony wrote the following poem for a conference in the early 1970s.
A loose English translation I wrote about 20 years later follows. (Traces of the SSC debate, scandals at Stanford, my New York accent, and my lack of poetic skill may be observed. One of these issues can be addressed by replacing "ibexes" with "hyena" and "Texas" with "Geneva," but the others may be ineluctable.)

Babar et les variables cachées

Tout le monde cherche les variables cachées--
Hélas, avec quel insuccès!
Elles sont timides, elles sont petites,
De courte durée, toujours en fuite.
Elles sont partout en déguisement,
Empruntant bien des vêtements
Aux particules élémentaires.
Pour décider ce qu'on doit faire,
Une assemblée de quarante mille
Savants se tient à Célesteville.
«Haute énergie!» Rataxès crie,
«Pour pénétrer le dernier nid
De créatures si décevantes.»
«Hourrah! les rhinoceros chantent,
«Agrandissons les cyclotrons!»
Babar pourtant conseille: «Non,
La nature ouvre sa richesse
Non par force, mais par finesse.
On verra les variables cachées
Aux rayonnements polarisés.»
«Il a raison», dit Gregory,
Et la vieille dame fièrement sourit.
Toute l'assemblée acclame son plan
Et autorise avec élan
Un projet international,
Créant le centre mondial
Des appareils ingénieux.
Les techniciens méticuleux
Olur et Hatchibombotar
Sous la conduite de Babar,
Commencent la grande expérience.
Pour en connaître les conséquences--
Variables cachées, oui ou non--
Lisez la prochaine livraison.

Babar and the Hidden Variables

The world across, hidden variables are sought;
Alas so far, it seems, for nought.
They're rapid beasts, and awfully shy,
Before they're caught, away they fly.
Where e'er they go, it's in disguise,
Masked as photons, or J/Psi's.

To decide what course or plan we'd missed,
four hundred desp'rate scientists
spent this June in Celeste-ville.
“High energy!” cried George Trill-
ing, “and we'll search until we find
where reside these creatures so unkind.”

“Hurrah!” yelled the rhinos and ibexes,
“We'll build the hugest ring, in Texas!”
But wise old Babar said “Listen to me,
what does Nature care for TeV's?
She'll show us what we want to see
Not for our strength, but our subtlety.

“Her variables, they hide and wait
In cascade decays of singlet states.”
Gregory said “right you are!”
and the old lady smiled from afar.
All assembled praised the old King,
and even offered partial funding.

International collaboration,
world-wide centers of investigation,
Sneaky experiments to be mounted,
Indirect costs to be poorly accounted...

Underpaid postdocs and other workers,
all overseen by tenured sherpas,
have just turned on their atom beams.
To find out what the outcome means--
Local variables maybe, or nonlocal furces,
You'll have to wait for my next set o' verses.

Back to Aephraim Steinberg's Home Page