An astronomers’ meeting turns into a haiku competition

Mar 22, 2018

IN 2001 Allan Treiman, a researcher at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, in Houston, was working on the one-sentence summary that the annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) requires of presenting authors when inspiration struck. To communicate the essence of a paper entitled “The ALTA II Spectrometer: a Tool for Teaching About Light and Remote Sensing”, he wrote down:

Bright leaves on dark sky
Beyond the brilliant rainbow
Vision fades away

The next year Ralph Lorenz, another planetary scientist, followed his lead, summarising “Tectonic Titan: Landscape Energetics and the Thermodynamic Efficiency of Mantle Convection” thus:

Titan’s surface forged,
not by blows but by churning.
Carnot tells us why

And thus was a tradition born. The astronomical followers of Basho have multiplied until, this year, more than 200 of the papers at LPSC have such haiku summaries. Some are purely descriptive:

Remote imaging
Of halite habitats in
Dry Atacama...

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