“Grain Philosophy of Science” by Roald Hoffmann


I have a special treat for readers today!

I have mentioned before that one of my greatest role models is Dr. Roald Hoffmann (below), the Frank H. T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters, Emeritus at Cornell University. He was awarded the 1981 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for helping develop the Woodward–Hoffmann rules, which contributed greatly to our understanding of certain reactions in organic chemistry.

Roald Hoffmann, PhD. This image is in the public domain and was downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Dr. Hoffmann is also a philosopher, poet, and playwright. His poetry is arresting; in particular I love the motif wherein he uses banal events or observations in the macroscopic, human world as metaphors referencing molecular and atomic phenomena—and vice versa.

I recently wrote to Dr. Hoffmann, requesting permission to post some of his works here. In response, he sent me a new poem that he wrote just this month. It is my great privilege to introduce “Grain Philosophy of Science”:



The people who say
most of the data is chaff

likely are not botanists,
who, in turn, know

that these nether and
enveloping parts

of a grass protect,
and, in due time,

reveal. Still, threshing
and winnowing are

good techniques
to learn to

extract the predictive bits.


Copyright © 2016 Roald Hoffmann


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