Naureen Ghani in Plos Blogs:
The brain is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
With ease, and you beside
“CXXVI”by Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson (1830-86). Complete Poems.
Neuroscientist Gerald Edelman used these lines by poet Emily Dickinson to begin a discussion on consciousness in his book Wider than the Sky: The Phenomenal Gift of Consciousness. Edelman won the Nobel Prize in Medicine at the age of 43 for his work on the chemical structure of antibodies. As Edelman writes, his role as a scientist transforms into that of a poet. He strives to see the impact of the world on his spirit while teasing out the relations between the world and the brain. Poetry and science, in truth, are two sides of the same coin. They represent two manifestations of the fundamental urge to understand the natural world.
In my senior year as an undergraduate student at Columbia University, I chose to take the course Grid, Fold, Crystal: Poetic Modeling taught by Professor Michael Golston for two reasons. The first reason was that I had missed taking English courses, something that was not included in my curriculum as an engineering student. The second reason was that the course sounded the most scientific among all the courses offered by the English and Comparative Literature department. In reality, I had no idea what the course title meant but was eager to find out. As I came to learn, Grid, Fold, Crystal: Poetic Modeling was an exploration of the intersections between poetry and science. Grid is a reference to “Grids” by Professor Rosalind Krauss, which argues that the grid led to the evolution of modern art.