This is what you must know about the mysterious SciFaiku

Image: Huge doors splitting open, revealing line of bright white light. Text: This is what you must know about the mysterious SciFaiku.
Photo by Noah Buscher (

In simplest terms, SciFaiku is haiku poetry written about science fiction topics. “SciFaiku” is a mash-up of the words “Sci Fi” and “haiku.”

What is the SciFaiku Manifesto?

In 1995, Tom Brinck published his “SciFaiku Manifesto” on the internet. In the Manifesto, he proposes a new form of poetry based on haiku.

“SciFaiku takes its form from contemporary international haiku. A usual poem is 3 lines and contains about 17 syllables. The topic is science fiction. It strives for a directness of expression and beauty in its simplicity. Here is a representative example:

The asteroid Bennu from NASA
The asteroid Bennu. Image from NASA.

“Asteroids collide
 “without a sound . . .
“We maneuver between fragments.”

How is SciFaiku different than haiku?

Brinck explains that haiku suggests the form of the poem, but SciFaiku stretches that form into something new.

Purple plasma
Photo by Zoltan Tasi (

“In striving for directness of expression, SciFaiku avoids abstract concepts and metaphors and describes rather than philosophizes. Leave the implications to the reader’s imagination:

“Like haiku, SciFaiku seeks terseness of expression. It is minimal and elegant. The standard length is 17 syllables. Traditional haiku is composed of 3 lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables respectively. This is a useful guideline, but need not be followed strictly. More than 17 syllables is permissible if well-motivated. Fewer syllables or fewer lines are appropriate if the poem still successfully conveys a message.”

How to unleash powerful Sci Fi insights with SciFaiku

At the core of SciFaiku are three concepts:

  • Expressing a deep or powerful insight
  • Using the simplest expression
  • Wrapping it in a Sci Fi theme

“Every poem needs to clearly evoke a science-fiction premise as well as express its own observation of that premise, and this is perhaps the most challenging aspect of writing SciFaiku.”

. . . .

“Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of science fiction is how it provides deep insight into the human condition, even when the subject matter is computers or aliens. Not restricting itself only to the tangible, SciFaiku permits an exploration of the thoughts and feelings of characters within a poem.”

Here are some examples of SciFaiku

Brinck has collected many great examples of SciFaiku on his website. Here are just a few samples:

Spring showers
my best friend

Greg Pass –

Timetravel is forbidden.
But kids
do it anyway.

Eva Eriksson –

Magnetic tazer fanblades
weave around each other
seeking your flesh.


OK, now I’m going to try one. Here goes:

Inner eyelids click
Beneath languid eyelashes.
She’s so into me.

Matthew Cross

Write your own SciFaiku!

Woman in kimono tying message on paper to a tree branch
Photo by Library of Congress (

Challenge yourself and your mind with SciFaiku

Before you try your hand at writing SciFaiku, here are a few final tips from Brinck:

“Imagery is often the finest point of all of them, not only the beautiful descriptions, but the ability to evoke an entire scene with just a few words. Subtlety and implication are the most powerful devices — the suggestion of a grander plan, a universal truth, or sometimes simply a personal truth that would otherwise go hidden. The language is also key. Most of these stick to the simplest of words, capturing very basic experience. Those that do go into technical terminology combine the terms into intricately beautiful patterns.”

Write your own SciFaiku and submit it below.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

A quick review of the unusual history of quarks

Image: Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Text: QUARKS--Tiny particles that comprise protons and neutrons. Learn the secret of this unusual word.

Today is Wednesday, so it’s time for our regular feature What is that? Here’s today’s term:

Quark–a tiny particle found in protons and neutrons

A quark is a tiny particle that can be found in any atom. Protons and neutrons, which make up the nucleus of an atom, are made of quarks.

[Read more about atoms and how they were once thought to be the smallest objects in the universe.]

What are the six “flavors” of quarks?

There are 6 types of quarks: up quarks, down quarks, top quarks, bottom quarks, strange quarks, and charm quarks. Some physicists also used to call top quark “truth” and the bottom quark “beauty” but that has apparently fallen out of style, which seems a shame. I like the whimsical names of strange, charm, truth and beauty.

Physicists refer to the different types of quarks as “flavors.” Maybe some of those physicists grew up working in an ice cream shop. (When I use “flavor” to describe something, I’m usually referring to the particular feel or mood I get when I’m reading a particular book.)

As I understand it, the names of the “flavors” don’t really mean anything. They are just tags that physicists placed on different types of quarks to tell them apart. I don’t mean that physicists literally put tags on quarks. Quarks are far too small for that. They are so small that even scientists can’t see them with microscopes. In fact, for decades, physicists just theorized that quarks existed.

Photo of the Globe of Science and Innovation at CERN headquarters.
Here at CERN headquarters near Geneva, physicists use particle accelerators to study subatomic particles like quarks. Photo by Faith Tucker.

In 1964, physicists Murray Gell-Mann and George Zweig, working separately and coming to their own conclusions, proposed the existence of quarks. At the time, they were just describing neutrons, protons, and other rarer particles made of quarks. Back then, there was not much evidence that quarks actually existed.

Cover of The Quark and the Jaguar: Adventures in the Simple and the Complex by Murray Gell-Mann
The Quark and the Jaguar: Adventures in the Simple and the Complex by Murray Gell-Mann

It took until 1968 for an experiment at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center to provide some real evidence of quarks. And it took until 1995 for physicists to discover real-world evidence of the final quark flavor, the top quark.

The Quark has a literary heritage

Where did the name “quark” come from?

Physicists suggested different names for these tiny particles. It was Gell-Mann’s name–“quark”–that caught on. When thinking up a name, he first decided on the sound he wanted–“kwork.” Later, he ran across the word “quark” in Finnegans Wake by James Joyce and chose that spelling.

I’ve heard the word originally was a German word for curd cheese, and I’ve also read that it can mean “rubbish.” The use in Finnegans Wake might mean curd cheese, or it might mean something entirely different, like a cheer (or “croak”) made at a drinking establishment (a bar) or just a sound a bird might make.

Here’s the quote from Finnegans Wake:

Three quarks for Muster Mark!

Sure he has not got much of a bark

And sure any he has it’s all beside the mark.

Finnegans Wake by James Joyce

I find the source of the word and its original meaning to be as mysterious as the particle itself.

Discover and name your own particle!

Imagine you are a physicist. You discover an unknown particle!

  • What do you name it?
  • Why do you choose that name?
  • What does the particle do?

Please post your comments below.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

Space Rave-curated by DJ Gatzby

Image: Cover of What It Is--Zoogma. Text: Space Rave--Vibe to this list of space-themed music with lyrics--curated by DJ Gatsby

Vibe to some good Sci Fi-themed music

I asked my resident music expert, DJ Gatzby, to recommend some good, space-themed music to listen to while reading Sci Fi.  Or for just getting that good “outer space vibe.”

DJ Gatzby loves electronica and good energetic, upbeat music, so this is not your list of sleepy, echoing, deep-space sounds.  But he also has eclectic tastes, so you’ll see a bit of everything.

Today, I’m sharing his selections that have lyrics.  Some of these pieces have space-themed lyrics, some have a space-themed title, and some just have that Sci Fi vibe.  They should be available on major music streaming services.

[You may also enjoy DJ Gatzby’s instrumental picks.]

Space Rave!

So enjoy listening to DJ Gatzby’s space rave.

  • “Rocket Girl” by Lemaitre (feat. Betty Who) (I listed this one on top because it’s my favorite!)
  • “Shelter” by Porter Robinson
  • “Til the Lights Come On” by Sun Rai
  • “Best Clockmaker on Mars” by Sturgill Simpson
  • “Make Me Feel Good” by Zoogma

What recommendations do you have for listening to while reading Sci Fi?  Do you prefer instrumental, something with lyrics, or a bit of everything?

Please post your comments below.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

What is that?–ANDROID-a robot made in human form

Image of silver android. What is that?--Android-a robot made in human form

Today is Wednesday, so it’s time for our regular feature What is that? Here’s today’s term:

Android – a robot made in human form or with a human appearance

Robots can come in any shape or size. An android is a robot with a human shape.

Robot playing piano
Photo by Franck V. (
Open hand of an android
Photo by Franck V. (

Scientists, engineers and Sci Fi writers realize that human-shaped robots can be especially useful.  For example, if you want to build a robot that can drive a standard car, the ideal robot is shaped like a human.  It will have feet to push the pedals, two hands to turn the steering wheel and shift gears and it will fit easily in the car seat.  A robot with human-shaped hands can also use all the tools made for humans.

That means a well-made android can do anything a human can do.  And that is much more useful than a round disc-shaped robot that can only sweep the floor.

What is the difference between a cyborg and an android?

Sometimes I still confuse the terms cyborg and android. In last Wednesday’s What is that?, I wrote about cyborgs, which are humans comprised of both natural, organic parts and mechanical parts. In comparison, an android is a robot–usually made of entirely mechanical and electronic parts–but shaped like a human.

You can cover an android with human-like skin and hair, but if the “brain” is still a computer, it’s still an android.

I think about it like this. If a creature starts as human and you add mechanical parts, it’s a cyborg. If a an object is a robot–a machine–and you shape it like a human, it’s an android.

I think that a cyborg–which starts human–remains a cyborg as long as it still has a human brain. I also think an android, which starts as a machine, also remains an android no matter how many human or human-like parts you add, as long as it has a computer operating system at its core. So you can cover an android with human-like skin and hair, but if the “brain” is still a computer, it’s still an android.

Scif Fi novel Cinder compares cyborgs and androids side-by-side

Cinder, by Marissa Meyer, is filled with cyborgs and androids. The title character, Linh Cinder, is a cyborg with a mechanical hand and foot and “optiobionics” in her head that show lights and words across her vision. Cinder, a licensed mechanic, repairs androids and other machines in her marketplace stall.

Cover of Cinder by Marissa Meyer

The book begins with Cinder, surrounded by android parts, removing her own mechanical foot, which she has outgrown. Her android, Iko, finds her a replacement foot.

“She tightened the last screw and stretched out her leg, rolling her ankle forward, back, wiggling the toes. It was a little stiff, and the nerve sensors would need a few days to harmonize with the updated wiring, but at least she wouldn’t have to limp around off-kilter anymore.”

In the same chapter, Prince Kai visits Cinder’s marketplace stall. He brings her an android, a robot that served as his childhood tutor, for Cinder to repair.

“Cinder reached for the android and pulled it to her side of the table. ‘What seems to be wrong with the android, Your Highness?’

“The android looked like it had just stepped off the conveyer belt, but Cinder could tell from the mock-feminine shape that it was an outdated model. The design was sleek, though, with a spherical head atop a pear-shaped body and a glossy white finish.”

. . . .

White android with white bob and camera eyes
Photo by Maximal Focus (

“‘Tutor8.6 model,’ she said, reading the faintly lit panel inside the plastic cranium. The android was nearly twenty years old. Ancient for an android. ‘She looks to be in pristine condition.’

“Raising her fist, she thunked the android hard on the side of its head, barely catching it before it toppled over onto the table. The prince jumped.

“Cinder set the android back on its treads and jabbed the power button but nothing happened. ‘You’d be surprised how often that works.'”

Design your android!

If you built an android, what features would you include?

  • Would you build it in the exact shape of a human or give it treads, like the androids in Cinder?
  • Would you allow its mechanical parts to show or cover it in a synthetic skin?
  • Would you hide secret tools inside or give it only human-like parts and features?

Please post your comments below.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

Quick explanation of this week’s Perseid Meteor shower

Meteors streaking across a starry sky
Photo of meteor shower by Prokhor Minin (

This week is the best time to watch for this year’s Perseid meteor showers.

From July 17 to August 24, the Earth is passing through the vast dusty path left from Comet Swift-Tuttle. But the peak of comet viewing will be this week, with the best views of comets likely in the early hours of Wednesday morning, August 12.

If you choose a dark viewing area any night this week–and if you are patient–you should be able to see some meteors. At its peak, the Perseid meteor shower could produce 100 meteors per hour.

Meteors are the pieces of debris that enter the Earth’s atmosphere. They pass through the atmosphere at high speed–37 miles per second!–burning up as they fall. They make bright streaks in the night sky. Most of the Perseid meteors are only the size of a grain of sand.

When a meteor is large enough to make it all the way to the ground without burning up, we call it a meteorite. When meteors are still in space, the pieces of debris are called meteoroids.

[What is a comet?]

Comet Swift-Tuttle, a large comet, is the largest object to regularly pass close to the Earth. Its nucleus is 16 miles wide. That is twice as big as the object that some scientists think struck Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs.

Comet Swift-Tuttle orbits the sun, taking 133 years to complete one round-trip journey. The last time it was closest to the sun was 1992 and it won’t get that close to the sun again until 2125.

In the year 3044, scientists predict the comet will make one of its closest passes by Earth, when it will be close to 1 million miles away.