Counting Cats in Zanzibar Rotating Header Image

Mother Goose updated

I read this about fifteen years ago, only once, and for some reason it came to mind yesterday. Remembering what it was about I was able to reconstruct it in only a couple of minutes thought, word perfect as it turned out:

Probable-Possible, my black hen
She lays eggs in the relative when
She doesn’t lay eggs in the positive now
Because she’s unable to postulate how.

Frederick Windsor

I now learn, thanks to the wonder of this interwebby thing, it is from The Space Childs Mother Goose. You think Franny Alexanders ideal and patronising cow of a teacher would approve of stretching children like this?

Here is another I knew, but had no idea it was from the book:

Flappity Floppity Flip
The mouse on the Mobius strip
The strip revolved, the mouse dissolved
in a chronodimensional skip!

I know what I’m buying myself for Christmas.


  1. Lynne says:

    I love poetry and rhyme. Unfortunately I never owned a copy of this book so used to borrow it from the local library. Thanks for the memory. :)

  2. CountingCats says:

    Sorrite, and no, I haven’t forgotten. Give me a couple of days more.

  3. Chuckles says:

    Wonderful looking book, I suspect it rather shows up many of the more recent childrens books?

    I remember a lot of this sort of thing back then, reworked rhymes and limericks in a very scientific vein –

    Scintllate, scintillate stellar terrific,
    How I ponder thy nature specific.

    There was a young fellow named Bright
    who travelled much faster than light.
    He set out one day,
    in a relative way,
    and returned on the previous night.

    There was a fencer named Fisk,
    whose stroke was exceedingly brisk.
    The Fitzgerald contraction,
    from the speed of his reaction,
    reduced his foil to a disk.

    etc etc etc

  4. NickM says:


    I was reading one of the Science of Discworld books and I came across an odd snippet about a fairy tale today. Cinderella. Now I knew it was originally a fur slipper and I always thought that a bit odd to wear to a ball. It had never occurred to me that “fur slipper” was a sexual euphemism even though it could have been used in Viz and the Prince literally tried it on. Very racy those fairy tales. In the original.

  5. NickM says:

    Those two are from “Relativity for the layman” aren’t they? I forget who wrote it.

    Doesn’t Douglas Adams have something that goes like…

    I teleported home one night with Anne and Sid and Meg,
    Sid stole Meggie’s heart away,
    And I got Annie’s leg.

    Something like that.

    I shall admit something now. Probably the reason I did physics at university.

    I do reverse mnemonics. I know the colours of the rainbow so I use “Richard of York gave battle in vain” to recall who won the Wars of the Roses not the other way around.

    Oh be a fine girl kiss me now!

    I have a book somewhere which has poetry about science in it. It contains Walt Whitman bitching about the “Learn’d Astronomer” and then going out to exult in the starscape. It also has a poem by Maxwell called something like “Chemical Evolution”. One is a Whitman “barbaric yawp” and the second pre-figures the Feynman lectures on physics, “Who are these poets who sing of Jupiter as if he were a man but are silent when Jupiter is revealed to be an immense spinning globe of methane and Chlorine” (or something like that).

    The important thing is not so much the Universe can be understood. Oh no. It is that we alone of everything we know of can do it.

  6. CountingCats says:

    Now that is a concept I use to piss some people off down the pub. Along the lines of “Not only is the Nature/ The Universe magnificent, but in man there is finally someone to appreciate it.

    Confuses the God botherers. They don’t know what to say.

    How about – The Universe is awsome, and in man there is finally someone to be awed?

  7. Sam Duncan says:

    There’s another variation of “Twinkle, twinkle…” that I can’t remember for love nor money, except that it contains an agonizing shoehorning of “hydro-gen”. I think. Anyone?

    One of the Amazon reviews caught my eye:

    “Give it, if you can get it, to any progressive adult or child and you and he will be blessed!”

    What does he mean by that? Is “progressive” simply being used as an innocent(ish) synonym for “intellectually curious”? Will the progressivist be shown the error of his ways? Or is he – as I suspect – implying that only the Progressive can appreciate such a work?

    Very odd thing to say, whatever the meaning.

    (By the way, I’ve just seen Moonbat on the BBC’s Countryfile and feel like hitting something. Hard. If we sceptics annoy the faithful as much as they do us, no wonder they made that 10:10 film.)

  8. Chuckles says:


    Give me a break, I’m dredging the memory banks back to the fifties and sixties, absolutely no idea where I first saw them :)

    About the only other one I can recall is the tombstone inscription –

    Here lies the body of Johnny Jones,
    We will see him no more.
    ‘Cos what he thought was H2O,
    Was H2SO4.

  9. Lynne says:

    I understand there are several versions of Twinkle Twinkle but this one is my favourite version. No idea who wrote it.

    Twinkle, twinkle, little star
    We know exactly what you are:
    Nuclear furnace in the sky,
    You’ll burn to ashes by and by.

    But tick, tick, tick pulsating star,
    Now we wonder what you are:
    Magneto-nucleo-gravity ball,
    Making monkeys of us all!

    And twinkle, twinkle, quasi-star,
    You’re the limit, yes you are:
    With such indecent energy,
    Did God not say you couldn’t be?

  10. Chuckles says:

    And a couple more dredged from the doggerel banks –

    You Pb me to believe he’s dead;
    I Zn he won’t survive.
    Ba in the ground, you fool,
    Do you Zn he’s still alive?

    A mosquito cried out in pain
    “A chemist has poisoned my brain!”
    The cause of his sorrow
    Was para-dichloro

    And for Sam D,

    Twinkle Twinkle little star,
    I don’t wonder what you are;
    For by spectroscopic ken,
    I know that you’re hydrogen;
    An incandescent ball of gas
    Condensing to a solid mass.

  11. Sam Duncan says:

    That’s the one, Chuckles. That’ll teach me to ignore threads I’ve commented on…

  12. NickM says:

    That ditty is astrophysically naive. You ignore Helium and indeed metals. You make no attempt to differentiate stellar populations. For shame!

  13. ThomUs says:

    my mom taught me…

    starkle starkle, little twink
    who I am I are you think

    etc. …

    and, yes, I got the spacechilds mother goose as a little one, too, and completely remember about half of it, the other half, I need the book for…
    Who could forget:
    “this is the theory that jack built”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: