Wedding readings for a scientist?
February 9, 2015 10:59 AM   Subscribe

I'm a physicist, and I'm marrying a biologist. Can Mefi suggest any wedding readings suitable for us? We're looking for something along a sciency theme.
posted by alby to Science & Nature (22 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite might be a good source for you. I found this entry: The Science of Love: How Positivity Resonance Shapes the Way We Connect which includes some really beautiful quotes from a book called Love 2.0 by a neuro-biologist.

Here's the whole love category from Brainpickings.
posted by OrangeDisk at 11:21 AM on February 9, 2015

I've always liked Ann Duryan's quote about Carl Sagan, "We found each other in the cosmos." It might be a little dark for a wedding (and I don't know if you're atheists), but I found it sweet.
posted by Flamingo at 11:22 AM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Carl Sagan "we are made of star stuff" speech all the way
posted by egeanin at 11:23 AM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I don't know if you're atheists.

We are. We're getting married at a Registry Office and so are prohibited from including any religious language.
posted by alby at 11:24 AM on February 9, 2015

My husband and I are also atheist, sciency types and we went with Carl Sagan.
posted by lydhre at 11:38 AM on February 9, 2015

“For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.” —Carl Sagan
posted by blue suede stockings at 11:45 AM on February 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: this is a cool resource:

there's a whole section at the end of science and scifi readings. i like this one from tim pratt:

If I became lost in
the multiverse, exploring
infinite parallel dimensions, my
only criterion for settling
down somewhere would be
whether or not I could find you:
and once I did, I’d stay there even
if it was a world ruled by giant spider-
priests, or one where killer
robots won the Civil War, or even
a world where sandwiches
were never invented, because
you’d make it the best
of all possible worlds anyway,
and plus
we could get rich
off inventing sandwiches.
posted by mrmanvir at 12:01 PM on February 9, 2015 [15 favorites]

Two atheist friends of mine had a reading taken from Leonardo Da Vinci's description of the arch.
posted by HeroZero at 12:06 PM on February 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

F=Gm1m2/r^2 might work nicely.
posted by sciencegeek at 12:29 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Conjunction, assemblage, congress, union:
Life isn’t meant to be lived alone.
A life apart is a desperate fiction.
Life is an intermediate business:
a field of light bordered by love
a sea of desire stretched between shores.

Marriage is the strength of union.
Marriage is the harmonic blend.
Marriage is the elegant dialectic of counterpoint.
Marriage is the faultless, fragile logic of ecology:
A reasonable process of give and take
unfolding through cyclical and linear time.

A wedding is the conjoining of systems in which
Neither loses its single splendor and both are completely
transformed. As, for example,
The dawn is the wedding of the Night and the Day,
and is neither, and both,
and is, in itself, the most beautiful time,
abundant artless beauty,
free and careless magnificence.

― Tony Kushner, Vows/Epithalamion
posted by gudrun at 12:56 PM on February 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone. Please keep them coming!
posted by alby at 1:02 PM on February 9, 2015

The Alan Lightman essay Smile is too long for a reading but immediately came to mind. Maybe it could be cropped down, or otherwise inspire you.
posted by yeahlikethat at 1:04 PM on February 9, 2015

My wife and I used Summer and Austin have left their apartment for a house, by Romie Stott. I think I found it via metafilter but I don't recall exactly where, although you can see it here.

I meant to write a poem for your wedding
about superfluids. About quantized groupings
whose singular momentum pushes up and over containers -
about transmission of heat, creation of vortices,
the creation of h/m proportions of vortices
where h is plank's constant -
a spun bucket that holds a dozen whirlpools.

I meant to write that you were aligned together
in the same quantum state,
and could not be contained. I meant to write
a poem of matter, of transition points -
of energy that transforms liquid to gas -
of boiling water at a steady temperature
as molecules leap into vapor.

They don't use the term latent heat anymore.
I can't use it to say you've changed states.
It was a long time building, only seeming
the same, like boiling water, as you transformed
into something that rises.

posted by number9dream at 1:10 PM on February 9, 2015 [5 favorites]

This isn't explicitly science-y, but it's very kind of nature-y and analytical. It's a quote from Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and I used it as a reading at my wedding last summer because it's probably my favorite quote of all time:

“Thomas Merton wrote, “there is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.” There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage. I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright."
posted by augustimagination at 1:32 PM on February 9, 2015 [36 favorites]

This wedding scene from Numb3rs was suggested to me when I was planning my own wedding to a physicist; we didn't use it being neither Numb3rs fans nor prone to mixing science and sentiment, but it might work for you:

At the request of the bride and groom, I’ll keep my remarks short and not technical. Well, as you all know, the four fundamental forces of physics: electromagnetism, strong nuclear interaction, weak nuclear interaction, and gravity.

(Colby Granger - So I wonder what the technical version sounds like?)

(Dr. Larry Fleinhardt - I heard that.)

We’ve been talking here about the forces that bind the universe. But what binds humans? Love.

Powerful in small spaces, yet with profound effect on distance. Love defies time, outliving both its source, and its object. Love is faster than light, for light requires time in order to travel through space. But love reaches its object instantaneously.

Love journeys forever, into infinity. And it’s here, binding together two lives.

Can we have the rings? Symbolic of eternity, and rendered in a beautiful element.

Amita Ramanujan, do you take Charles Edward Eppes to be your husband? (Yes, I do.) Charles Edward Eppes, do you take Amita Ramanujan to be your wife? (I do.)

I pronounce you: husband and wife.

posted by Diagonalize at 2:02 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Good old Emily Dickinson:
Of all the souls that stand create
I have elected one.
When sense from spirit files away,
And subterfuge is done;

When that which is and that which was
Apart, intrinsic, stand,
And this brief tragedy of flesh
Is shifted like a sand;

When figures show their royal front
And mists are carved away,—
Behold the atom I preferred
To all the lists of clay!
-- or --
It's all I have to bring to-day,
This, and my heart beside,
This, and my heart, and all the fields,
And all the meadows wide.
Be sure you count, should I forget,—
Some one the sun could tell,—
This, and my heart, and all the bees
Which in the clover dwell.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 2:10 PM on February 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

There isn't time -- so brief is life -- for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving -- & but an instant, so to speak, for that.
- Samuel Clemens, in a letter to Clara Spaulding, 20 August 1886
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:05 PM on February 9, 2015

One of my favourite authors, the late John M. Ford, wrote his and his partner's wedding vows. They're up on his partner's blog here.
The Declaration

If any should ask why we are here, together, now, let it be said that we were brought here by a force stronger than suns, which is Will.
Ours was not a random course, though chance strengthened it.
We were not always sure of the way, and some of our steps have been slow, but our next step spans worlds.
Time will not stop for the strongest: and though we must go where it takes us, without companions chosen by the will and the heart, the journey is empty, and there is nothing to measure the victories by.

One partner: I stand here with you because together we possess infinity in a finite space of time, and our combined reach surpasses the mortal.

Other partner: I stand here with you because we have seen in each other a shared task: and though the void may separate us, and matter must always fail, we shall never truly be apart, one from the other.

Together we take joint and equal command of the time still before us, to watch and to defend, to endure the cold and the fire, to stand until the last.
For against that power armies are as nothing, and Death itself comes begging and ashamed.

Each partner in turn: None commanded that I should be here: I willed it be.
Let strength and joy follow from it.

As light spreads from the birth of a star, so the stars surrounding see it, and remember.
What they cannot do is judge.
Judgement comes only from the mind and heart.
For that, we are here among all of you.
Let noble wills magnify the light.
Answer us, and know the stars hear you:
Is this well done?
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:25 PM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

You might find some appropriate ones in the previously Dearly Beloved, We're All Made of Star Stuff, although it was more astronomy themed. I similarly mentioned John M. Ford's Declaration of Unity, as well as a Neil Tyson snippet.
The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation.

For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And along the way, lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you.
I'd be amused by something riffing off Darwin's Pros and Cons of Marriage, but it definitely has a limited audience.
posted by zamboni at 4:54 PM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

***Here's a poem that I love, it's so romantic, but perhaps not the right tone for a wedding?

The Dying Physicist Tells Her Why Goodbye Is Meaningless

I will see you later
and earlier and
over and over and
tomorrow and today and, yes,
I will see you yesterday.

Time and space,
they've proved to my satisfaction,
are nothing more than
mathematical abstraction so

I will see you then
and now
and somehow,
much to your surprise,
I will see you
before and after
the first and last time
I ever see you,
so kiss me hello again
and don't cry.

Laurel Winter

***And here's the whole poem by Tim Pratt (referenced above)

Scientific Romance

If starship travel from our
Earth to some far
star and back again
at velocities approaching the speed
of light made you younger than me
due to the relativistic effects
of time dilation,
I’d show up on your doorstep hoping
you’d developed a thing for older men,
and I’d ask you to show me everything you
learned to pass the time
out there in the endless void
of night.

If we were the sole survivors
of a zombie apocalypse
and you were bitten and transformed
into a walking corpse
I wouldn’t even pick up my
assault shotgun,
I’d just let you take a bite
out of me, because I’d rather be
undead forever
with you
than alive alone
without you.

If I had a time machine, I’d go back
to the days of your youth
to see how you became the someone
I love so much today, and then
I’d return to the moment we first met
just so I could see my own face
when I saw your face
for the first time,
and okay,

I’d probably travel to the time
when we were a young couple
and try to get a three-way
going. I never understood
why more time travelers don’t do
that sort of thing.

If the alien invaders come
and hover in stern judgment
over our cities, trying to decide
whether to invite us to the Galactic
Federation of Confederated
Galaxies or if instead
a little genocide is called for,
I think our love could be a powerful
argument for the continued preservation
of humanity in general, or at least,
of you and me
in particular.

If we were captives together
in an alien zoo, I’d try to make
the best of it, cultivate a streak
of xeno-exhibitionism,
waggle my eyebrows, and make jokes
about breeding in captivity.

If I became lost in
the multiverse, exploring
infinite parallel dimensions, my
only criterion for settling
down somewhere would be
whether or not I could find you:
and once I did, I’d stay there even
if it was a world ruled by giant spider-
priests, or one where killer
robots won the Civil War, or even
a world where sandwiches
were never invented, because
you’d make it the best
of all possible worlds anyway,
and plus
we could get rich
off inventing sandwiches.

If the Singularity comes
and we upload our minds into a vast
computer simulation of near-infinite
complexity and perfect resolution,
and become capable of experiencing any
fantasy, exploring worlds bound only
by our enhanced imaginations,
I’d still spend at least 1021 processing
cycles a month just sitting
on a virtual couch with you,
watching virtual TV,
eating virtual fajitas,
holding virtual hands,
and wishing
for the real thing.

Tim Pratt
posted by kestralwing at 5:32 PM on February 9, 2015 [15 favorites]

A short one:

We are all connected;
To each other, biologically.
To the earth, chemically.
To the rest of the universe atomically.

― Neil deGrasse Tyson
posted by gudrun at 6:18 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: We went with part of the Tim Pratt poem that mrmanvir suggested, and an (edited) extract from Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed.
posted by alby at 10:35 AM on March 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

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