I’ve spent a lot of time writing astronomy poems. I’ve written poems about Trappist-1 (twice), free-floating planets, asteroids, and more. I even wrote a book of poems about different parts of astronomy.
But then I learned that Chat-GPT (OpenAI’s artificial intelligence chatbot) can write poems about any subject and in any style. My fragile human ego feels threatened, and a need to prove my worth.
It’s time for an astronomy poem throw-down: me against Chat-GPT. It’s on like Donkey Kong!
Here’s how this will work. We’ll do three poems. Chat-GPT gets 15 seconds and I get 15 minutes (with occasional help from Rhymezone).
I prompted Chat-GPT to write a poem about each topic in the style of Dr. Seuss, a key inspiration for my own poems. Then I wrote my own poems, before having read Chat-GPTs. I did not draw on any previous poems — this is all 100% new. I stopped precisely at 15 minutes — I did spend the last couple minutes tidying the poems up so there are no dangling sentences.
Round 1: A poem about the TRAPPIST-1 exoplanet system
In the depths of space, far, far away,
Lies a system of planets, in a cosmic ballet.
Trappist-1, is its name,
A dwarf star, with planets, all the same.
Seven worlds, in harmony they dance,
Around their star, in a cosmic trance.
So close together, they seem to touch,
Their orbits, oh so much.
They’re rocky worlds, like our own,
Their secrets, yet to be fully known.
Some may have water, some may have air,
Their mysteries, beyond compare.
Each world is different, yet the same,
In their dance, a cosmic game.
Trappist-1, a marvel of the skies,
A cosmic wonder, in our eyes.
Oh Trappist-1, so far away,
In your system, we long to play.
To explore your worlds, and to see,
What wonders, they hold for you and me.
So let us marvel at your sight,
In wonder of your cosmic light.
Trappist-1, a marvel in the sky,
A cosmic treasure, that’s caught our eye.
Seven bright planets so lovely and shiny
Circle a star that is awfully tiny
Their orbits – unusual, special. You see?
Not one in the hab zone – no, not one but three!
Each of the planets is small, prob’ly rocky
But too far away for that old walkie talkie.
Are they like our own? With air and with water?
The innermost two are no good, they’re much hotter.
But planets d, e and f all have potential
Their temperatures good. Now that is essential
But do they have atmospheres? Coffee or tea?
Let’s wait for results from JWST
What gives Trappist-1 its status of eminence:
All seven planets are locked in a resonance
The signs of migration are out there to see
(Jupiter’s moons do the same, but they’re only three.)
Hooray for these seven orbs, they are the best
The system that blows away all of the rest
I’d love to stop by for a visit and play
But it’s roundabout 40-odd light years away!
Poem 2: Jupiter
It’s huge and it’s grumpy, it’s never compliant
A titan, a monster, a mammoth – a giant.
It bullies the others, it’s really the boss
The planet you really just don’t want to cross.
It’s 300 times more massive than Earth
And eleven whole times wider in girth
Its gravity runs other planets aground.
It’s Jupiter – and it does not mess around!
Its four giant moons – their own mini-System
(They’re really the coolest, in case you have missed ‘em)
Volcanos and ice shells and underground oceans
Strong tides and magnetic fields; orbital motion
And during formation, the planets’ own birth
It held back invaders, protected the Earth!
Those migrating ice giants could not get around
So, Earth still has continents – we were not drowned!
There’s one more gas giant that hangs around town
It wears its bright rings like a royalty crown
It’s Saturn, so pretty, it might make you cry
And Jupiter’s partner up there in the sky
Oh Jupiter, the king of all the planets,
So big and bold, it never frets.
A giant in our solar system,
A gas giant, no solid prism.
Its stripes of brown and white,
A swirling pattern, quite a sight.
A dozen moons all of its own,
So many worlds in its throne.
Its Great Red Spot, a raging storm,
A tempest that’s been brewing since it was born.
So big, it could swallow up the Earth,
A giant vortex, a swirling mirth.
Jupiter, the protector of our realm,
A massive shield against the helm.
Comets and asteroids, it captures with ease,
A guardian of our cosmic peace.
Oh Jupiter, the king of all the skies,
A cosmic giant, in our eyes.
So let us gaze upon its might,
And wonder at its cosmic light.
Poem 3: Black Holes
Oh, black holes, how they do confound,
They gobble up all that’s around.
Stars and planets, matter and light,
All sucked into their endless night.
They twist and warp the fabric of space,
A cosmic vortex in one place.
Gravity’s grip, oh so tight,
Nothing escapes, not even light.
They’re the vacuum cleaners of the sky,
Sucking up all that’s passing by.
A singularity, so dense,
Nothing escapes its immense pretense.
Oh, black holes, they do mystify,
Even the smartest can’t deny,
Their secrets deep, their power great,
A cosmic wonder, a timeless fate.
So let us marvel at their might,
And study them with all our might.
For in these mysteries of space,
Lies the wonder of the human race.
The Milky Way’s center is hiding a beast
It’s huge and it’s hungry and longing to feast
It gobbles up planets and comets and stars
For now we are safe – it won’t eat up ours
Its name is Sagi-ma-tarius A
Our very own monster, well that’s what they say
And we never have seen it, we only can trace
The stars that it flings around over the place
A black hole! It’s massive but really quite tiny
It’s doesn’t give off any light – it’s not shiny
Its gravity pulls like a kid on a crepe
Even a photon can never escape!
Now guess what would happen if you flew too near
That close to a black hole – a “brave” volunteer?
Please just stay home, it’s a wretched idea
(You’d be so much happier with diarrhea.)
Your feet would get pulled on much more than your head
You’d stretch out like crazy (and soon you’d be dead)
You’d end up spaghettified, stretched to a string
Then wrapped right around the black hole like a ring
Let the judging begin
Chat-GPT’s and my poems are similar in length, although I did get 60 times more time (15 minutes vs 15 seconds). Let’s use four criteria to evaluate the poems: scientific content, quality of rhymes, meter, and, finally, the overall pleasure of the poems.
Criteria 1: scientific content.
The level of actual science is significantly less than in my other astronomy poems, because it takes a lot of effort to convey something meaningful in a rhyme instead of something dumb like “Jupiter’s awesome, Mrs Possum”. Still, there were plenty of little scientific nuggets sprinkled in the poems about Trappist-1’s orbital setup and hopes of detecting the planets’ surfaces and atmospheres, about Jupiter’s moons, magnetic field, and role in protecting Earth, and in black hole’s intense gravity field.
But which author’s poems were more scientifically astute? I think it’s too close to call.
Criteria 2: Rhymes
It’s a challenge to come up with good rhymes on the clock. I had a couple of fishy ones in my poems (like rhyming “crepe” with “escape”), although I did come up with some gems, though, like rhyming “idea” with “diarrhea”! A decent number of Chat-GPT’s rhymes missed the mark, like rhyming “planets” with “frets”, “system” with “prism”, and “might” with itself. Although I love the use of the word “ballet” describing Trappist-1.
Which author’s rhymes were better? A point for the human (me)!
Criteria 3: Meter
Writing in meter that flows is the hardest part for me. Depending on which syllable in a given word is usually emphasized, certain word combinations just fall flat and can be terribly difficult to replace. In reading Chat-GPT’s poems, I feel like the meter is subpar. There drastically variations in the number of syllables per line and when I read it out loud, the words don’t flow as well as I want them to. My own poems are not perfect — there are several places I would have tweaked if I’d had more time.
But, in my opinion, it’s another point for the human!
Criteria 4: Enjoy-ability of reading.
This is the most subjective part of all. How fun was it to read these poems? Which author’s imagery resonated more? As I was writing these poems I ended up in a sort of stream of consciousness (albeit a pretty narrow, short-lived stream) in which I digressed quite a bit about Jupiter being a bully and black holes being monsters. Chat-GPT also had some nice imagery, with black holes being vacuum cleaners and Jupiter being a cosmic shield. Interestingly, both Chat-GPT and I used dancing in some form to describe Trappist-1 and its multi-planet resonant configuration.
Whose imagery wins? I think it’s too close to call.
The final verdict: Human 2, Chat-GPT zero.
Hooray for humanity– we have defeated the machine! (And let’s not focus on the fact that I got to be the judge).
I would love to hear any questions or comments — do you agree with my judging of this poem battle? Do you want to see me take on the latest version (GPT-4)?
- Other astronomy poems I’ve written for this blog about Proxima b as an Eyeball planet, Trappist-1’s discovery and bombardment, the MOJO videos, whether moons can have their own moons, asteroids, and free-floating planets.
- My astronomy poem book