Chapter 11 Three Body: Mozi and Fiery Flames
Novel：The Three-Bodyauthor：Cinxin Liu pubdate：2019-02-14 14:48
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Chapter 11 Three Body: Mozi and Fiery Flames
Wang Miao returned home, stopping on the way to buy a V-suit. His wife told him that people from work had been trying to get a hold of him all day.
Wang turned on his phone, checked his messages, and returned a few calls. He promised he'd be at work tomorrow. At dinner, he followed Da Shi's advice and drank some more.
But he didn't feel sleepy. After his wife went to bed, he sat in front of the computer, put on his new V-suit, and logged into Three Body.
Desolate plain at dawn.
Wang stood in front of King Zhou's pyramid. The snow that had once covered it was gone, and the blocks of stone were pockmarked by erosion. The ground was now a different color. In the distance were a few massive buildings that Wang guessed were dehydratories, but they were of a different design than the ones he had seen last time. Everything told him that eons had passed.
By the faint dawn light, Wang looked for the entrance. When he found it, he saw that the opening had been sealed by blocks of stone. But next to it, there was now a staircase carved into the pyramid leading
all the way to the apex. He looked up and saw that the top had been flattened into a platform. The pyramid, once Egyptian in style, now resembled an Aztec one.
Wang climbed up the stairs and reached the apex. The platform looked like an ancient astronomical observatory. In one corner was a telescope several meters high, and next to it were a few smaller telescopes. In another corner were a few strange instruments that reminded him of ancient Chinese armillary spheres, models of objects in the sky.
His attention was drawn to the large copper sphere in the center of the platform. Two meters in diameter, it was set on top of a complex machine. Propelled by countless gears, the sphere slowly rotated. Wang noticed that the direction and speed of its rotation constantly shifted. Below the machine was a large square cavity. By the faint torchlight within, Wang saw a few slave-like figures pushing a spoked, horizontal wheel, which provided the power to the machine above.
A man walked toward Wang. Like King Wen when Wang had first encountered him, the man had his back against the sliver of light on the horizon, and he appeared to Wang as a pair of bright eyes floating in the darkness. He was slender and tall, dressed in a flowing black robe, his hair carelessly knotted on top of his head with a few strands waving in the wind.
"Hello, " the man said. I'm Mozi(*23). "
[Translator’s Note(*23): Mozi was the founder of the Mohist school of philosophy during the Warring States Period. Mozi himself emphasized experience and logic, and was known as an accomplished engineer and geometer.]
"Hello, I'm Hairen. "
"Ah, I know you! " Mozi grew excited. "You were a follower of King Wen back in Civilization Number 137. "
"I did follow him here. But I never believed his theories. "
"You're right. " Mozi nodded at Wang solemnly. Then he moved closer. "During the three hundred and sixty-two thousand years you've been away, civilization has been reborn four more times. These civilizations struggled to develop through the irregular alternation of Chaotic Eras and Stable Eras. The shortest-lived one got only halfway through the Stone Age, but Civilization Number 139 broke a record and developed all the way to the Steam Age. "
"You're saying that people from that civilization found the laws governing the sun's motion? "
Mozi laughed and shook his head. "Not at all. They were just lucky. " "But the effort to do so has never ceased? "
"Of course not. Come, let us see the efforts of the last civilization. " Mozi led Wang to a corner of the observatory platform. The ground spread out beneath them like an ancient piece of leather. Mozi aimed one of the smaller telescopes at a target on the ground and gestured for Wang to look. Wang looked through the eyepiece and saw a strange sight: a skeleton. In the dawn light it gave off a snow-white glint and appeared to be very refined.
Astonishingly, the skeleton stood on its own. Its posture was graceful and elegant. One hand was held below the chin, as though stroking a long-missing beard. Its head tilted slightly up, as though questioning sky and earth.
"That's Confucius, " Mozi said. "He believed that everything had to fit Li, the Confucian conception of order and propriety, and nothing in the universe could be exempt from it. He created a system of rites and hoped to predict the motion of the sun with it. "
"I can imagine the result. "
"Right you are. He calculated how the sun would follow the rites, and predicted a five-year Stable Era. And you know what? There was indeed a Stable Era... lasting a month. "
"And then one day the sun just didn't come out? "
"No, the sun rose that day as well. It rose to the middle of the sky, and then went out. "
"What? Went out? "
"Yes. It gradually dimmed, became smaller, and then went out all of a sudden. Night fell. Oh, the cold. Confucius stood there and froze into a column of ice. And there he remains. "
"Was there anything remaining in the sky after the sun went out? "
"A flying star appeared in that location, like a soul left behind after the sun died. "
"You're sure that the sun really disappeared suddenly, and the flying star appeared just as suddenly? "
"Yes, absolutely. You can check the historical annals. It was clearly recorded"
"Hmmm... " Wang thought hard about this information. He had already formed some vague ideas about the workings of the world of Three Body. But this bit of news from Mozi overturned all his theories. "How can it be... sudden? " he muttered in annoyance.
"Were now in the Han Dynasty—I'm not sure if it's the Western Han or the Eastern Han. "
"You've stayed alive until now? "
"I have a mission: observing the precise movements of the sun. Those shamans, metaphysicians, and Daoists are all useless. Like those proverbial bookish men who could not even tell types of grains apart, they do not labor with their hands, and know nothing practical. They have no ability to do experiments, and they're immersed in their mysticism all day long. But I'm different. I know how to make things. " He pointed to the numerous instruments on the platform.
"Do you think these can lead you to your goal? " Wang nodded specifically at the giant copper sphere.
"I have theories, too, but they're not mystical. They're derived from a large number of observations. First, do you know what the universe is? It's a machine. "
"That's not very insightful. "
"Let me be more specific: The universe is a hollow sphere floating in the middle of a sea of fire. There are numerous tiny holes in the surface of the sphere, as well as a large one. The light from the sea of flames shines through these holes. The tiny ones are stars, and the large one is the sun. "
That s a very interesting model. " Wang looked at the giant copper sphere again and guessed at its purpose. "But there's a problem with your theory. When the sun rises or sets, we can see its motion against the background of fixed stars. But in your hollow sphere, all the holes remain in fixed positions relative to each other. "
"Correct! That's why I've modified my model. The universal sphere is made of two spheres, one inside the other. The sky we can see is the surface of the inner sphere. The outer sphere has one large hole while the inner sphere has many small holes. The light coming through the hole in the outer sphere is reflected and scattered many times in the space between the two spheres, filling it with light. Then the light comes in through the tiny holes in the inner sphere, and that's how we see the stars. "
"What about the sun? "
"The sun is the result of the large hole in the outer sphere being projected onto the inner one. The projection is so bright that it penetrates the inner sphere like the shell of an egg, and that is how we see the sun. Around the spot of light, the scattered light rays are also very bright, and can be seen through the inner shell. That is why we can see a clear sky during the day. "
"What is the force that propels the two spheres in their irregular motion? "
"It's the force of the sea of fire outside the two spheres. "
"But the sun's brightness and size change over time. In your double-shell model, the sun's size and brightness ought to be fixed. Even if the brightness of the flames in the sea of fire is inconstant, the size of the hole would not be. "
"Your conception of this model is too simplistic. As conditions in the sea of fire shift and change, the two shells will expand and shrink. This leads to changes in the size and brightness of the sun. "
"What about the flying stars? "
"Flying stars? Why do you care about them? They're not important. Maybe just some random dust flying about the inside of the universal spheres. "
"No, I think the flying stars are extremely important. Otherwise, how does your model explain the sudden extinguishing of the sun during the time of Confucius? "
"That's a rare exception. Maybe it was because a dark spot or cloud in the sea of fire just happened to pass over the big hole in the outer shell. "
Wang pointed to the large copper sphere. " This must be your model, then? "
"Yes. I built a machine to replicate the universe. The complex gears that move the sphere simulate the forces from the sea of fire. The laws governing such motion are based on the distribution of flames in the sea of fire and the currents within it. I deduced them from hundreds of years of observations. "
"Can this sphere contract and expand? "
"Of course. Right now it s slowly contracting. "
Wang used the handrail at the edge of the platform as a fixed visual reference. He found Mozi's assertion to be true.
"And there's an inner shell inside this sphere? "
"Of course. The inner shell moves within the outer shell through another complex set of mechanisms. "
"Truly a skillfully designed machine! " Wang's praise was heartfelt. "But I don't see a large hole in the outer shell to cast the sun's light onto the inner shell. "
"There is no hole. On the inner surface of the outer shell I have installed a source of light to simulate the hole. The light source is made of the luminescent material gathered from hundreds of thousands of fireflies. I used a cool light because the inner shell is made of translucent plaster, which is not a good heat conductor. 'This way, I can avoid the problem of too much heat accumulating inside the sphere that we would have with a regular source of light. 'The observer can then stay inside for a long time. "
"There's a person inside the sphere? "
"Yes. A clerk stands on top of a shelf with a wheeled base that is kept at the center of the sphere. After we set up the model universe to correspond to the current state of the real universe, the motion of the model thereafter should be an accurate simulation of the future, including the motion of the sun. After the clerk records the movements of the sun, we will have a precise calendar. This is the dream of hundreds of civilizations before us.
"And it looks like you have come at an opportune time. According to the model universe, a four-year-long Stable Era is about to begin. Emperor Wu of Han has just issued the order to rehydrate based on my prediction. Let's wait for sunrise! "
Mozi brought up the game's interface and slightly increased the rate of passage of game time. A red sun rose above the horizon, and the numerous frozen lakes and ponds scattered over the plain began to melt. These lakes had been covered by dust and had merged into the dun ground, but now they turned into numerous mirrors, as though the earth had opened many eyes. From up so high, Wang couldn't see the details of rehydration, but he could see more and more people gathered on the shores of the lakes like swarms of ants coming out of their nests in spring. The world had once again been revived.
"Do you not want to join this wonderful life? " Mozi asked, pointing to the ground below. "When women are first revived, they crave love. There is no reason for you to stay here any longer. The game is over. I am the winner. "
"As a piece of machinery, your model universe is indeed incomparable. But as for its predictions.... May I use your telescope to observe something? "
"Please. " Mozi gestured at the large telescope.
Wang walked up to the instrument and paused. "How can I use it to observe the sun? "
Mozi retrieved a black, circular piece of glass. "Use this smoked glass filter. " He inserted it in front of the eyepiece.
Wang aimed the telescope at the sun, now halfway up the sky. He was impressed by Mozi's imagination. The sun did indeed look like a hole through which a sea of fire could be seen, a small view into a much larger whole.
But as he examined the image in the telescope more closely, he realized that the sun was different from the sun he was used to in real life. The sun here had a small core. He imagined the sun as an eye. The core was like the eye's pupil, and though it was small, it was bright and dense. The layers surrounding it, by contrast, appeared insubstantial, wispy, gaseous. The fact that he could see through the outside layers to the core indicated that those layers were transparent or translucent, and the light from those layers was likely just scattered light from the core.
The details in the image of the sun stunned Wang. He was once again assured that the game designers had hidden a vast amount of data within the superficially simple images, just waiting to be revealed by players.
As Wang pondered the meaning of the sun's structure, he became excited. Because time in the game was now passing quickly, the sun was already in the west. Wang stood, adjusted the telescope to aim at the sun again, and tracked it until it dipped below the horizon.
Night fell, and the bonfires across the plains mirrored the sky full of stars. Wang took off the smoked glass filter and continued to scan the skies. He was most interested in the flying stars, and shortly found two. He only had time to observe one of them briefly before it was dawn again. So he inserted the filter and continued to observe the sun...
In this manner Wang performed astronomical observations for more than ten days, enjoying the thrill of discovery. Indeed, the fact that time within the game had been sped up helped with the observations, as the motion of celestial bodies became more apparent.
On the seventeenth day of the Stable Era, five hours after the predicted time for sunrise, the world was still under cover of dark night. Multitudes thronged at the foot of the pyramid, their innumerable torches flickering in the chill wind.
"The sun will probably not rise again. It is like at the end of Civilization Number 137, " Wang said to Mozi.
Mozi stroked his beard and smiled confidently. "Do not fret. The sun will rise soon, and the Stable Era will continue. I've already learned the secret of the motion of the universal machine. My predictions can not be wrong.
As though confirming Mozi's words, the sky over the horizon brightened with dawn's first light. The crowd around the pyramid shouted in joy.
The silvery light brightened far more rapidly than usual, as though the rising sun wanted to make up for lost time. Soon, the light covered half the sky, even though the sun was still below the horizon. The world was already as bright as midday.
Wang looked toward the horizon and saw it giving off a blinding glare. The glowing horizon arched upward and became a curve that spread from one edge of his visual field to the other. He soon realized that he wasn't seeing the horizon, but the edge of the rising sun, an incomparably immense sun.
After his eyes adjusted to the bright light, the horizon reappeared in its old place. Wang saw columns of black smoke rising in the distance, especially clear against the glowing background of the solar disk. A fast horse rushed toward the pyramid from the direction of the rising sun, the dust from its hooves forming a distinct line across the plains.
The crowd parted before the horse, and Wang heard the rider scream at the top of his lungs: "Dehydrate! Dehydrate! "
Following the rider was a herd of cattle, horses, and other animals. Their bodies were on fire and they moved across the ground like a burning carpet.
Half of the gigantic sun's disk was now above the horizon, taking up much of the sky. The earth seemed to slowly sink down against a brilliant wall. Wang could clearly make out the fine structures on the surface of the sun: eddies and surging waves filling the sea of flames; sunspots floating along random paths like ghosts; the corona lazily spreading out golden sleeves.
On the ground, both those who had already dehydrated and those hadn't began to burn like countless logs thrown into the belly of a furnace. The flames that consumed them were even brighter than glowing charcoal in a furnace, but were quickly extinguished.
The giant sun continued to rise and soon filled most of the sky. Wang looked up and felt his perspective shift. Suddenly he was no longer looking up, but down. The surface of the giant sun became a fiery earth, and he felt himself falling toward this brilliant hell.
Lakes and ponds began to evaporate, and puffs of white steam rose up like mushroom clouds. They rose, spilled open, and dispersed, covering the ashes of the dead.
"The Stable Era will continue. The universe is a machine. I created this machine. The Stable Era will continue. The universe... "
Wang turned his head. The voice belonged to Mozi, who was already on fire. His body was encased within a column of tall, orange flame, and his skin crinkled and turned into charcoal. But his two eyes still shone with a light that was distinct from the fire consuming him. His two hands, already burning pieces of charcoal, held up the cloud of swirling ashes that had once been his calendar.
Wang was burning up as well. He lifted his two hands and saw two torches.
The sun briskly moved to the west, revealing the sky behind it. It soon fell below the horizon, and the ground seemed to rise against the brilliant wall this time. A dazzling sunset swiftly turned to night, as though a pair of giant hands had pulled a black cloth over a world that had turned to ash.
The earth glowed with a dim red light like a piece of charcoal just retrieved from a furnace. For a brief moment, Wang saw the stars, but soon steam and smoke hid the sky and covered everything on the red-glowing earth. The world sank into a dark chaos. A red line of text appeared:
Civilization Number 141 fell into ruin in flames. This civilization had
advanced to the Eastern Han Period.
The seed of civilization remains. It will germinate and again progress through the unpredictable world of Three Body. We invite you to log on in the future.
Wang took off the V-suit. After his mind had calmed down a bit, he again had the thought that Three Body was deliberately pretending to be merely illusory, while in fact possessing some deep reality. The real world in front of him, on the other hand, had begun to seem like the superficially complex, but in truth rather simple, Along the River During the Qingming Festival.
The next day, Wang went to the Nanotechnology Research Center. Other than some minor confusion due to his absence the day before, everything was normal. He found work to be an effective tranquilizer. As long as he was absorbed by it, he was no longer bothered by his nightmarish worries. He deliberately kept himself constantly busy the whole day and left the lab only after it was dark.
As soon as Wang left the Research Center building, the nightmare-like feeling caught up to him. He felt like the starry sky was a magnifying glass that covered the world, and he was a tiny insect below the lens with nowhere to hide.
He had to find something to occupy himself. Then he thought of Yang Dongs mother Ye Wenjie and drove to her home.
Ye was alone at home. When Wang entered, she was sitting on the sofa reading. Wang noticed that her eyes were both myopic and presbyopic, and she had to switch glasses both when she read and when she looked at something far away. She was very happy to see Wang, and said that he looked much better than the last time he had come to see her.
Wang chuckled. "It's all because of your ginseng."
Ye shook her head. "What I gave you wasn't very good. We used to able to find really high-quality wild ginseng around the base. I once found one about this long.... I wonder what it's like there now. I heard that it's deserted. Well, I guess I'm really getting old. These days, I'm always thinking about the past. "
"I heard that you suffered a lot during the Cultural Revolution. "
"You heard it from Ruishan, didn't you? " Ye waved her hand, as though trying to wave away a strand of spider silk.
"In the past, it's all in the past...Last night, Ruishan called me. He was in such a hurry that I had a hard time understanding him. All I got was that something seemed to have happened to you. Xiao Wang, let me tell you: By the time you're my age, you'll realize that everything you once thought mattered so much turns out to mean very little. "
"Thank you, " Wang said. He once again felt the warmth that he had missed. In his current state, his mental stability depended on two pillars: this old woman, who had weathered so many storms and become as gentle as water, and Shi Qiang, the man who feared nothing because he knew nothing.
Ye continued. "As far as the Cultural Revolution is concerned, I was pretty lucky. Just when I thought I had nowhere to go, I found a place where I could survive. "
"You mean Red Coast Base? "
"That was truly an incredible project. I used to think it was just made-up rumors. "
"Not rumors. If you want, I can tell you some of what I experienced. " The offer made Wang a little worried. "Professor Ye, I'm only curious. You don't need to tell me if it's not appropriate. "
"It's no big deal. Let's just imagine that I'm looking for someone to hear me talk. "
"You could go visit the senior center. You wouldn't be lonely if you went there occasionally. "
"Many of those retirees were my colleagues back at the university, but somehow I just can't mix with them. Everyone likes to reminisce, but no one wants to listen, and everyone feels annoyed when someone else tells a story. You're the only one who's interested in Red Coast. But for you to tell me about those things... isn't that prohibited;
"That's true—it's still classified. But after that book was published, many others who were there also began to tell their stories, so they're like open secrets. The person who wrote that book was very irresponsible. Even if we put aside his agenda, the content of that book was often inaccurate. I should at least correct those errors. "
Then Ye Wenjie began to tell Wang about what happened to her during her years at Red Coast.
Chapter 11 Vocabulary Note
pockmark - a hollow mark on someone's skin or on the surface of something
eon - an extremely long period of time
apex - the top of highest part of something pointed or curved
armillary - of or relating to bracelets
spoke - one of the thin metal bars which connect the outer ring of a wheel to the center, especially on a bicycle
stroke - to move your hand gently over something
propriety - correctness of social or moral behavior
rite - a ceremony that is always performed in the same way, usually for religious purposes
shaman - a person in some tribes who is a religious leader and is believed to be able to talk to spirits and cure illnesses
proverbial - relating to a proverb; well knows by a lot of people
opportune - a time that is suitable for doing something
wispy - relating to a small thin line of smoke that rises upwards
gaseous - like gas or in the form of gas
dip - move down
mirror - if one thing mirrors another, it is very similar to it and may seem to copy or represent it; reflect
celestial - relating to the sky or heaven
multitude - a large crowd of people
throng - if people throng a place, they go there in large numbers
stroke - to move your hand gently over something
fret - to worry about something, especially when there is no need
hooves - the hard foot of an animal such as a horse, cow
sunspot - a small dark area on the sun's surface
corona - the shining circle of light seen around the sun when the moon passes in front of it in an eclipse
charcoal - a black substance made of burned wood that can be used as fuel
fiery - very red or orange, and looking like fire
encase - to cover or surround something completely
crinkle - if you crinkle part of your face, or if it crinkles, you move it so that small lines appear on it
myopic - unable to see things clearly that are far away; short-sighted; near-sighted
presbyopic - able to see distant objects clearly; long-sighted; far-sighted
strand - a single thin piece of thread, wire, hair
weather - to come through a very difficult situation safely
reminisce - to talk or think about pleasant events in your past
agenda - a list of problems or subjects that a government, an organization is planning to deal with
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