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Chapter 15

Novel:The Three-Bodyauthor:Cinxin Liu pubdate:2019-02-14 14:50

Chapter 15 
Three Body: Copernicus, Universal Football, and Tri-Solar Day
After leaving Ye's home, Wang Miao couldn't calm down. The events of the last two days and the history of Red Coast, two seemingly unconnected strands, now twisted together, made the world unfamiliar overnight.
Once he was home, in order to escape this mood, Wang turned on the computer, put on the V-suit, and logged on to Three Body for the third time.
The attempt to adjust his state of mind worked. By the time the log-in screen appeared, Wang seemed like a different person, one filled with an unexplainable excitement. Unlike the first two times, this time Wang came with a purpose: He was going to reveal the secret of the world of Three Body.
He created a new log-in ID appropriate for his new role: Copernicus.
Once logged in, Wang again stood on that broad, desolate plain, facing the strange dawn of the world of Three Body. A colossal pyramid appeared in the east, but right away Wang knew it was no longer the pyramid of King Zhou of Shang or Mozi. It had a Gothic-style apex, stabbing straight into the morning sky, recalling St. Joseph's Church at Wangfujing. But if that church were placed next to this pyramid, it would he nothing more than an entrance booth. He saw many buildings in the distance that were apparently dehydratories, but also now built in the Gothic style, with tall, sharp steeples, as though the ground had grown numerous spikes.
Wang saw a door on the side of the pyramid, lit from within by flickering lights. He walked over. Inside the tunnel was a row of statues of the gods of Olympus holding up torches, their surfaces blackened by smoke. He entered the Great Hall and saw that it was even dimmer than the entrance tunnel. Two silver candelabra on top of a long marble table provided a drowsy light.
Several men were seated around the table. The dim light allowed Wang to see only the outlines of their faces. Their eyes were hidden in the shadows of their deep eye sockets, but Wang could still feel their gazes focusing on him. The men seemed to be dressed in medieval robes. On closer examination, one or two of them had simpler robes, more like Classical Greek chitons. At one end of the table was a thin, tall man. The golden crown on top of his head was the only thing that glittered in the Great Hall other than the candles. With some effort, Wang saw by the dim candlelight that his robe was different from the others': it was red.
Wang realized that the game displayed a distinct world for each player. This world, based on the European High Middle Ages, was chosen by the software based on his ID.
"You're late. The meeting has been going on for a while," the gold-crowned, red-robed man said. "I'm Pope Gregory."
Wang tried to recall what little he knew of European history in the Middle Ages so that he could deduce the level of advancement of this civilization based on the name. But then he remembered how wildly anachronistic historical references could be in the world of Three Body and decided the effort wasn't worth it.
I'm Aristotle. You changed your ID, but we all recognize You. In the previous two civilizations, you traveled to the East." The speaker was the man with the Greek chiton. He had a head of white curls.
"Yes." Wang nodded. "There, I witnessed the destruction of two civilizations, one by extreme cold, another by a blazing sun. I also saw the great efforts the scholars of the East expended in trying to master the laws governing the sun's motion."
"Ha!" The sound came from a man with a goatee that curled up-ward. He was even thinner than the pope. "Eastern scholars tried to understand the secrets of the sun's motion through meditation, epiphany, or even dreams. Utterly laughable!"
"This is Galileo," said Aristotle. "He advocates understanding the world through observation and experiment. He is an unimaginative thinker, but his results demand our attention."
"Mozi also conducted experiments and observation " Wang said. Galileo snorted. "Mozi's way of thinking was still Eastern. He was nothing more than a mystic dressed as a scientist. He never took his own observation data seriously, and he constructed his model based on subjective speculation. Ridiculous! I feel sorry for his refined equipment. We're different. Based on large amounts of observational data and experiments, we make strict, logical deductions to build a model of the universe. Then we go back to experimentation and observation to test it."
"That's correct." Wang nodded. "That's also my way of thinking." "Have you brought a calendar as well, then?" The pope's tone was mocking.
"I don't have a calendar. I only brought a model built upon observation data. But I must make it clear that even if the model is correct, it's not certain that by using it one can master the precise details of the sun's motion and create a calendar. However, it's a necessary step."
A few lonely claps echoed throughout the Great Hall. The applause came from Galileo. "Excellent, Copernicus, excellent. Your pragmatic way of thinking, adapted to the experimental, scientific approach, is lacking in most scholars. Based on this alone, your theory is worth listening to."
The pope nodded at Wang. "Go ahead. "
 After calming himself and walking to the other end of the long table, Wang said, "It's actually pretty simple. The reason why the sun's motion seems patternless is because our world has three suns. Under the influence of their mutually perturbing gravitational attraction, their movements are unpredictable—the three-body problem. When our planet revolves around one of the suns in a stable orbit, that's a Stable Era. When one or more of the other suns move within a certain distance, their gravitational pull will snatch the planet away from the sun it's orbiting, causing it to wander unstably through the gravitational fields of the three suns. That's a Chaotic Era. After an uncertain amount of time, our planet is once again pulled into a temporary orbit and another Stable Era begins. This is a football game at the scale of the universe. The players are the three suns, and our planet is the football."
A few hollow laughs rang out in the Great Hall. "Burn him to death," the pope said impassively. The two soldiers standing at the door in rusty armor started toward Wang like two clumsy robots.
"Burn him." Galileo sighed. "I had hopes for you, but you're nothing more than another mystic or warlock."
"Such men are a public nuisance," Aristotle agreed.
"At least let me finish!" Wang shoved away the iron gauntlets of the two soldiers.
"Have you seen three suns? Or know anyone who has?" Galileo asked.
"Everyone has seen them."
"Then, other than the sun that appears during Chaotic Eras and Stable Eras, where are the other two?"
"The sun that we see at different times may not be the same: It's only one of the three suns. When the other two are far away, they look like flying stars."
"You lack basic scientific training," Galileo said, shaking his head. The sun must move continuously to a distant spot. It cannot jump over the intervening space. According to your hypothesis, there should be another observable situation: The sun must get smaller than it usually appears but bigger than a flying star, and gradually shrink into a flying star as it moves farther away. But we've never seen the sun behave that way."
"Since you have scientific training, you ought to have some knowledge of the sun's structure."
"That's my proudest discovery. The sun is made of a sparse but expansive gaseous outer layer and a dense and hot inner core."
"Very true " said Wang. "But you apparently haven't discovered the special optical interaction between the sun's gaseous outer layer and our planet's atmosphere. It's a phenomenon akin to polarization or destructive interference. As a result, when we view the sun from within our atmosphere and it gets a certain distance from us, the gaseous outer layer suddenly becomes completely transparent and invisible, and all we can see is its bright inner core. The sun then appears to be only the size of the inner core, a flying star.
"This phenomenon has confused every researcher in every civilization throughout history, and prevented them from discovering the existence of the three suns. Now you understand why the appearance of three flying stars heralds a long period of extreme cold: because all three suns are far away."
A brief silence followed as everyone pondered this. Aristotle was the first to speak. "You lack basic training in logic. It's true that we can sometimes see three flying stars, and that's always accompanied by destructive periods of extreme cold. But based on your theory, we should also sometimes see three normal-sized suns in the sky. This has never happened. In all the records of all the civilizations, this has never occurred!" "Wait!" A man wearing a strangely shaped hat and a long beard stood up and spoke for the first time. "I'm Leonardo da Vinci. There may be such historical records. One civilization saw two suns and was immediately destroyed by their combined heat, but the record was very vague." "Were talking about three suns, not two!" Galileo shouted. "According to his theory, three suns must appear sometime, just like three flying stars."
Three sums have appeared," Wang said, utterly calm. "And people have seen them. But those who saw such a great sight could not leave behind any information about them because seeing three suns would mean that they had at most a few seconds left to live. They had no chance to escape or survive. Tri-solar days are the most terrifying catastrophes for our world. On such days, the surface of the planet would turn into a smelting furnace in a second, and the heat would be enough to melt rocks. After the destruction caused by a tri-solar day, an eon would pass before the reappearance of life and civilization. This is yet another reason why there's no historical record of them."
Silence. Everyone stared at the pope.
"Burn him," the pope said, gently. The smile on his face was a little familiar to Wang: the smile of King Zhou of Shang.
The Great Hall came alive, and everyone seemed to be preparing for a celebration. Galileo and some others joyfully carried a stake out of a dark corner. They pulled off the charcoal-black body still tied to the stake and cast it aside before fastening it in an upright position. Another group happily piled firewood around the stake. Only Leonardo ignored the commotion. He sat at the table, pondering, and occasionally using a pen to calculate something on the table.
"Giordano Bruno," Aristotle said, pointing at the blackened body. "Like you, he came here and spewed nonsense."
"Use a low fire," the pope said, his voice weak.
Two soldiers started to tie Wang Miao to the stake using asbestos ropes. Wang used the hand that was still free to point at the pope. "You are nothing more than a program. As for the rest of you, you're either programs or idiots. I will log back on!"
"You cannot return. You will disappear forever from the world of Three Body." Galileo cackled.
"Then you must be a program. A normal person would certainly understand the basics of the Internet. The most the game can do is record my MAC address. I can just switch computers and create a new ID. I'll announce myself when I'm back."
The system has recorded your retinal scan through the V-suit," Leonardo said, looking up at Wang. Then he returned to his calculations.
Wang Miao was seized by a nameless terror. He shouted, "Don't do this! Let me go! I'm telling the truth!"
"If you're telling the truth, then you wont be burnt to death. The game rewards those who are on the right path." As Aristotle grinned, he took out a silver Zippo lighter, flipped it in his hand in a complicated fashion, and then flicked it on.
As he was about to light the firewood piled around Wang, a bright red light filled the entrance tunnel, followed by a wave of heat and smoke. A horse dashed out of the light and into the Great Hall. Its body was already on fire, and as it galloped, the wind whipped it into a ball of flames. The rider, a knight in heavy armor that glowed red from the heat, dragged a line of white smoke behind him.
"The world has ended! The world has ended! Dehydrate! Dehydrate!" As the knight shouted, the animal under him fell down and turned into a bonfire. The knight was thrown some distance and rolled all the way to the stake, where he stopped moving. White smoke continued to pour out of openings in the armor. The sizzling grease from the dead man inside oozed out on the ground and caught fire, giving the armor a pair of burning wings.
Everyone in the Great Hall streamed toward the entrance tunnel and squeezed into it, disappearing in the red light from outside. Wang Miao struggled with all his strength until he was freed from the ropes. He dodged the burning knight and horse, dashed through the empty Great Hall, and ran down the sweltering tunnel until he emerged outside.
The ground glowed red like a piece of iron in a blacksmith's furnace. Bright rivulets of lava snaked across the dim red earth, forming a net of fire that stretched to the horizon. Countless thin pillars of flame erupted toward the sky: The dehydratories were burning. The dehydrated bodies inside gave the fire a strange bluish glow.
Not far from him, Wang saw a dozen or so small pillars of flame of the same color. These were the people who had just run out of the pyramid: the pope, Galileo, Aristotle, and Leonardo. The fiery pillars around them were translucent blue, and he could see their faces and bodies slowly deforming in the flame. They focused their gazes on Wang, who had just emerged. Holding the same pose and lifting their arms toward the sky, they chanted in unison, "Tri-solar day-"
Wang looked up and saw three gigantic suns slowly spinning around an invisible origin, like an immense three-bladed fan blowing a deadly wind toward the world below. The three suns took up almost the entire sky, and as they drifted toward the west, half of the formation sank below the horizon. The giant fan continued to spin, a bright blade occasionally shooting above the horizon to give the dying world another brief sunrise and sunset. After a sunset, the ground glowed dim red, and the sunrise a moment later flooded everything with its glaring, parallel rays.
Once the three suns had completely set, the thick clouds that had formed from all the evaporated water still reflected their glow. The sky burned, displaying a hellish, maddening beauty.
After the last light of destruction finally disappeared and the clouds only glowed with a faint red luminescence reflected from the hellish fire on the ground, a few lines of giant text appeared:
Civilization Number 183 was destroyed by a tri-solar day. This civilization had advanced to the Middle Ages.
After a long time, life and civilization will begin again, and progress once more through the unpredictable world of Three Body.
But in this civilization, Copernicus successfully revealed the basic structure of the universe. The civilization of Three Body will take its first leap. The game has now entered the second level.
We invite you to log on to the second level of Three Body.
Chapter 15 Vocabulary Note
steeple - a tall pointed tower on the roof of a church
spike - something long and thin with a sharp point
candelabra - a decorative object which holds several candle or lamps
drowsy - so peaceful that you feel relaxed and almost asleep
eye sockets - parts of your face that your eyes fit into
chiton - loose woolen clothing worn by women and men in ancient Greece
anachronistic - belonging to another time, not now
goatee - a small beard on the end of man's chin, like the hair on the end of a goat's chin
epiphany - when you suddenly understand something
perturbing - to make something a state of confusion or disorder
warlock - a man who has magical powers, especially evil power; a wizard
gauntlet - a glove covered in metal, used for protection by soldiers in the past
intervening space - space in between
akin to - very similar to 
herald - to be a sign of something that is going to happen soon
eon - an extremely long period of time
stake - a pointed piece of wood that is pushed into the ground to support something
commotion - sudden noisy activity
spew - to say a lot of bad things very quickly
asbestos - a gray mineral that does not burn easily, that was used in the past as a building material
cackle - to laugh in a loud unpleasant way, making short high sounds
gallop - if a horse gallops, it moves very fast with its feet leaving the ground together
sizzling - making a sound like water falling on hot metal
dodge - to move quickly to avoid something
swelter - to feel extremely hot and uncomfortable
lava - hot liquid rock that flows from a volcano
in unison - if people speak in unison, they say the same words at the same time


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