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Chapter 16 The Three-Body Problem

Novel:The Three-Bodyauthor:Cinxin Liu pubdate:2019-02-14 14:52

Chapter 16 The Three-Body Problem
As soon as Wang logged out of the game, the phone rang.
It was Shi Qiang, who said it was urgent that he come down to Shi's office at the Criminal Division. Wang glanced at his watch: It was three in the morning.
Wang arrived at Da Shi's chaotic office and saw that it was already filled with a dense cloud of cigarette smoke. A young woman police officer who shared the office fanned the smoke away from her nose with a notebook. Da Shi introduced her as Xu Bingbing, a computer specialist from the Information Security Division.
The third person in the office surprised Wang. It was Wei Cheng, the reclusive, mysterious husband of Shen Yufei from the Frontiers of Science. Wei's hair was a mess. He looked up at Wang, but seemed to have forgotten they had met.
I'm sorry to bother you, but at least it looks like you weren't asleep," Da Shi said. "I have to deal with something that I haven't told the Battle Command Center yet, and I need your advice." He turned to Wei Cheng. "Tell him what you told me."
"My life is in danger," Wei said, his face wooden.
"Why don't you start from the beginning?"
"Fine. I will. Don't complain about me being long-winded. Actually, I've often thought about talking to someone lately..." Wei turned to look at Xu Bingbing. "Don't you need to take notes or something?" "Not right now," Da Shi said, not missing a beat. "You didn't have anyone to talk to before?"
"No, that's not it. I was too lazy to talk. I've always been lazy."
I've been lackadaisical since I was a kid. When I lived at boarding school,
I never washed the dishes or made the bed. I never got excited about anything. Too lazy to study, too lazy to even play, I dawdled my way through the days without any clear goals.
But I knew that I had some special talents others lacked. For example, if you drew a line, I could always draw another line that would divide it into the golden ratio: 1.618. My classmates told me that I should be a carpenter, but I thought it was more than that, a kind of intuition about numbers and shapes. But my math grades were just as bad as my grades in other classes. I was too lazy to bother showing my work. On tests, I just wrote out my guesses as answers. I got them right about eighty to ninety percent of the time, but I still got mediocre scores.
When I was a second-year student in high school, a math teacher noticed me. Back then, many high school teachers had impressive academic credentials, because during the Cultural Revolution many talented scholars ended up teaching in high schools. My teacher was like that.
One day, he kept me after class. He wrote out a dozen or so numerical sequences on the blackboard and asked me to write out the summation formula for each. I wrote out the formulas for some of them almost instantaneously and could tell at a glance that the rest of them were divergent.
My teacher took out a book, The Collected Cases of Sherlock Holmes. He turned to one story— "A Study in Scarlet," I think. There's a scene in it where Watson sees a plainly dressed messenger downstairs and points him out to Holmes. Holmes says, "Oh, you mean the retired sergeant of marines?" Watson is amazed by how Holmes could deduce the man's history, but Holmes can't articulate his reasoning and has to think for a while to figure out his chain of deductions. It was based on the man's hand, his movements, and so on. He tells Watson that there is nothing strange about this: Most people would have difficulty explaining how they know two and two make four.
My teacher closed the book and said to me, "You're just like that Your derivation is so fast and instinctive that you cant even tell how you got the answer." Then he asked me, "When you see a string of numbers, what do you feel? I'm talking about feelings ."
I said, "Any combination of numbers appears to me as a three-dimensional shape. Of course I can't describe the shapes of numbers, but they really do appear as shapes."
"Then what about when you see geometric figures?" The teacher asked.
I said, "It's just the opposite. In my mind there are no geometric figures. Everything turns into numbers. It's just like if you get really close to a picture in the newspaper and everything turns into little dots."
The teacher said, "You really have a natural gift for math, but. . . but.. ." He added a few more "but"s, pacing back and forth as though I was a difficult problem that he didn't know how to handle. "But people like you don't cherish your gift." After thinking for a while, he seemed to give up, saying, "Why don't you sign up for the district math competition next month? I'm not going to tutor you. I'd just be wasting my time with your sort. But when you give your answers, make sure to write out your derivations." 
So I went to the competition. From the district level up through the International Mathematics Olympiad in Budapest, I won first place each time. After I got back, I was accepted by a top colleges math program without having to go through the entrance examination. . . .
You're not bored by my talking all this time? Ah, good. Well, to make sense of what happened later, I have to tell you all this. That high school math teacher was right. I didn't cherish my talent. Bachelor's, masters, Ph.D.—I never put much effort into any of them, but I did manage to get through them all. However, once I graduated and went back to the real world, I realized that I was completely useless. Other than math, I knew nothing I was half asleep when it came to the complexities of relationships
between people. The longer I worked, the worse my career. Eventually I became a lecturer at a college, but I couldn't survive there either. I just couldn't take teaching seriously. I'd write on the blackboard, "easy to prove," and my students would still struggle for a long while. Later, when they began to eliminate the worst teachers, I was fired.
By then I was sick of everything. I packed a bag and went to a Buddhist temple deep in the mountains somewhere in southern China.
Oh, I didn't go to become a monk. Too lazy for that. I just wanted to find a truly peaceful place to live for a while. The abbot there was my father's old friend—very intellectual, but became a monk in his old age.
The way my father told it, at his level, this was about the only way out.
The abbot asked me to stay. I told him, "I want to find a peaceful, easy way to just muddle through the rest of my life." The abbot said, "This place isn't really peaceful There are lots of tourists, and many pilgrims too. The truly peaceful can find peace in a bustling city. And to attain that state, you need to empty yourself." I said, "I'm empty enough. Fame and fortune are nothing to me. Many of the monks in this temple are worldlier than me." The abbot shook his head and said, "No, emptiness is not nothingness. Emptiness is a type of existence. You must use this existential emptiness to fill yourself."
His words were very enlightening to me. Later, after I thought about it a bit, I realized that it wasn't Buddhist philosophy at all, but was more akin to some modern physics theories. The abbot also told me he wasn't going to discuss Buddhism with me. His reason was the same as my high school teacher's: With my sort, he'd just be wasting his time.
That first night, I couldn't sleep in the tiny room in the temple. I didn't realize that this refuge from the world would be so uncomfortable. My blanket and sheet both became damp in the mountain fog, and the bed was so hard. In order to make myself sleep, I tried to follow the abbot's advice and fill myself with "emptiness."
In my mind, the first "emptiness" I created was the infinity of space.
There was nothing in it, not even light. But soon I knew that this empty universe could not make me feel peace. Instead, it filled me with a nameless anxiety, like a drowning man wanting to grab on to anything at hand.
So I created a sphere in this infinite space for myself: not too big, though possessing mass. My mental state didn't improve, however. The sphere floated in the middle of "emptiness" -- in infinite space, anywhere could be the middle. The universe had nothing that could act on it, and it could act on nothing. It hung there, never moving, never changing, like a perfect interpretation for death.
I created a second sphere whose mass was equal to the first one's. Both had perfectly reflective surfaces. They reflected each others images, displaying the only existence in the universe other than itself. But the situation didn't improve much. If the spheres had no initial movement—that is, if I didn't push them at first—they would be quickly pulled together by their own gravitational attraction. Then the two spheres would stay together and hang there without moving, a symbol for death. If they did have initial movement and didn't collide, then they would revolve around each other under the influence of gravity. No matter what the initial conditions, the revolutions would eventually stabilize and become unchanging: the dance of death.
I then introduced a third sphere, and to my astonishment, the situation changed completely. Like I said, any geometric figure turns into numbers in the depths of my mind. The sphereless, one-sphere, and two-sphere universes all showed up as a single equation or a few equations, like a few lonesome leaves in late fall. But this third sphere gave "emptiness" life. The three spheres, given initial movements, went through complex, seemingly never-repeating movements. The descriptive equations rained down in a thunderstorm without end.
Just like that, I fell asleep. The three spheres continued to dance in my dream, a patternless, never-repeating dance. Yet, in the depths of my mind, the dance did possess a rhythm; it was just that its period of repetition was infinitely long. This mesmerized me. I wanted to describe the whole period, or at least a part of it.
The next day I kept on thinking about the three spheres dancing in "emptiness. " My attention had never been so completely engaged. It got to the point where one of the monks asked the abbot whether I was having mental health issues. The abbot laughed and said, "Don't worry. He has found emptiness." Yes, I had found emptiness. Now I could be at peace in a bustling city. Even in the midst of a noisy crowd, my heart would be completely tranquil. For the first time, I enjoyed math. I felt like a libertine who has always fluttered carelessly from one woman to another suddenly finding himself in love.
The physics principles behind the three-body problem(*28) are very simple. Its mainly a math problem.
[Author's Note(*28): How three bodies would move under the influence of their mutual gravitational attractions is a traditional problem in classical mechanics that arises naturally in the study of celestial mechanics. Many have worked on it since the sixteenth century. Euler, Lagrange, and more recent researchers (aided by computers) have all found solutions for special cases of the three-body problem- Karl F. Sundman later proved the existence of a general solution to the three-body problem in the form of a convergent infinite series, but the series converges so slowly that it is practically useless.]
"Didn't you know about Henri Poincare(*29)?" Wang Miao interrupted Wei to ask.
[Translator's Note(*29): Poincare showed that the three-body problem exhibited sensitive dependence on initial  conditions, which we would now understand as characteristic of chaotic behavior.]
At the time, I didn't. Yes, I know that someone studying math should know about a master like Poincare, but I didn't worship masters and I didn't want to become one, so I didn't know his work. But even if I had, I would have continued to pursue the three-body problem.
Everyone seems to believe that Poincare proved that the three-body problem couldn't be solved, but I think they're mistaken. He only proved sensitive dependence on initial conditions, and that the three-body system couldn't be solved by integrals. But sensitivity is not the same as being completely indeterminable. It's just that the solution contains a greater number of different forms. What's needed is a new algorithm.
Back then, I thought of one thing: Have you heard of the Monte Carlo method? Ah, it's a computer algorithm often used for calculating the area of irregular shapes. Specifically, the software puts the figure of interest in a figure of known area, such as a circle, and randomly strikes it with many tiny balls, never targeting the same spot twice. After a large number of balls, the proportion of balls that fall within the irregular shape compared to the total number of balls used to hit the circle will yield the area of the shape. Of course, the smaller the balls used, the more accurate the result.
Although the method is simple, it shows how, mathematically, random brute force can overcome precise logic. It's a numerical approach that uses quantity to derive quality. This is my strategy for solving the three-body problem. I study the system moment by moment. At each moment, the spheres' motion vectors can combine in infinite ways. I treat each combination like a life form. The key is to set up some rules: which combinations of motion vectors are "healthy" and "beneficial ," and which combinations are "detrimental" and "harmful." The former receive a survival advantage while the latter are disfavored. The computation proceeds by eliminating the disadvantaged and preserving the advantaged. The final combination that survives is the correct prediction for the system's next configuration, the next moment in time.
"It's an evolutionary algorithm," Wang said.
"It's a good thing I invited you along." Shi Qiang nodded at Wang.
Yes. Only much later did I learn that term. The distinguishing feature of this algorithm is that it requires ultra-large amounts of computing power. For the three-body problem, the computers we have now aren't enough.
Back then, in the temple, I didn't even have a calculator. I had to go to the accounting office to get a blank ledger and a pencil. I began to build the math model on paper. This required a lot of work, and in no time at all I went through more than a dozen ledgers. The monks in charge of accounts were angry with me, but because the abbot wished it, they found me more paper and pen. I hid the completed calculations under my pillow, and threw the scratch paper into the incense burner in the yard.
One evening, a young woman suddenly dashed into my room. This was the first time a woman had shown up at my place. She clutched a few pieces of paper with burnt edges, the scratch paper I had thrown out.
"They tell me these are yours. Are you studying the three-body problem?" Behind her wide glasses, her eyes seemed to be on fire.
The woman surprised me. The math I used was unconventional, and my derivations took large leaps. But the fact that she could tell the subject of my study from a few pieces of scratch paper showed that she had unusual math talent and that she, like me, was very devoted to the three-body problem.
I didn't have a good impression of the tourists and pilgrims. The tourists had no idea what they were looking at, only running around to snap pictures. As for the pilgrims, they looked much poorer than the tourists, and all seemed to be in a state of numbness, their intellect inhibited. But this woman was different. She looked like an academic. Later I found out that she had come with a group of Japanese tourists.
Without waiting for my answer, she added, "Your approach is brilliant. We've been searching for a method like this that could turn the difficulty of the three-body problem into a matter of massive computation. Of course, it would require a very powerful computer."
I told her the truth. "Even if we were to use all the computers in the world, it wouldn't be enough."
"But you must have an adequate research environment, and there's nothing like that here. I can give you the use of a supercomputer. I can also give you a minicomputer. Let's leave together tomorrow morning." The woman, of course, was Shen Yufei. Like now, she was concise and authoritarian, but she was more attractive then. I'm naturally a cold person. I had less interest in women than the monks around me. This woman who didn't adhere to conventional ideas about femininity was different, though. She attracted me. Since I had nothing to do anyway, I agreed right away.
That night, I couldn't sleep. I draped a shirt over my shoulders and walked out into the yard. In the distance, I saw Shen in the dim temple hall She knelt before the Buddha with lit joss sticks, and all her movements seemed full of piety. I approached noiselessly, and as 1 came by the door to the temple hall, I heard her whisper a prayer: "Buddha, please help my Lord break away from the sea of misery."
I thought I must have heard wrong, but she chanted the prayer again.
"Buddha, please help my Lord break away from the sea of misery"
I didn't understand religion and had no interest in any of them, but I really couldn't think of any prayer odder than this one. "What are you saying?" I blurted.
Shen ignored me. She kept her eyes barely closed, her hands clasped together in front of her, as though watching her prayer rise with the incense smoke toward the Buddha. After a long while, she finally opened her eyes and turned toward me. "Go to sleep. We have to get up early." She didn't even look at me.
"This 'Lord' you mentioned, is he part of Buddhism?" I asked.
"Then . . .?"
Shen said nothing, just hurried away. I didn't get a chance to ask anything else. I repeated the prayer to myself over and over, and it seemed to grow even stranger. Eventually, I became frightened. I rushed over to the abbot's room and knocked on his door.
"What does it mean if someone prays to the Buddha to help another Lord?" I then told him the details of what I saw.
The abbot silently looked at the book in his hand, but he was thinking about what I said, not reading. Then he said, "Please leave me for a bit. Let me think."
I turned and left, knowing that it was unusual. The abbot was very learned. Usually, he could answer any question about religion, history, and culture without having to think. I waited outside the door for about the time it took to smoke a cigarette, and the abbot called for me.
"I think there's only one possibility." His expression was grim.
"What? What could it be? Could there be some religion whose god needs worshippers to pray to the gods of other religions to save it?"
"Her Lord really exists."
This response confused me. "Then . . . the Buddha doesn't exist?" As soon as I said it I realized how rude it sounded. I apologized.
The abbot slowly waved his hand at me. "I told you, the two of us can't talk about Buddhism. The existence of the Buddha is a kind of existence that you cannot comprehend. But the Lord she's talking about exists in a way that you can understand .... I can say no more concerning this matter. All I can do is counsel you against leaving with her"
"It's just a feeling. I feel that behind her are things that you and I can-not imagine."
I left the abbot's room and walked through the temple toward my room. The night had a full moon. I looked up at it and thought it a silvery, strange eye that gazed down at me, the light suffused with an eerie chill.
The next day, I did leave with Shen—I couldn't stay in the temple the rest of my life, after all But I didn't think that over the next few years, I would live the life of my dreams. Shen fulfilled her promise. I had a mini-computer and a comfortable environment. I even left the country several times to use supercomputers—not time-sharing, but having the whole CPU to myself. She had a lot of money, though I didn't know where it came from.
Later, we got married. There wasn't much love or passion, just mutual convenience. We both had things we wanted to get done. As for me, the few years after that could be described as a single day. My time passed peacefully. In her house, I was taken care of and did not have to worry about food or clothing, so that I could devote myself to the study of the three-body problem. Shen never interfered with my life. The garage had a car that I could drive anywhere. I'm sure she wouldn't even have minded if I brought another woman home. She only paid attention to my research, and the only thing we talked about day to day was the three-body problem.
"Do you know what else Shen has been up to?" Shi Qiang asked.
"Just the Frontiers of Science. She's busy with it all the time. Lots of people show up every day."
"She didn't ask you to join?"
"Never. She never even talks to me about it. I don't care, either. That's just the way I am. I don't want to care about anything. She knows it, and says I'm an indolent man without any sense of purpose. The organization doesn't suit me and would interfere with my research."
"Have you made any progress with the three-body problem?" Wang asked.
Compared with the general state of the field, my progress could be said to be a breakthrough. Some years ago, Richard Montgomery of UCSC and Alain Chenciner of Universite Paris Diderot discovered another stable, periodic solution to the three-body problem(*30). Under appropriate initial conditions, the three bodies will chase each other around a fixed figure-eight curve. After that, everyone was keen to find such special stable configurations, and every discovery was greeted with joy. Only three or four such configurations have been found so far.
[Translator's Note(*30): For details, please see Alain Chenciner and Richard Montgomery, "A remarkable periodic solution of the three-body problem in the case of equal masses," Annals of Mathematics, 152 (2000), 881-901.]
But my evolutionary algorithm has already discovered more than a hundred stable configurations. Drawings of their orbits would fill a gallery with postmodern art, but that's not my goal. The real solution to the three-body problem is to build a mathematical model so that, given any initial configuration with known vectors, the model can predict all subsequent motion of the three-body system. This is also what Shen Yufei craves.
But my peaceful life ended yesterday.
"This is the crime you're reporting?" Shi Qiang asked.
"Yes. A man called yesterday and told me that if I didn't cease my research, I would be killed."
"Who was he?"
"I don't know."
"Phone number?"
"Don't know. Caller ID showed nothing."
"Anything related to report?"
"Don't know."
Da Shi laughed and tossed his cigarette butt into an ashtray. "You went on and on forever, and in the end all you have to report is one line and a few ‘I don't know's?"
"If I hadn't gone on like that, would you have understood the import of that call? Also, if that were all, I wouldn't have come here. I'm lazy, remember? But there was another thing: It was the middle of the night—I don't know- if it was today or yesterday—and I was in bed. As I was drifting halfway between sleep and wakefulness, I felt something cold moving on my face. I opened my eyes and saw Shen Yufei, and I almost died of fright."
"What's so frightening about seeing your wife in the middle of the night?"
"She stared at me in a way that I had never seen. The light from outside fell on her face, and she looked like a ghost. She held something in her hand: a gun! Moving the barrel over my face, she told me that I had to continue working on the three-body problem. Otherwise she'd kill me."
"Oh, now this is getting interesting." Da Shi gave a satisfied nod. He lit another cigarette.
"Interesting? Look, I've nowhere to go. That's why I came to you."
"Tell us exactly what she said."
"She said: 'If you succeed in solving the three-body problem, you will be the savior of the world. If you stop now, you'll be a sinner. If someone were to save or destroy the human race, then your possible contribution or sin would be exactly twice as much as his.' "
Da Shi blew out a thick cloud of smoke and stared at Wei Cheng until he squirmed. He pulled a notepad out of the mess on his desk and picked up a pen. "You wanted us to take notes, right? Repeat what you just said."
Wei did.
Wang said, "What she said is indeed strange. What does she mean by exactly twice as much?"
Wei blinked. "This seems pretty serious. When I came, the officer on duty immediately sent me to see you. It looks like you've already been paying attention to Shen and me."
Da Shi nodded. "Let me ask you something else: Do you think the gun your wife held was real?" He saw that Wei didn't know how to answer. "Could you smell gun oil?"
"Yes, there was definitely an oily smell."
"Good." Da Shi, who had been sitting on his desk, jumped off. "Finally we have an opening. Suspected illegal possession of firearms is enough to justify a search. I'll leave the paperwork until tomorrow, because we have to move right away."
He turned to Wang. "No rest for the weary. I have to ask you to come and advise me some more." Then he turned to Xu Bingbing, who'd been silent the whole time. "Bingbing, right now I have only two men on duty, and that's not enough. I know the Information Security Division isn't used to fieldwork, but I need you to come along."
Xu nodded, glad to leave the smoke-filled office.
In addition to Da Shi and Xu, the team for conducting the search consisted of Wang Miao, Wei Cheng, and two other officers from the Criminal Division. The six of them rode through the predawn darkness in two police cars, heading toward Wei's neighborhood at the edge of the city.
Xu and Wang were in the backseat. As soon as the car started, she whispered to Wang, "Professor Wang, your reputation in Three Body is very high."
Somebody mentioned Three Body in the real world! Wang was excited, right away feeling close to this young woman in a police uniform. "Do you play?"
"I'm responsible for monitoring and tracking it. An unpleasant task." Wang anxiously asked, "Can you tell me its background? I really want to know."
In the faint light coming through the car window, Wang saw Xu give a mysterious smile. "We want to know as well. But all its servers are outside the country. The system and firewall are very secure and hard to penetrate. We don't know much, but we can be sure it's not operated for profit. The software quality is uncommonly high, and the amount of information contained in it even more unusual. It doesn't even seem like a game."
"Have there been any .. ." Wang carefully picked the right words. "... supernatural signs?" Wang's night had been filled with coincidences: He had been called in to discuss the three-body problem with Wei Cheng immediately after he solved the Three Body game. And now Xu was telling him she was monitoring the game. Something didn't seem right.
"We don't think so. Many from all around the world participate in the game's development. Their collaboration method seems similar to popular open-source practices, like the kind used to make the Linux operating system. But they're definitely using some very advanced development tools. As for the content of the game, who knows where they're getting it? It does seem a bit. . . supernatural, like you said. However, we still believe in Captain Shi's famous rule: All this must be the work of people. Our tracking efforts are effective, and we'll have results soon."
The young woman was not experienced in lying, and her last remark made Wang realize that she was hiding much of the truth from him. "His 'rule' is famous now?" Wang looked at Da Shi, who was in the driver's seat.
When they reached the house, the sun had not yet risen. It was about the same time of night that Wang had seen Shen playing Three Body. A second-story window was lit, but all the other windows were dark.
As soon as Wang got out of the car, he heard noises coming from upstairs. It sounded like something was slapping against the wall. Da Shi, who had just gotten out of the car himself, immediately became alert. He kicked open the yard gate and rushed into the house with an agility surprising for his burly frame, his three colleagues close behind.
Wang and Wei followed them into the house. They went upstairs and entered the room with a light on, their shoes splashing in a pool of blood. Shen lay in the middle of the room, blood still oozing from two bullet wounds in her chest. A third bullet had gone through her left brow, causing her whole face to be covered in red. Not far from her, a gun lay in a crimson pool.
As Wang entered, Da Shi and one of the other officers rushed out and entered the dark room across the hall. The window there was open, and Wang heard the sound of a car starting outside. A male police officer began to make a phone call. Xu Bingbing stood a little ways apart, watching anxiously. She, like Wang and the others, had probably never seen a scene like this.
A moment later, Da Shi returned. He put his gun back in its holster and said to the officer holding the phone, "A black Volkswagen Santana with only one man. I couldn't get the license plate number. Tell them to block all entrances to the fifth ring road. Shit. He might actually get away."
Da Shi looked around and saw the bullet holes in the wall. He glanced at the shell casings scattered on the ground and added, "The man got off five shots, and three hit her. She shot twice—both misses." Then he crouched down to examine the body with the other officer. Xu stood farther away, stealing a glance at Wei Cheng next to her. Da Shi also looked up at him.
On Wei's face was a trace of shock and a trace of sorrow, but only a trace. His usual wooden expression didn't break. He was far calmer than Wang.
"You don't seem bothered by this," Da Shi said to Wei. "They probably came to kill you."
Wei gave a ghastly grin. "What can I do? Even now, I still don't know anything about her. I've told her many times to keep life simple. I'm thinking of the abbot's counsel to me that night. But. . . eh."
Da Shi stood up and walked over to stand in front of Wei. He took out a cigarette and lit it. "I think you still have some things you haven't told us."
"Some things I was too lazy to talk about." "Then you'd better work harder now!"
Wei thought for a moment and said, "Today—no, yesterday afternoon-, she argued with a man in the living room. It's that Pan Han, the famous environmentalist. They had argued a few times before, in Japanese, as though afraid to have me listen in. But yesterday they didn't care at all and argued in Chinese. I overheard a few snatches."
"Try to tell us exactly what you heard."
"Fine. Pan Han said, 'Although we seem like fellow travelers on the surface, in reality we're irreconcilable enemies.' Shen said, 'Yes, you're trying to use our Lord's power against the human race.' Pan said, 'Your understanding is not completely unreasonable. We want our Lord to come to this world, to punish those who have long deserved it. However, you're working to prevent our Lord's coming, and that's why we can't tolerate you. If you don't stop, we'll make you stop!' Shen said, 'The commander was blind to allow you to join the organization!' Pan said, 'Speaking of, can you tell whether the commander sides with the Adventists or the Redemptionists? Does the commander want humanity eliminated or saved?' Pan's words briefly silenced Shen, and the two didn't argue so loudly anymore. I couldn't hear anything else "
"What did the man who threatened you on the phone sound like?" "You're asking if he sounded like Pan Han? I don't know. He was speaking very softly, and I couldn't tell."
Several more police cars arrived, sirens blaring. A group of white-gloved policemen came upstairs with cameras, and the house hummed with activity. Da Shi told Wang to go back and get some rest.
Instead, Wang walked into the room with the minicomputer to find Wei. "Can you give me an outline of your three-body evolutionary algorithm? I want to . . . introduce it to some people. I know my request is abrupt. If you can't, don't worry about it."
Wei took out a CD and handed it to Wang. "It's all on here: the whole model and additional documentation. Do me a favor and publish it under your own name. That would be a big help."
"No, no! How could I do that?"
Wei pointed at the disk in Wang's hand and said, "Professor Wang, I noticed you the first time you came here. You're a good man, a man with a sense of responsibility. That's why I'm counseling you to stay away from this. The world is about to change. Everyone should try to live out the rest of their lives in peace. That would be best. Don't worry too much about other matters. It's all useless anyway."
"You seem to know even more than you let on."
"I spent every day with her. It's impossible to have no inkling."
"Then why not tell the police?"
Wei smiled contemptuously. "The police are worthless. Even if God were here, it wouldn't do any good. The entire human race has reached the point where no one is listening to their prayers."
Wei was standing next to an east-facing window. Through the glass, beyond the distant cityscape, the sky was brightening with the first light of dawn. For some reason, the light reminded Wang of the strange dawn he saw each time he logged on to Three Body.
"In reality, I'm not so detached. I haven't been able to sleep the last few nights. Every morning when I see the sunrise, it feels like sunset." He turned to Wang, and after a long pause, added, "And it's all because God, or the Lord she talked about, can't even protect Himself anymore."
Chapter 16 Vocabulary Note
reclusive - someone who chooses to live alone, and doesn't like talking to other people
long-winded - continuing to talk for too long
lackadaisical - not showing enough interest in something
mediocre - not very good
divergent - if a series of numbers are divergent, each number is equal to or greater than the preceding number, and the value of the last number and the sum of the series are without limit
abbot - a man who is in charge of a monastery (a place where monks live)
muddle - to be confused about life, not knowing what meaningful things to do
pilgrim - a religious person who goes to the temple to worship
bustling - busy
worldly - relating to ordinary life
mesmerize - if something mesmerizes you, you can't stop watching it because it is so attractive
libertine - someone who lead an immoral life and always looks for pleasure, especially sexual pleasure
flutter - to move gently and quickly
brute - simple and not involving intelligence
detrimental - causing damage; harmful;
ledger - a book in which a business records how much money it receives and spends
joss stick - a stick of incense burned in order to show respect to god
piety - when you behave in a way that shows respect for religion
blurt - to say something suddenly without thinking
grim - looking very serious
counsel - advice
indolent - lazy
import - importance or meaning;
savior - someone who saves you from a difficult or dangerous situation
squirm - to feel embarrassed and uncomfortable
weary - very tired
agility - the ability to move quickly and easily
burly - big and strong
splash - to make something wet with a lot of small drops of liquid
holster - a leather container for carrying a small gun, that is worn on a belt
snatch - a short part of a conversation
adventist - a member of ETO that believes that the god will return to Earth in the near future
redemptionist - a member in ETO whose ideal is to save their god (Trisolaris) from the harsh and dangerous environment
inkling - a slight idea about something


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