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Chapter 19 Three Body: Einstein, the Pendulum Monument, and the Great Rip

Novel:The Three-Bodyauthor:Cinxin Liu pubdate:2019-02-14 14:54

Chapter 19
Three Body: Einstein, the Pendulum Monument, and the Great Rip
The fifth time Wang Miao logged on to Three Body, it was dawn as usual, but the world was unrecognizable.
The great pyramid that had appeared the first four times had been destroyed by the tri-solar syzygy. In its place was a tall, modern building, whose dark gray shape was familiar to Wang: the United Nations Headquarters.
In the distance were many more tall buildings, apparently dehydratories. All had completely reflective mirror surfaces. In the dawn light they appeared as giant crystal plants growing out of the ground.
Wang heard a violin playing something by Mozart. The playing wasn't very practiced, but there was a special charm to it, as though saying: I play for myself. The violinist was a homeless old man sitting on the steps in front of the UN Headquarters, his fluffy silver hair fluttering in the wind. Next to his feet was an old top hat containing some scattered change.
Wang suddenly noticed the sun. But it rose in the opposite direction from the dawn light, and the patch of the sky around it was still completely dark.
The sun was very large, its half-risen disk taking up a third of the horizon. Wang's heart beat faster: Such a large sun could only mean another great catastrophe. But when Wang turned around, the old man continued to play as though nothing odd was happening. His silver hair shone brilliantly in the sun, as though it was on fire.
The sun was silvery, just like the old man's hair. It cast a pale white light over the ground, but Wang couldn't feel any warmth from the light. He gazed at the sun, which had now completely risen. On the giant silver disk he could pick out lines like wood grains: mountain ranges.
Wang realized that the disk did not emit light. It only reflected the light from the real sun, which was on the other side of the sky, below the horizon. What had risen wasn't a sun at all, but a giant moon. The giant moon moved briskly up the sky at a pace that could be detected by the naked eye. In the process, it gradually waned from a full to a half moon, and then a crescent. The old man's soothing violin strains drifted on the cold morning breeze. The majestic sight of the universe was like the music made material. Wang was intoxicated.
The giant crescent now fell into the dawn light and grew much brighter. When only two glowing tips remained above the horizon, Wang imagined them as the tips of the horns of a titanic bull rushing toward the sun.
"Honored Copernicus, rest your busy feet here a while," the old man said, after the giant moon had set. "Then after you've appreciated some Mozart, perhaps I can have some lunch."
"If I'm not mistaken ..." Wang looked at the face full of wrinkles. The wrinkles were long and their curves gentle, as though they were trying to create a kind of harmony.
"You're not. I'm Einstein, a pitiful man full of faith in God, though abandoned by Him."
"What is that giant moon? I've never seen it the previous times I was here."
"It's already cooled off."
'The big moon. When I was little it was still hot. When it rose to the middle of the sky, I could see the red glow from the central plains But now it's cold. . . . Haven't you heard about the great rip?"
"No. What's that?"
Einstein sighed and shook his head. "Let s not speak of it. Forget the past. My past, civilizations past, the universe's past—all of it too painful to recall."
"How did you get to be like this?" Wang searched in his pocket and found some change. He bent over and dropped the money into the hat.
"Thank you, Mr. Copernicus. Let's hope that God doesn't abandon you, though I don't have much faith in that. I feel that the model you and Newton and the others created in the East with the help of the human-formation computer was very close to being correct. But the little bit of error left was like an uncrossable chasm for Newton and the others.
"I've always believed that without me, others would have discovered special relativity eventually. But general relativity is different. The bit that Newton lacked was the effect on planetary orbit from the gravitationally induced curvature of space-time described by general relativity. Though the error caused by it was small, its impact on the results of the computation was fatal. Adding the correction factor for perturbation from space-time curvature to the classical equations would yield the right mathematical model. The amount of computational power required far exceeds what you accomplished in the East, but is easily provided by modern computers."
"Have the results of the computation been confirmed by astronomical observations?"
"If that had occurred, do you think I'd be here? But from the perspective of aesthetics, I must be right and the universe must be wrong. God abandoned me, then others abandoned me as well. I'm wanted nowhere. Princeton dismissed me as a professor. UNESCO wouldn't even have me as a science consultant. Before, even if they had begged on their knees, I wouldn't have wanted the position. I even thought of going to Israel to be president, but they changed their minds and said I was nothing but a fraud. . . ."
Einstein began playing again, picking up right where he had stopped. After listening to him for a while, Wang strode toward the UN building.
"There's no one in there" Einstein said, still playing. "All the members of the General Assembly session are behind the building attending the Pendulum Initiation Ceremony."
Wang walked around the building and was greeted by a breathtaking sight: a colossal pendulum that seemed to stretch between the sky and the earth. In fact, Wang had seen it peeking out from behind the building, but he didn't know what he was seeing.
The pendulum resembled those constructed by Fu Xi to hypnotize the sun god during the Warring States Period, back when Wang Miao first logged on to Three Body. But the pendulum before him had been completely modernized. The two pillars holding up the pendulum were made of metal, each as tall as the Eiffel Tower. The weight was also made of metal, streamlined, with a smooth, mirrorlike, electroplated surface. The pendulum line, made of some ultrastrong material, was so thin as to be almost invisible, and the weight seemed to float in the air between the two towers.
Below the pendulum was a crowd of people dressed in suits, probably the leaders of the various countries attending the General Assembly session. They gathered in small cliques and talked amongst themselves quietly, as though waiting for something.
"Ah, Copernicus, the man who crossed five eras!" someone shouted. The others welcomed him.
"You're one of those who saw the pendulums of the Warring States Period with your own eyes!" A friendly man shook and held Wang's hand. Someone introduced the man as the secretary general of the UN, from Africa.
"Yes, I did see them," Wang said. "But why are we building another one now?"
"It's a monument for Trisolaris, as well as a tombstone." The secretary general looked up at the pendulum. From down here, it appeared as big as a submarine.
"A tombstone? For who?"
'For an aspiration, a striving that lasted through almost two hundred civilizations: the effort to solve the three-body problem, to find the pattern in the suns' movements."
"Is the effort over?"
"Yes. As of now, it's completely over."
Wang hesitated for a moment before taking out a stack of papers, Wei Cheng's three-body mathematical model. "I... I came here for this. I brought a mathematical model that solves the three-body problem. I have reason to believe it will likely work."
As soon as Wang said this, the crowd around him lost interest. They returned to their cliques to continue their conversations. He noticed that a few even shook their heads and laughed as they left him. The secretary general took the document and, without even glancing at it, handed it to a slender man wearing glasses standing next to him. "Out of respect for your famed reputation, I'll have my science advisor take a look. Indeed, everyone here has shown you respect. If anyone else had said what you said, they'd be laughing at him."
The science advisor flipped through the document. "Evolutionary algorithm? Copernicus, you're a genius. Anyone who can come up with such an algorithm is a genius. This requires not only superior math skills, but also imagination."
"You seem to be suggesting that someone has already created such a mathematical model?"
"Yes. There are dozens of other mathematical models. Of those, more than half are more advanced than yours. They've all been implemented and run on computers. During the past two centuries, such massive computation became the principal activity of this world. Everyone waited for the results as if waiting for Judgment Day."
"We have definitively proven that the three-body problem has no solution."
Wang gazed up at the massive pendulum overhead. In the dawn light, it was crystal bright. Its deformed mirrorlike surface reflected everything around it like the eye of the world. In this place, in a distant age separated from the here and now by many civilizations, he and King Wen had passed through a forest of giant pendulums on their way to the palace of King Zhou. Just like that, history had made a long circuit and returned to its starting place.
The science advisor said, "It's just like we guessed long ago: The three-body system is a chaotic system. Tiny perturbations can be endlessly amplified. Its patterns of movement essentially cannot be mathematically predicted "
Wang felt his scientific knowledge and system of thought become a blur in a single moment. In their place was unprecedented confusion. "If even an extremely simple arrangement like the three-body system is unpredictable chaos, how can we have any faith in discovering the laws of the complicated universe?"
"God is a shameless old gambler. He has abandoned us!" The speaker was Einstein, waving his violin. Wang didn't know when he had shown up.
The secretary general slowly nodded. "Yes, God is a gambler. The only hope for Trisolaran civilization is to gamble as well."
By now, the giant moon was rising again from the dark side of the horizon. Its large, silvery image was reflected by the surface of the pendulum weight. The light wriggled strangely, as though the weight and the moon had developed a mysterious sympathy together.
"This civilization seems to have developed to a very advanced state" Wang said.
"Yes. We've mastered the energy of the atom and reached the Information Age." The secretary general didn't seem to be too impressed by his own words.
"Then there is hope: Even if it's impossible to know the pattern of the suns' movements, civilization can continue to develop until it reaches a stage where it can survive the Chaotic Eras by protecting itself against the devastating catastrophes of those eras."
"People once thought as you do. That was one of the motivating forces pushing Trisolaran civilization to tenaciously come back again and again. But the moon made us realize the naivete of such an idea." The secretary general pointed to the rising giant moon. "This is probably the first time you've seen this moon. Actually, since it's about a quarter of the size of our planet, it's no longer a moon, but a companion to our world in a double planet system. It resulted from the great rip."
"The great rip?"
"The disaster that destroyed the last civilization. Compared to the civilizations before it, they had ample warning of the disaster. Based on surviving records, the astronomers of Civilization 191 detected a frozen flying star early on."
Wang's heart clenched as he heard the last phrase. A frozen flying star was a terrible omen for Trisolaris. When a flying star, or a distant sun, seems to come to a complete stop against the background starfield, then the sun's and the planet's motion vectors are aligned. This has three possible interpretations: the sun and the planet are moving in the same direction at the same speed; the sun and the planet are moving apart from each other; and the sun and the planet are moving toward each other. Before Civilization 191, this last possibility was purely theoretical, a disaster that had never occurred. But the populations fear of it and their vigilance did not diminish, so much so that "frozen flying star" became an extremely unlucky phrase in many Trisolaran civilizations. A single flying star remaining still was sufficient to terrify everyone.
"And then three flying stars froze simultaneously. The people of Civilization 191 stood on the ground, gazing up helplessly at the three frozen flying stars, at the three suns falling directly toward their world. A few days later, one of the suns moved to a distance where its outer gaseous layer became visible. In the middle of a tranquil night, the star suddenly turned into a blazing sun. Separated by intervals of thirty hours or so, the other two suns also appeared in quick succession. This was not a normal kind of tri-solar day. By the time the last flying star turned into a sun, the first sun had already swept past the planet at extremely close range. Right after that, the other two suns swept past Trisolaris at even closer ranges, well within the planet's Roche limit(*31), such that the tidal forces imposed on Trisolaris by the three suns exceeded the force of the planets gravitational self-attraction. The first sun shook the deepest geological structure of the planet; the second sun tore open a great rift in the planet that went straight to the core; and the third sun ripped the planet into two pieces."
[Author's Note(*31): Roche limit: Edouard Roche. French astronomer, was the first to calculate the theoretical distance between two celestial bodies such that the smaller body will be torn apart by tidal forces from the larger body. The Roche limit is usually expressed as a function of the densities of the bodies and the equatorial radius of the larger body.]
The secretary general pointed at the giant moon overhead. "That's the smaller piece. There are still ruins from Civilization 191 on it, but it's a lifeless world. It was the most terrible disaster in the entire history of Trisolaris. After the planet was torn apart, the two irregularly shaped pieces each returned to spherical form under self-gravitation. The dense, searing planetary core material gushed to the surface, and the oceans boiled over the lava. The continents drifted over the magma like icebergs. As they collided, the ground became as soft as the ocean. Massive mountain ranges tens of thousands of meters high rose in an hour and disappeared just as quickly.
"For a while, the two ripped-apart pieces were still connected by streams of molten lava that coalesced into a space-spanning river. Then the lava cooled and turned into rings around the planets, but because of perturbations from the planets, the rings were unstable. The rocks that formed them fell back to the surface in a rain of giant stones that lasted several centuries. . . . Can you imagine what kind of hell that was? The ecological destruction caused by this catastrophe was the most severe in all of history. All life on the companion planet went extinct, and the mother planet almost became a lifeless waste as well. But in the end, the seeds of life managed to germinate here, and as the geology of the mother planet settled down, evolution began its tottering steps in new oceans and on new continents, until civilization reappeared for the one hundred and ninety-second time. The entire process took ninety million years.
"Trisolaris's place in the universe is even more grim than we had imagined. What will happen the next time frozen flying stars occur? Very likely, our planet will not just skim past the edge of the sun, but will plunge into the fiery sea of the sun itself. Given enough time, this possibility will become certainty.
"This was originally just a frightening speculation, but a recent astronomical discovery has caused us to lose all hope for the fate of Trisolaris. The researchers had intended to recover the history of the formation of the stars and the planets based on signs in this stellar system. Instead, they discovered that, in the distant past, the Trisolaran stellar system had twelve planets. Yet, now only this one remains.
"There is only one 'explanation: The other eleven planets have all been consumed by the three suns! Our world is nothing more than the sole survivor of a Great Hunt. The fact that civilization has been reincarnated a hundred and ninety-two times is only a kind of luck. Also, after further study, we discovered the phenomenon of 'breathing' by the three stars."
"The stars breathe?"
"It's only a metaphor. You discovered the gaseous outer layer of the suns, but you didn't know that this gaseous layer expands and contracts over cycles lasting eons, like breathing. When the gaseous layer expands, its thickness can grow by more than a dozen times. This greatly increases the diameter of the sun, like a giant mitt that can catch planets more easily. When a planet passes by a sun at close range, it will enter the sun's gaseous layer. Friction will cause it to lose speed, and finally, like a meteor, it will fall into the blazing sea of the sun, dragging a long, fiery tail.
"The study results show that in the long history of the Trisolaran stellar system, every time the suns' gaseous layers expanded, one or two planets were consumed. The other eleven planets all fell into a fiery sea during times when the gaseous layers were at their greatest. Right now, the gaseous layers of the three suns are in a contracted stage—otherwise our planet would have already fallen into one of them the last time they skimmed past. But scholars predict that the next expansion will occur in one thousand years."
"We can t stay in this terrible place anymore," Einstein said, crouched down on the ground like an old beggar.
The secretary general nodded. "We can't stay here any longer. The only path left for Trisolaran civilization is to gamble with the universe."
"How?" Wang asked.
"We must leave the Trisolaran stellar system and fly into the wide open sea of stars. We must find in the galaxy a new world to emigrate to."
Wang heard a grinding noise. He saw that the giant weight of the pendulum was being pulled up by a thin cable whose other end was attached to an elevated winch. As it rose to its highest point, a great waning crescent moon descended slowly in the sky behind it.
The secretary general solemnly announced, "Start the pendulum."
The elevated winch released the cable tied to the pendulum, and the weight noiselessly fell along a smooth arc. Initially, it fell slowly, but then it accelerated, reaching maximum speed at the bottom of the arc. As it sliced through the air, the sound of the wind was deep and resonant. By the time the noise disappeared, the pendulum had followed the arc to its highest point on the other side, and, after pausing for a moment, began its backward swing.
Wang felt the great force generated by the movement of the pendulum, as though the ground was shaken by its swings. Unlike a pendulum in the real world, this giant pendulum's period was not stable, but changed constantly. This was due to the continually shifting gravitational attraction of the giant moon. When the giant moon was on this side of the planet, its gravity partially canceled out the gravity of the planet, causing the pendulum to lose weight. When it was on the other side of the planet, its gravity was added to the gravity of the planet, causing the pendulums weight to increase, almost to the level it would have had before the great rip.
As he gazed up at the awe-inspiring swings of the Trisolaran Pendulum Monument, Wang asked himself, Does it represent the yearning for order, or the surrender to chaos? Wang also thought of the pendulum as a gigantic metal fist, swinging eternally against the unfeeling universe, noiselessly shouting out Trisolaran civilization's indomitable battle cry. . . .
As Wang Miao's eyes blurred with tears, he saw a line of text appear against the background of the swinging pendulum:
Four hundred and fifty-one years later, Civilization 192 was destroyed by the fiery flames of twin suns appearing together. It had reached the Atomic Age and the Information Age.
Civilization 192 was a milestone in Trisolaran civilization. It finally proved that the three-body problem had no solution. It gave up the useless effort that had already lasted through 191 cycles and set the course for future civilizations. Thus, the goal of Three Body has changed.
The new goal is: Head for the stars; find a new home.
We invite you to log on again.
After logging out of Three Body, Wang felt exhausted, the same way he did after each previous session. But this time, he only rested half an hour before logging in again.
This time, against the pitch-black background, an unexpected line of text appeared:
The situation is urgent. The Three Body servers are about to be shut down. Please log on freely during the remaining time. Three Body will now go directly to the final scene.
Chapter 19 Vocabulary Note
grain - the natural lines you can see in wood, which are the result of its structure
wane - when the moon wanes, you gradually see less of it
crescent - a curved shape that is wider in the middle and pointed at the ends
strain - the sound of music being played
rip - to tear something quickly and violently
curvature of space-time - the degree to which the space and time is curved
perturbation - a small change in the movement of something
electroplate - to put a very think layer of metal onto the surface of an object
clique - a small group of people who think they are special and do not want other people to join them
aspiration - a strong desire to achieve something; ambition
striving - great effort made to achieve something
tenaciously - determined to do something and unwilling to stop trying even when the situation becomes difficult
naivete - lack experience of life, too easy to believe things and trust other people
clench - to suddenly become tight
vigilance - careful attention that you give to what is happening, so that you will notice danger
rift - a crack or narrow opening
searing - extremely hot
gush - if a liquid gushes, it flows or pours out quickly and in large quantity
magma - hot melted rock below the surface of the Earth
molten - molten metal or rock has been made into a liquid by being heated to a very high temperature
germinate - to begin to grow, to develop
totter - to walk to move unsteadily from side to side as if you are going to fall over
recover - to learn about history again
be reincarnated - to be born again in another body after you have died
eon - an extremely long period of time; 
meteor - a piece of rock or metal has travels through space, ans makes a bright line in the night sky when it falls down towards the Earth
winch - a machine with a rope or chain for lifting heavy objects
resonant - if a sound is resonant, it is deep, loud, clear and continues for a long time
unfeeling - not sympathetic towards other people's feelings
indomitable - having great determination or courage


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