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生活在爱因斯坦的世界中[Live in Einstein’s World]

本文属阅读资料
导读:在二十世纪初古典物理学出现危机的关键时刻,爱因斯坦是推动物理学革命思想的一面光辉旗帜。他独自发现了狭义相对论和广义相对论,从根本上改变了传统的绝对时空观念,将时空、物质和作用力通过对称性统一起来。从狭义相对论出发,他提出了质量和能量等价的公式,开辟了原子能的时代。从广义相对论和核能出发,他和一批科学家发展了宇宙构造和起源的模式,他提出的宇宙常数预示了产生排斥力的暗能量的存在。他和普兰克及玻尔一起是量子论的主要奠基人,他提出了集波动性和粒子性于一身的光量子学说,解释了光电效应,促进了量子波动力学的发现。他发展了原子论和统计力学,解释了从布朗运动、固体比热到受激辐射等一系列现象,他和玻色合作,建立了玻色-爱因斯坦量子统计理论,预见了玻色凝聚态的存在。他置疑量子力学提出的量子纠缠态,开辟了量子信息学的新领域。他在晚年致力于统一场论,虽然没有取得他预期的结果,但他提出的从高维几何局域对称性出发进行统一相互作用力的思想至今仍指导着基本相互作用大统一理论的发展方向,在他逝世后的半个世纪中,已经在弱电和强相互作用的统一中得到体现。在爱因斯坦的狭义相对论发表100周年之际,在纪念这位伟大的物理学家的同时,我们更当反思,爱因斯坦何以成为伟人?



Einstein’s theories buttress every facet of modern life

爱因斯坦的理论支撑着现代生活的方方面面



It’s all Einstein’s fault.



6 a.m. Your satellite-enabled alarm clock goes off.



Blame Albert Einstein for rousting you out of bed. Your clock sounds precisely at 6 a.m. because it’s one of those fancy digital models that is synchronized with the government’s atomic clocks and calibrated every second through the Global Positioning Satellite array circling the Earth. If they could not correct for the effects of relativity, Einstein’s most famous discovery, GPS signals would accumulate so many errors that their data would be meaningless.



6:15 a.m. You nick yourself shaving and drip toothpaste on your shirt.



Blame Einstein for the mess. His creation of a formula to measure the size of molecules dissolved in liquids made it possible for scientists — among many other, more important, leaps — to create or improve thousands of consumer products, including better shaving creams and toothpastes.



6:30 a.m. You click on the television to check the weather and traffic. It’s raining, and the traffic cameras show that the cars are already backed up for miles on the interstate. It’s going to be a rough commute.



Blame Einstein for your bad mood. His declaration of the photoelectric effect made possible the eventual invention of television cameras. And the remotes that control them. Also, digital cameras wouldn’t work.



You’ve been up for just a half-hour, and already your day is being controlled by Albert Einstein.



“How do you explain it?” asked John Rigden, a physicist at Washington University in St. Louis and author of “Einstein 1905.” After all, when Time magazine named Einstein its Person of the Century, it chose him over “all of the other people that made their indelible mark on the 20th century, all of the practical people — [Bill] Gates, you could go on and on.”



The flash of inspiration



Most likely, we think of Einstein first as the man who paved the way to development of the atomic bomb. This is not the right way to look at him.



Michel Janssen, a science and technology historian at the University of Minnesota, points out that Einstein had virtually nothing to do with developing the bomb, which grew out of the work of more up-to-date physicists in the 1930s. Einstein, in fact, was refused security clearance to have any role in the Manhattan Project, said Janssen, who was trained as a physicist and edited the volumes of Einstein’s collected papers on relativity.



However, many of Einstein’s other theories, which began pouring out in a burst of incandescent creativity 100 years ago, turned physics and our understanding of the natural world on their heads, giving scientists the tools to mold almost every observable aspect of life as we live it in 2005.



Einstein’s work gave us much more than eventual perfection of television, remote controls and digital cameras. His postulation of the photon (a “particle” of light) and the photoelectric effect — which was described in his first great paper of 1905 and won him the Nobel Prize in 1921 — gave us scores of everyday applications.



Einstein’s identifying of photons underlay the development of many of the advanced electronic inventions of the 20th century. It was the statement of the quantum effect, without which we would not have cellular telephones or smoke detectors or burglar alarms or those doors that automatically open at the supermarket or on the elevator.



Indeed, you can argue that the entire field of computers and semiconductors owes its existence to Einstein’s paper of March 17, 1905. That’s why it’s pointless to speculate about what he might have accomplished had he been born 75 or 80 years later and therefore been able to use computers. Without his having done the work he did when he did it, we might not have computers today, or at least not in the form we recognize.



Albert who?



Moreover, it’s possible that in today’s scientific world, Einstein would have trouble getting his ideas heard.



Science today is an institutionalized pursuit, regimented by a hierarchy of credentials. What are your degrees? What university or research institute are you affiliated with? How much peer-reviewed research have you published? How much grant money can you command?



While Einstein’s work at the patent office in Bern, Switzerland, gave him wide opportunity to conduct sophisticated experiments on advanced submissions, he was, in his great year of 1905, still a 26-year-old government worker.



Recognizing ‘something profound’



“Would Einstein be able, in 2005, to become recognized as he did in 1905?” Rigden asked. “That’s a really open question.



“It’s not clear to me that he would be able to do that. If intelligent people really gave his manuscripts a careful read, they would have recognized something profound. He might be published, but boy, it’s not clear. He was fortunate to have lived when he did.”



Robert Schulmann, who co-edited Einstein’s collected papers and is former director of the Einstein Papers Project, is more hopeful that his voice would have broken through.



The journal that published his 1905 papers, Annalen der Physik, was the leading physics journal of the day. Among the editors who reviewed his submissions were Nobel laureate Wilhelm Roentgen, who discovered X-rays, and Max Planck, another Nobel winner, who came as close to matching Einstein in sheer brain power as anyone else ever did. If such esteemed editors found merit in the theories of the government clerk then, Schulmann said, it is likely that they would do so today.



But even Schulmann said it would be an iffy proposition. Much of Einstein’s work was multidisciplinary and abstract, while physics today is focused and empirical.



“The possibility of coming out of almost nowhere, for a number of reasons, wouldn’t work today because of the highly philosophical character of his work. The questions he asked himself ... deal with space and time, which are philosophical concepts,” said Schulmann, who is at work on a biography of Einstein.



Janssen said there was “something special about the age that Einstein was working where he was, in a way, the right man at the right time at the right place. Between 1900 and 1925, you saw this tremendous overhaul of physics, and it is hard to imagine that today we’re going to see an overhaul on that scale.”



You can’t take a step without smacking into Einstein



The paper on the photoelectric effect was just one of several that Einstein issued in 1905 that fundamentally altered how physicists look at the world. From the other papers came an almost equally wide range of modern applications:



Compact disc and DVD players use lasers, which Einstein first theorized in 1917 in advancing his work on the photoelectric and photovoltaic effects. “We have lasers in every supermarket checkout lane,” Rigden said.



Medical revolutions like the PET scan rest on positrons, described by science journalist Robert Matthews as “antimatter electrons,” whose existence was implied by special relativity and quantum theory. (Science fiction revolutions, too: Antimatter, in reaction with matter, is what makes the Enterprise jump into warp speed in the “Star Trek” universe.)



Carbon dating. We can take a stab at measuring how old fossils are thanks to Einstein (E=mc2 shows that mass and energy are interconnected; by measuring the degradation of nuclei in atoms of organic materials, the theory goes, we can measure how long they’ve been degrading).



And all those everyday consumer products, which owe their existence, in no small part, to manufacturing methods that wouldn’t work without Einstein’s enunciation of the atomic theory of matter. In essence, he proved that atoms exist.



Before Einstein’s paper of May 1905, “many reputable scientists didn’t believe in atoms,” Rigden said. “May 1905 put the last nail in the coffin [of atomism naysayers]. No longer could the reality of atoms be denied.



“The nucleus wasn’t even discovered until 1909, so Einstein’s prescience was off the charts.”

Most important, perhaps, was Einstein’s restoration of the belief in the power of reason and intellect. He gave science back its confidence.



“Before the First World War, there was still a lot of faith in rationality. The First World War smashed this faith in reason pretty irreparably,” Schulmann said. “And here you had a man detached from all of the events of the First World War, basically, who with a pencil and paper was able to explain the logical and rational way that the world and the universe worked.”

Rigden suggested that “the first contribution that Einstein made that dramatically affects our lives was that he did it with the power of his mind.”



Einstein “wasn’t blessed with experimental data — it was mostly abstract ideas,” he said. “That is a distinctive aspect of homo sapiens: We have a big brain. ...

“He is a standard because of what he did. And how he did it.” ■



都是爱因斯坦的过错。

早晨6时。你的由卫星激活的闹钟响了。

要怪就怪爱因斯坦把你从床上叫起来吧。你的闹钟在早上6点整响起,因为它是那种非同寻常的数字闹钟。这种闹钟的时间与政府的原子钟同步,它们每秒钟都通过环绕地球运行的一系列全球定位卫星来校准。如果全球定位系统不能修正相对论效应——爱因斯坦最著名的发现相对论的产物,这些信号就会积累大量的误差,其数据就会变得毫无意义。

早晨6?15。你刮脸时刮出一个伤口,刷牙时又把牙膏弄到了衬衫上。

这一团糟全怪爱因斯坦。他所创造的测量溶解于液体的分子大小的方程式——使科学家们在做出许许多多重要发明之外,还有可能创造或改进数以千计的消费品,包括更好的剃须膏和牙膏。

早晨6?30。你打开电视查看天气和交通状况。正在下雨。交通摄像机显示,州际公路上堵车数英里。上班的路会很难走。

你的情绪糟糕就怪爱因斯坦。他对光电效应的阐述使电视摄像机的最终发明成为可能。还有控制摄像机的遥控器。同样,数码摄像机也不会问世。

你起床才半小时,而你的一天就已经被阿尔伯特·爱因斯坦所控制了。

圣路易斯华盛顿大学物理学家、《1905年的爱因斯坦》一书作者约翰·里格登问道:“你对此作何解释?”毕竟,《时代》杂志提名爱因斯坦为该杂志的世纪人物,淘汰了“给20世纪留下了不可磨灭印记的其他所有人,所有那些实干家——例如比尔·盖茨,你还能列举更多。”

灵感的闪现

我们很可能首先会把爱因斯坦看作为研制原子弹铺平了道路的人。而这样看待他是欠妥的。

明尼苏达大学科技史学家米歇尔·詹森指出,爱因斯坦与原子弹的研制几乎毫无关系。原子弹乃是20世纪30年代的新一代物理学家的研究成果。詹森是物理学家出身,曾编辑过爱因斯坦的相对论论文全集。他说,事实上,爱因斯坦未能通过参与曼哈顿计划所必须经过的忠贞审查。

然而,爱因斯坦的其他理论100年前开始泉涌而出,爆发出杰出的创造性,其中许多理论使物理学和我们原本对自然界的理解颠倒了过来,从而为科学家们提供了工具,用以塑造包括我们2005年生活中几乎每一个可察觉到的方面。

爱因斯坦的研究给予我们的远非电视、遥控器和数码相机最终的完善。他关于光子(光“微粒”)和光电效应的假设——其论述见于他1905年的第一篇重要论文,该假设使他获得了1921年的诺贝尔奖——为我们提供了几十种日常应用。

爱因斯坦对光子的确认奠定了20世纪的许多先进电子发明的开发基础。那便是有关量子效应的表述。没有这种表述,我们就不会有移动电话、烟雾报警器、防盗警报器,也不会有超市或电梯中的那些自动开启的门。

实际上可以说,整个计算机和半导体领域的产生都归功于爱因斯坦1905年3月17日的那篇论文。这就是为什么推测假如他75年或80年以后出生,因而得以使用计算机会取得什么样的成就是毫无意义的。没有他在他的时代所做的工作,我们今天也许就不会有计算机,起码不会是我们今天所认识的这种计算机。

阿尔伯特何许人也?

再说,要是在今天的科学界,爱因斯坦很可能会难以发表自己的见解。

今天的科学是机构化的事业,由一大群具有各种学术等级证书的人所组成的团队来完成。你的学位是什么?你隶属于哪所大学或研究所?你所发表的经过同行评审的研究成果有多少?你能够掌管多少研究经费?

虽然爱因斯坦在瑞士伯尔尼专利局的工作使他获得了广泛的机会,以便就先进发明专利的申请进行复杂的实验,但是他在其了不起的1905年,还只是一名26岁的政府工作人员。

认识到“深奥之处”

“要是在2005年,爱因斯坦能够像他在1905年那样获得承认吗?”里格登问道,“这确实是个悬而未决的问题。”

“我不清楚他能否做到这一点。如果有识之士真的认真阅读他的手稿,他们就会认识到其中的深奥之处。他的论文也许会得以发表,可是,伙计,这很难说。他有幸生活在他那个时代。”

罗伯特·舒尔曼是爱因斯坦论文全集的编纂者之一,也是“爱因斯坦论文课题”的前负责人。对于若在今天,爱氏能否赢得发言权,他抱有较大希望。

刊登他的1905年论文的期刊《物理学纪事》是当时最重要的物理学刊物。担任他所提交论文评审的编辑包括诺贝尔奖获得者、发现了X射线的威廉·伦琴和另外一位诺贝尔奖得主马克斯·普朗克。后者是有史以来在纯智力方面与爱因斯坦最相匹敌的人。舒尔曼说,如果这样一些受敬重的编辑们在这位时为政府职员的理论中发现了其价值所在,那么在今天,他们很可能也会做到这一点。

但是,就连舒尔曼也说,这一提法具有很大不确定性。爱因斯坦的研究成果大多是多学科的和抽象的,而今天的物理学则具有很强的针对性和实验性。

舒尔曼正在撰写一部爱因斯坦的传记。他说:“由于他的研究带有很强的哲学性质,所以出于诸多原因,在今天,名不见经传的他要想一举成名是不可能的。他所自问的问题……涉及空间与时间,这些都是哲学概念。”

詹森说,爱因斯坦工作的时代有其特殊之处。从某种意义上讲,他享有天时、地利、人和。从1900年到1925年,你可以看到物理学的这种彻底革新。很难想像,在今天,我们会见到如此规模的革新。

爱因斯坦的理论遍地开花

关于光电效应的论文仅仅是爱因斯坦1905年发表的、根本改变了物理学家们世界观的几篇论文之一。其他几篇论文也带来了几乎同样广泛的现代应用:

光盘和DVD播放机利用了激光,而爱因斯坦1917年在推出其有关光电效应和光生伏打效应的研究成果时,最先提出了这方面的理论。里格登说:“在每个超市收银台,我们都应用了激光。”

PET(正电子发射计算机显像)扫描等医学革命有赖于正电子。科学记者罗伯特·马修斯称之为“反物质电子”。其存在已包含在狭义相对论和量子理论中。(此外还有科幻小说革命:在《星际迷航记》的宇宙中,与物质发生反应的反物质使星舰“企业号”航速提升到空间翘曲速度。)

根据碳14来测定年代。多亏了爱因斯坦,我们能够尝试推测古化石有多长历史(公式E=mc2表明,物质和能量相互关联;该理论认为,通过测量有机物中原子核的衰变,我们能够衡量它们已经衰变了多久)。

还有所有那些日常消费品。其存在在很大程度上都得归功于那样一些制造方法,没有爱因斯坦对物质的原子理论的阐明,就不会有这些制造方法。从实质上讲,他证明了原子的存在。

里格登说,在爱因斯坦1905年5月的论文发表以前,“许多有名望的科学家都不相信存在原子。1905年5月彻底击败了否定原子论的人们。从此原子存在这一现实再也无法被否认了。”

“原子核甚至直到1909年才被发现。因此,爱因斯坦的先知能力可以说实在是太了不起。”

也许最重要的是,爱因斯坦使人们重新相信推理和才智的力量。他使科学重新获得了信心。

舒尔曼说:“一战以前,人们仍然对理性深信不疑。第一次世界大战无法挽回地粉碎了这一理性信念。而此翁则远离一战纷乱的世事,基本上是用一支铅笔和一张纸,就得以合乎逻辑与理性地解释了世界和宇宙的运转法则。”

里格登说:“爱因斯坦所做出的显著影响我们生活的第一项贡献就是,他的这一贡献全凭自己大脑的力量。”

他说,爱因斯坦“未能享有实验数据——他的成果主要是抽象的思想。而这正是人类独具特色的一面:我们有一个硕大的大脑。……”

“由于他的成就以及取得成就的方式,他是一面旗帜。” (尹宏毅 译自Newsweek Apr. 19,2005)
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