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全新版大学英语综合教程第一册03

Unit 3

Understanding Science

Part I Pre-reading Task

Listen to the recording two or three times and then think over the following questions:

1. Who is it about?

2. What questions interest him?

3. What makes his achievements so remarkable?

Script for the recording:

This unit begins with an article on science. Before you read it, let me tell you something about its author, Stephen Hawking.

Hawking is perhaps the most well-known scientist since Einstein. Like Einstein his work tackles the big questions, questions such as how did the universe begin? Why is the universe the way it is? And how will it end? He is now working on what is sometimes known as the ‘theory of everything.’ Among other things, this promises to explain what caused the Big Bang that started the universe.

But it is not simply the power of Hawking’s mind that has led to his fame. For what many people find most striking about him is the contrast between the strength of his mind and the weakness of his body. For for many years Hawking has suffered from an illness that has left him unable to move and to speak normally.

Born in England in 1942, Hawking had a normal childhood, and it was not until he was a student at university that his illness started to affect him. Hospital tests showed he was suffering from a disease that weakens control over the muscles. The disease gets worse with time and there is no known cure. But Hawing did not lost heart. As he says, ‘although there was a cloud hanging over my future, I found to my surprise, that I was enjoying life more than before. I began to make progress with my research, and I got engaged to a girl called Jane Wilde. That engagement changed my life. It gave me something to live for.’

Hawking started research at Cambridge and went on to hold the same post that another great scientist, Newton, once held. Over the years his condition has worsened, but even when he finally lost the ability to speak, he managed to get round the problem. He now uses a computer that enables him to select words which are then turned into speech. ‘The only trouble,’ the English scientist says, ‘is that it gives me an American accent!’

The following words in the recording may be new to you:

universe

n. 宇宙

muscle

n. 肌肉

engage

v. 与…订婚

Part II

Text A

Professor Hawking thinks it important to keep everybody in touch with what science is about. In this article he explains why.

PUBLIC ATTITUDES TOWARD SCIENCE

Whether we like it or not, the world we live in has changed a great deal in the last hundred years, and it is likely to change even more in the next hundred. Some people would like to stop these changes and go back to what they see as a purer and simpler age. But as history shows, the past was not that wonderful. It was not so bad for a privileged minority, though even they had to do without modern medicine, and childbirth was highly risky for women. But for the vast majority of the population, life was nasty, brutish, and short.

Anyway, even if one wanted to, one couldn't put the clock back to an earlier age. Knowledge and techniques can't just be forgotten. Nor can one prevent further advances in the future. Even if all government money for research were cut off (and the present government is doing its best), the force of competition would still bring about advances in technology. Moreover, one cannot stop inquiring minds from thinking about basic science, whether or not they are paid for it. The only way to prevent further developments would be a global state that suppressed anything new, and human initiative and inventiveness are such that even this wouldn't succeed. All it would do is slow down the rate of change.

If we accept that we cannot prevent science and technology from changing our world, we can at least try to ensure that the changes they make are in the right directions. In a democratic society, this means that the public needs to have a basic understanding of science, so that it can make informed decisions and not leave them in the hands of experts. At the moment, the public is in two minds about science. It has come to expect the steady increase in the standard of living that new developments in science and technology have brought to continue, but it also distrusts science because it doesn't understand it. This distrust is evident in the cartoon figure of the mad scientist working in his laboratory to produce a Frankenstein. It is also an important element behind support for the Green parties. But the public also has a great interest in science, particularly astronomy, as is shown by the large audiences for television series such as The Sky at Night and for science fiction.

What can be done to harness this interest and give the public the scientific background it needs to make informed decisions on subjects like acid rain, the greenhouse effect, nuclear weapons, and genetic engineering? Clearly, the basis must lie in what is taught in schools. But in schools science is often presented in a dry and uninteresting manner. Children learn it by rote to pass examinations, and they don't see its relevance to the world around them. Moreover, science is often taught in terms of equations. Although equations are a brief and accurate way of describing mathematical ideas, they frighten most people. When I wrote a popular book recently, I was advised that each equation I included would halve the sales. I included one equation, Einstein's famous equation, E=mc2. Maybe I would have sold twice as many copies without it.

Scientists and engineers tend to express their ideas in the form of equations because they need to know the precise values of quantities. But for the rest of us, a qualitative grasp of scientific concepts is sufficient, and this can be conveyed by words and diagrams, without the use of equations.

The science people learn in school can provide the basic framework. But the rate of scientific progress is now so rapid that there are always new developments that have occurred since one was at school or university. I never learned about molecular biology or transistors at school, but genetic engineering and computers are two of the developments most likely to change the way we live in the future. Popular books and magazine articles about science can help to put across new developments, but even the most successful popular book is read by only a small proportion of the population. Only television can reach a truly mass audience. There are some very good science programmes on TV, but others present scientific wonders simply as magic, without explaining them or showing how they fit into the framework of scientific ideas. Producers of television science programmes should realize that they have a responsibility to educate the public, not just entertain it.

The world today is filled with dangers, hence the sick joke that the reason we have not been contacted by an alien civilization is that civilizations tend to destroy themselves when they reach our stage. But I have sufficient faith in the good sense of the public to believe that we might prove this wrong.

(812 words)

New Words and Expressions

attitude

n. 看法;态度

likely

a. probable 可能的

ad. probably 可能

privileged

a. having a special advantage 有特权的

privilege

n. 特权

minority

n. 少数

do without

没有…而设法对付过去

highly

ad. very 很,非常

risky

a. full of danger; full of the possibility of failure, loss, etc. 危险的;有风险的

nasty

a. very unpleasant 令人难受的

brutish

a. 野兽般的,野蛮的

anyway

ad. (used to change the subject of a conversation or to support an idea or argument) anyhow 不管怎么说

put/turn the clock back

倒退,开倒车

cut off

stop providing (sth.); remove (sth.) by cutting 切断,中断;切下,剪下

competition

n. 竞争;比赛

bring about

make (sth.) happen 引起,导致

technology

n. 技术

moreover

ad. 而且,再者

inquiring

a. showing an interest in knowing about things 好问的,爱探索的

inquire

v. 询问

global

a. worldwide, of the whole earth 世界的,全球的

suppress▲

vt. keep from appearing 抑制;压制

initiative

n. 首创精神;主动

inventiveness

n. 发明才能,创造力

slow down

make slower 减慢

rate

n. 速度;比率

ensure

vt. make sure 保证,确保

democratic

a. 民主的

informed

a. 有知识的,了解情况的;明智的

inform

vt. 告诉,通知

expert

n. 专家

at the moment

now 此刻,目前

in two minds

犹豫不决;三心二意

steady

a. constant; firm 平稳的;稳定的

evident

a. clear, obvious 明显的

cartoon

n. 漫画;动画片

element

n. 成分;元素

astronomy▲

n. 天文学

audience

n. 观众;听众;读者

series

n. 连续;系列;系列节目

fiction

n. 小说;虚构

harness

vt. control and make use of 驾驭;利用

background

n. 背景

acid

a., n. 酸(性的);酸味的(物质)

greenhouse

n. 温室

nuclear

a. 原子核的;核心的

weapon

n. 武器

genetic▲

a. 基因的;遗传(学)的

  engineering

n. 工程;工程学

basis

n. 基础

lie in

exist or be found in 在于

rote

n. 死记硬背

learn by rote

死记硬背地学习

relevance

n. 相关,关联

in terms of

从…方面(或角度)来说;按照,根据

equation

n. 等式,方程(式)

brief

a. short; quick 简洁的;短暂的

accurate

a. exact 准确的,精确的

mathematical

a. 数学的

halve

vt. 将…减半

tend

vi. be likely to happen or have a particular characteristic or effect 倾向,趋向

in the form of

having the shape of; existing in a particular form 呈…的形状;以…形式

precise

a. exact 精确的

qualitative

a. 定性的;性质上的

grasp

n. understanding 掌握,了解

concept

n. 概念

sufficient

a. as much as is needed, enough 充分的,足够的

convey

vt. make (ideas, feelings, etc.) known to another 传达;表达

diagram

n. 图表;图解

framework

n. 框架;结构

molecular

a. 分子的

biology

n. 生物学

transistor

n. 晶体管;晶体管收音机

put across

cause to be understood 解释清楚,使被理解

proportion

n. 比例;部分

truly

ad. 真正地;确实地

magic

n. 魔术;魔力

fit into

be part of a situation, system, etc.;be part of a group of people or things 适合;符合;属于

responsibility

n. 责任

educate

vt. teach or train 教育

entertain

vt. give pleasure to; have as a guest 给…以欢乐;招待

hence

ad. as a result, therefore; from this time 因此;从此

contact

vt. get in touch with 与…接触

alien▲

a. foreign; strange 外国的;陌生的

civilization

n. 文明

Proper Names

Stephen Hawking

斯蒂芬•霍金

Einstein

爱因斯坦(1897-1955,美籍德国理论物理学家)
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