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大学英语精读:第五册 UNIT 8

2007-03-02 15:49   来源:旺旺英语       我要纠错 | 打印 | 收藏 | | |

  A victim of an incurable disease, Stephen Hawking is almost completely paralysed, confined to a wheelchair, and unable to speak. Yet, he has overcome every obstacle and achieved far more than most able-bodied people ever dream of accomplishing and become one of the greatest physicists of our time.

Roaming the Cosmos

by Le0on Jaroff

  Darkness has fallen on Cambridge, England, and on a damp and chilly evening king's Parade is filled with students and faculty. Then, down the crowded thoroughfare comes the University of Cambridge's most distinctive vehicle, bearing its most distinguished citizen. In the motorized wheelchair, boyish face dimly illuminated by a glowing computer screen attached to the left armrest, is Stephen William Hawking, 46, one of the world's greatest theoretical physicists. As he skillfully maneuvers through the crowd, motorists slow down, some honking their horns in greeting. People wave and shout hello.

  A huge smile lights up Hawking's bespectacled face, but he cannot wave or shout back. Since his early 20s, he has suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive deterioration of the central nervous system that usually causes death within three or four years. Hawking's illness has advanced more slowly, and now seems almost to have stabilized. Still, it has robbed him of virtually all movement. He has no control over most of his muscles, cannot dress or eat by himself and has lost his voice. Now he "speaks" only by using the slight voluntary movement left in his hands and fingers to operate his wheelchair's built-in computer and voice synthesizer.

  While ALS has made Hawking a virtual prisoner in his own body, it has left his courage and humor intact, his intellect free to roam. And roam it does, from the infinitesimal to the infinite, from the subatomic realm to the far reaches of the universe. In the course of these mental expeditions, Hawking has conceived startling new theories about black holes and the disorderly events that immediately followed the Big Bang from which the universe sprang. More recently, he has shaken both physicists and theologians by suggesting that the universe has no boundaries, was not created and will not be destroyed.

  Most of Stephen Hawking's innovative thinking occurs at Cambridge, where he is Lucasian professor of mathematics, a seat once occupied by Isaac Newton. There, in the Department of Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, he benevolently reigns over the relativity group, 15 overachieving graduate students from nine countries. On his office door is a small plaque irreverently reading QUIET, PLEASE. THE BOSS IS ASLEEP.

  Hardly. From midmorning until he departs for dinner around 7 p. m., Hawking follows a routine that would tax the most able-bodied, working in his book-lined office, amid photographs of his wife Jane and their three children. When he rolled into the department's common room one morning last month, his students were talking shop around low tables. Maneuvering to one of the tables, Hawking clicked his control switch, evoking tiny beeps from his computer and selecting words from lists displayed on his screen. These words, assembled in sequence at the bottom of the screen, finally issued from the voice synthesizer: "Good morning. Can I have coffee?" Then, for the benefit of a visitor: "I am sorry about my American accent." (The synthesizer is produced by a California company.)

  When the conversation shifted to creativity and how mathematicians seem to reach a creative peak in their early 20s, Hawking's computer beeped. "I'm over the hill," he said, to a chorus of laughter.

  Hawking was born on Jan. 8, 1942-300 years to the day, he often notes, after the death of Galileo. As a small boy, he was slow to learn to read but liked to take things apart though he confesses that he was never very good at putting things back together. When he was twelve, he recalls humorously, "one of my friends bet another friend a bag of sweets that I would never come to anything. I don't know if this bet was ever settled and, if so, who won.

  Fascinated by physics, Stephen concentrated in the subject at Oxford's University College, but did not distinguish himself. He partied, took a great interest in rowing and studied only an hour or so a day. Moving on to Cambridge for graduate work in relativity, he found the going rough, party because of some puzzling physical problems; he stumbled frequently and seemed to be getting clumsy.

  Doctors soon gave him the bad news: he had ALS, it would only get worse, and there was no cure. Hawking was overwhelmed. Before long, he needed a cane to walk, was drinking heavily and ignoring his studies. "There didn't seem to be much point in completing my Ph. D.," he says.

  Then Hawking's luck turned. The progress of the disease slowed, and Einsteinian space-time suddenly seemed less formidable. But what really made the difference, he says, "was that I got engaged to Jane," who was studying modern languages at Cambridge. "This gave me something to liver for." As he explains, "if we were to get married, I had to get a job. And to get a job, I had to finish my Ph. D. I started, working hard for the first time in my life. To my surprise, I found I liked it."

  What particularly interested Stephen was singularities, strange beasts predicted by general relativity. Einstein's equations indicated that when a star several times larger than the sun exhausts its nuclear fuel and collapses, its matter crushes together at its center with such force that it forms a singularity, an infinitely dense point with no dimensions and irresistible gravity. A voluminous region surrounding the singularity becomes a "black hole," from which —— because of that immense gravity —— nothing, not even light, can escape.

  Scientists years ago found compelling evidence that black holes exist, but they were uncomfortable with singularities, because all scientific laws break down at these points. Most physicists believed that in the real universe the object at the heart of a black hole would be small (but not dimensionless) and extremely dense (but not infinitely so). Enter Hawking. While still a graduate student, he and Mathematician Roger Penrose developed new techniques proving mathematically that if general relativity is correct, singularities must exist. Hawking went on to demonstrate - again if general relativity is correct - that the entire universe must have sprung from a singularity. As he wrote in his 1966 Ph. D. thesis, "There is a singularity in our past."

  Stephen later discerned several new characteristics of black holes and demonstrated that the amazing forces of the Big Bang would have created mini-black holes, each with a mass about that of a terrestrial mountain, but no larger than the subatomic proton. Then, applying the quantum theory (which accurately describes the random, uncertain subatomic world) instead of general relativity (which, it turns out, falters in that tiny realm), Hawking was startled to find that the mini-black holes must emit particles and radiation. Even more remarkable, the little holes would gradually evaporate and, 10 billion years or so after their creation, explode with the energy or millions of H-bombs.

  Hawking has visited the U. S. 30 times, made seven trips to Moscow, taken a round-the-word journey, and piloted his wheelchair on the Great Wall of China. On the road, the activities occasionally deviate somewhat from physics. One night Stephen accompanied a group to a Chicago discotheque, where he joined in the festivities by wheeling onto the dance floor and spinning his chair in circles.

  Recently, Hawking, who has no qualms about recanting his own work if he decides he was wrong, may have transcended his famous proof that singularities exist. With Physicist James Hartle. He has derived a quantum wave describing a self-contained universe that, like the earth's surface, has no edge or boundary. If that is the case, says Hawking, Einstein's general theory of relativity would have to be modified, and there would be no singularities. "The universe would not be created, not be destroyed; it would simply be," he concludes, adding challengingly, "What place, then, for a Creator?"

  NEW WORDS

  roam

  v.  go from one place to another without a goal or purpose; wander 漫游

  cosmos

  n.  the whole universe considered as an ordered system 宇宙

  cosmic

  a.

  damp

  a.  slightly wet; moist

  chilly

  a.  rather cold; unpleasantly cold

  chill

  n.

  faculty

  n.  all the teachers of a school or college

  thoroughfare

  n.  a busy main road 通衢

  distinguished

  a.  showing remarkable qualities 杰出的

  boyish

  a.  of or like a boy

  dimly

  ad. faintly; unclearly 黯淡地

  glow

  vi. give off a steady light; shine 发光

  armrest

  n.  a support for the arm, esp. one on the chair or couch 扶手

  motorist

  n.  a person who drives or rides in an automobile

  physicist

  n.  a person who studies or works in physics

  honk

  n.  the sound made by a wild goose or an automobile horn

  greeting

  n.  an act or expression of welcome or salutation 欢迎;致意

  bespectacled

  a.  wearing glasses

  amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

  肌萎缩性脊髓侧索硬化

  deterioration

  n.  the act or process of deteriorating 恶化

  deteriorate

  vi. become worse

  rob

  vt. take from unlawfully, esp. by force 抢劫;使丧失

  voluntary

  a.  controlled by the will; made, done, or a given of one's own free will 随意的;自愿的;志愿的

  built-in

  a.  forming a part of sth. that cannot be separated from it

  synthesizer

  n.  an electrical instrument that can produce many different sorts of sound 音响合成器

  voice synthesizer

  语音合成器

  synthesis

  n.  the combining of separate things, ideas, etc., into a complete whole 合成

  humor

  n.  the quality of being amusing or funny; the ability to see or express what is funny  幽默(感)

  intellect

  n.  the ability to think, reason, and learn; intelligence

  infinitesimal

  n. a. 无穷小(的)

  subatomic

  a.  smaller than an atom 亚原子的

  expedition

  n.  a long trip for exploring or studying sth. 远征;探险;考察

  disorderly

  a.  combining lacking organization or order; untidy

  theologian

  n.  a person who has studied theology 神学家

  boundary

  n.  a dividing line between one place or thing and another; border

  innovative

  a.  tending or liking to introduce new ideas or methods; different from, and esp. better than previous ones 创新的

  innovation

  n.

  benevolently

  ad. in a kindly manner 仁慈地

  reign

  v.  rule, esp. as a monarch  统治

  relativity

  n.  相对论

  overachieve

  v.  do or perform better than expected

  graduate

  n.  one who has graduated, esp. from a college or university, holding a bachelor's degree

  graduate student

  研究生

  plaque

  n.  a flat decorative metal or stone plate, that is fixed to a wall, statue, etc. 饰板,匾

  irreverently

  ad. in a disrespectful manner 不敬地

  midmorning

  n.  the middle of the morning

  able-bodied

  a.  strong and healthy; physically fit

  book-lined

  a.  lined with books

  amid

  prep. in the middle of; among

  common room

  a room in a school or college for the use of teachers and / or students when they are not teaching or studying  公共休息室

  click

  vt. strike or move with a sight short sound

  evoke

  vt. produce; call up 产生;唤起

  beep

  n.  a sharp, short sound

  chorus

  n.  sth. said or shouted by many people together

  confess

  v.  say that sth. is true; say that one has committed a crime or done sth. wrong 承认;坦白

  fascinate

  vt. attract or interest very strongly 强烈地吸引;迷住

  party

  vt. enjoy oneself, esp. at a party or parties

  overwhelm

  vt. overcome completely; overpower 征服,制服

  cane

  n.  a stick used to help in walking  手杖

  formidable

  a.  difficult to defeat or deal with; frightening 难对付的;可怕的

  engaged

  a.  having agreed to get married 已订婚的

  singularity

  n.  a hypothetical point in space at which an object becomes compressed to infinite density and infinitesimal volume 奇点

  beast

  n.  any (four-footed) animal; a person or thing felt to be hateful or offensive

  nuclear

  a.  of a nucleus, esp. of an atom 核的,原子核的

  crush

  vt. squeeze together violently so as to break

  vi. become crushed

  infinitely

  ad. without limits of any kind; having no end

  dense

  a.  packed closely together; thick

  dimension

  n.  the measurement of the length, width, or height of sth. 尺寸

  dimensionless

  a.

  irresistible

  a.  that cannot be resisted; too great to be withstood

  voluminous

  a.  very large

  compelling

  a.  strongly convincing or persuasive

  thesis

  n.  a long piece of writing on a particular subject, based on original work and written for a higher degree 论文

  amazing

  a.  causing great surprise or wonder, esp. because of quantity or quality

  amaze

  vt.

  mini-

  prefix. very small compared with others of its kind

  terrestrial

  a.  of the planet earth

  proton

  n.  a tiny particle of an atom that has a positive electric charge 质子

  quantum

  n.  the basic unit of radiant energy; the smallest amount of energy capable of existing independently 量子

  accurately

  ad. precisely; exactly

  accurate

  a.

  random

  a.  without plan, purpose, or pattern 任意的,随机的

  uncertain

  a.  not certain; likely to change

  falter

  vi. move or speak in an unsteady way; lose strength or effectiveness; fail

  radiation

  n.  the process of sending out rays of energy, such as heat or light; sth. that is radiated 辐射;放射物

  radiate

  v.

  evaporate

  v.  change from a liquid into a vapor or gas 蒸发

  explode

  vi. burst with a loud noise; blow up

  H-bomb

  n.  a hydrogen bomb

  pilot

  vt. act as a pilot; guide; lead 驾驶(飞行器等);指引;引导

  deviate

  vi. move away from a usual or accepted standard of behavior 偏离

  accompany

  vt. go along with

  discotheque

  n.  (formal for disco) a club where people dance to recorded music 迪斯科舞厅

  festivity

  n.  the act of rejoicing; merriment; gaiety 欢庆(活动)

  spin

  v.  (cause to) turn quickly about an axis

  recant

  vt. say publicly that one no longer holds (a former belief)

  self-contained

  a.  complete in itself; independent

  creator

  n.  a person who creates; (C) God

  PHRASES & EXPRESSIONS

  light up

  make or become bright, cheerful, etc.

  rob of

  take the property of, esp. using violence; prevent from enjoying

  reign over

  rule as the king or queen

  talk shop

  (inf.) talk about things in one's work or trade

  in sequence

  one following another; in succession

  over the hill

  past one's prime, unable to function as one used to

  put together

  form by combining parts or members; assemble

  come to anything

  end in success / failure

  something / nothing

  distinguish oneself

  behave or perform noticeably well

  (be) engaged to

  having agreed to marry

  to sb's surprise

  in a way that surprises sb.

  break down

  become unusable; fall

  deviate from

  move away from

  PROPER NAMES

  Leon Jaroff

  利昂.贾洛夫

  Cambridge

  剑桥(大学)

  King's Parade

  国王阅兵场

  Stephen William Hawking

  斯蒂芬.威廉.霍金

  Lucasian

  卢卡斯的

  Isaac Newton

  艾萨克.牛顿

  California

  加利福尼亚(州)

  Oxford

  牛津(大学)

  Jane

  简

  Roger Penrose

  罗杰.彭罗斯

  Moscow

  莫斯科

  Chicago

  芝加哥

  James Hartle

  詹姆斯.哈特尔

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