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【转载】科普书《万物简史》,台湾天下文化的翻译质量很高!接力出版的错误多

(2013-08-23 06:08:32)
标签:

科普书万物简史

台湾版万物简史

文化

分类: 【特别推荐的书】

 【转载】科普书《万物简史》,台湾天下文化的翻译质量很高!接力出版的错误多   【转载】科普书《万物简史》,台湾天下文化的翻译质量很高!接力出版的错误多

   没有衬托,哪儿能显出长处来。(Nothing is good, I see, without respect.) (莎士比亚《威尼斯商人》第五幕 第一场)

                                              ——题记

台湾版《万物简史》4本书封面

 

看看台湾人翻译的吧,大陆的翻译简直是国小水平,

来源 http://book.douban.com/review/3007845/

 
  可以从淘宝台湾代购买到这一套书,运费加起来300左右,有点贵,但太值了,图文并茂,印刷精美!
   
  本書序 跟我從無知邁向幾乎無所不知
  
  歡迎歡迎!另外我還得恭賀各位讀者,你能夠來到這個世界,有緣跟咱們相遇,我由衷為你高興。事實上,我也是不久前才知道,這中間牽涉的比起咱們原先想像的,更加複雜。
  
  你且想想,你之所以能成為現在的「你」,起碼得先讓數十億個活蹦亂跳的原子,乖乖聽話,有條不紊按照既定的次序排列,精確組合起來成為你。而這項安排中的所有細節,都各因有不同的作用跟目的而互異。過程中最不可思議的是,這一切都在沒有預先測試下,就一氣呵成搞定了,然後在此後的許多年(但願如此)內,這些微小粒子都無怨無悔的,參與數十億次各種靈巧操作,一方面藉以保持你的身體不至於分崩離析,同時也讓你經歷極其舒適,也就是所謂的「生存」境界。然而此境界對絕大部分不知底細的芸芸眾生來說,卻是抱怨的多,心存感激者寡。
  
  為什麼各個原子會如此不嫌麻煩的保護你,是一個謎。在原子的層次上,做為你的一部分對它們並無任何好處,它們雖然盡忠職守,但顯然並不關心你。它們並無意識,壓根兒不知道有你這號人物存在。這也難怪,它們不是活的東西,只是些毫無心機的小粒子罷了。(讓人覺得比較好過一點的想法是:如果你拿鑷子把身上的原子逐個撿起來擱在一邊,最後會成為一堆細細的「原子塵」,這些原子存活的唯一目的就是「為你而活」!)只是不知為了啥原因,在你生存的這段時期裡,它們為了保持你成為你的這個重要使命,赴湯蹈火在所不惜。
  
  生物體內的原子不過是以尋常的碳、氫、氧、氮為主,
  外加少量的鈣、一丁點硫,還有就是一些極其微量,但依然很普通的元素,
  沒有一樣是化工原料行裡找不到的,
  使你身上的原子變得與眾不同的唯一原因,是它們組合成了有生命的「你」。
  
  原子的忠誠對人說來固然是好消息,卻不是唯一的消息,糟糕的是,這些原子生性善變,它們的犧牲奉獻時間不僅有限,還非常短暫。即使壽命算長的人,一生的時間加起來也只有 650,000 個小時(約74.2年)。在這麼一段沒啥了不起的壽限一閃即逝後,或是在其前後的某一個時刻,不知為了啥理由,你身上的原子突然會讓你關門大吉。他們悄悄解散、溜走,變成了別的東西,你就只有壽終正寢一途。
  
  雖說如此,也許你仍舊應該為了原子組合出你而慶幸,因為一般說來,就我們所知,這件事在這個宇宙裡還頂希罕的。尤其怪異的是,在地球上那些自動自發跑到一塊,同心協力組成各種生物的原子,跟其他星球上的原子並無兩樣,但一旦離開地球,它們就拒絕合作啦!別的不說,光就生物的化學層次而論,生命就出奇的平凡。為何這麼說呢?生物體內的原子不過是以尋常的碳、氫、氧、氮為主,外加少量的鈣、一丁點硫,還有就是一些極其微量,但依然很普通的元素,沒有一樣是化工原料行裡找不到的,而那就是你所賴以維生的全部所需。使你身上的原子變得與眾不同的唯一原因,是它們組合成了「你」,當然這也就是生命的奇蹟。
  
  不管原子是否在宇宙的其他地方也合成了生命,它們可是結合成了許多無生命的東西;事實上,所有的非生物也都是由原子組合成的,若是沒有原子,這世界就不會有水、空氣或岩石,不會有恆星跟行星,也不會有極遠處的氣狀雲或旋轉星雲,或其他一切能使宇宙具體展現的東西。不過由於原子為數極多,又是在所必需,使我們很容易忽略掉一件事實,那就是它們壓根沒有實際存在的必要。
  
  這世界上並沒有任何法則規定,宇宙間必須要以微小的物質粒子充填;同樣也沒有任何法則規定,一定得產生光、重力以及其他各種物理性質,但這些性質卻是我們的生存所依賴的。事實上,整個宇宙根本沒有必要存在,而且過去就有一段極其漫長的時間裡沒有宇宙,在這段時間裡,既無各種原子,也沒有供它們浮游的宇宙空間。換言之,徹徹底底的啥都沒有、啥都不存在!
  
  因此感謝老天提供了原子,但是就算有了這些原子,且它們願意乖乖排列組合起來,也只是你能來到此間的部分原因。你之所以來到二十一世紀生活,並躋身為有智識的人類,還必須有一連串的特殊好運道才成。要知道,在地球上存活下來著實不易,開天闢地以來已有數十億種不同的物種,在地球上出現過,而其中 99.99% 都已絕種。所以你瞧,地球上的生命不但短暫,而且十分脆弱。從我們的存活上,凸顯出一件叫人非常納悶的怪事,那就是雖然我們居住的地球跟別的地方比起來,對創造生命非常有利,然而卻更是絕滅生命的殺手。
  
  地球上出現過的物種,存活期長短不一,平均每種約為四百萬年,所以如果你希望數十億年以後,人類還能存活在地球上,人類必須要跟組成原子一樣善變!不錯,就是善變,你必須準備隨時改變你的一切:形狀、大小、顏色、所屬物種類別等種種項目,而且還得一變再變。不過善變說起來容易,做起來可沒那麼簡單,原因是物種變化的過程是毫無目的且隨機的。從最初所謂的「原生質的原始小球」*演化成了具備七情六慾、頂天立地的現代人,其間漫長的歲月內,需要繼續不斷、適時適分且恰到好處的突變出許多前所未有的新特徵來。
  
  所以在過去 38 億年時光裡的各個不同階段,你曾一度厭惡氧氣,然後又變得非它不能過活;曾長出過魚鰭(滑水)、四肢及極漂亮風帆似的大背鰭;曾經下過蛋,長過用來煽空氣的叉型舌頭;曾經全身上下滑不嘰溜,也曾遍體是毛;曾經生活在地下,也曾搬遷到樹上;體型一度大若麋鹿,後來又縮小得跟小老鼠相彷。諸如此類的變化不勝枚舉。而在這一連串無數的演化步驟裡,只要任何一步出了些微差錯,你現在可能正在山洞裡舔食壁上的藻類,或像海象般懶洋洋的躺在某處海邊大石頭上,或許正打算從你位於頭頂上的呼吸孔努力噴氣,準備潛入海面下十八公尺,為的是要去吃一口美味的沙蟲。
  
  你不只是有幸從地球開始有生命以來,就緊緊把握住正確的演化路線,從未出岔或偏離,並且你本人的先祖也還得極度的幸運,說是奇蹟般也許更恰當。試想在你出生之前的 38 億年內,這段時間的長度真是非同小可,比地球上的山川海洋的歷史還要久遠。你父母兩邊的歷代祖先,每一位的長相都不能太過抱歉,至少能得到異性的青睞;另外身體要夠健康,足以擔負繁殖後代重任不說,還得受命運跟環境的眷顧,在成長期間沒有發生意外或夭折。
  
  換言之,你的列祖列宗中不能有任何一位發生意外,導致給壓扁、吃掉、溺斃、餓死、困住、撞擊、不小心受到傷害,或受其他種種原因,不能達成生命終極目的,錯過了在適當時機,把一丁點基因物質送達正確伴侶那兒,讓那唯一的遺傳序列能永續不斷的傳遞下來。最後叫人震驚且極其快速的產生了結果──「你」!
  
  這本書就是講這一切是如何發生的,我們如何從啥都沒有,變成有那麼一丁點東西,然後又從那一點兒微不足道的東西,演變成了(如此複雜的)我們,並經歷其間的種種變化。當然,這其間涵蓋內容極為廣闊,那也就是為何本書取名《萬物簡史》的緣故。雖然書名明顯誇大不實,不過幸運的話,在啃完這部厚書之前,你也許會覺得它似乎包羅萬象。
  
  我一向無條件全盤接受科學家的各種說法,
  就像相信外科醫師、水電工
  以及其他具有神祕及特殊管道人士透露的消息一樣,
  我後來才想到,他們怎麼會知道這些呢?
  
  我自己的出發點,不瞞你說,是從一本有許多插圖的科學書籍開始的。那是我讀小學四年級或五年級時,使用的 1950 年代教科書,這本書當時已經相當破舊,我也從未喜愛過它,也許是它厚重的外表讓我見而生畏,但是在它靠近封面的前幾頁裡,有一張地球的剖面圖曾一度引起我的注意。這張圖好像是有人用了一把巨大無比的大刀,把地球切出四分之一塊的楔形,再把這部分小心移出,而清楚顯示出地球的內部結構。
  
  說來你或許不相信,在此之前我從未見過這樣的剖面圖。我清楚記得,第一次無意中面對它時,我整個看呆了。圖中顯現出上自北極下至中美洲,有 6 千 4 百公里深的垂直峭壁,正好穿過了美國中部,而美國東部的半壁江山已遭連根移走。我最初的反應是:如果地球真的變成這模樣,從美國西部向東前進的不知情車隊,一旦衝過此線就會頓時摔落萬丈深淵。不過隨後我的觀察轉變得比較像學者,才注意到地球內部清楚的分成了好多層,地心則是一球炙熱的鐵與鎳,依照圖上說明,這個鐵與鎳的球,溫度跟太陽表面一樣高。於是我才想到:「他們怎麼會知道這些呢?」
  
  我從來沒有對這資訊的正確性懷疑過,我一向無條件全盤接受科學家的各種說法,就像相信外科醫師、水電工以及其他具有神祕及特殊管道人士透露的消息一樣。問題是我實在無法相信,居然有人想出方法,搞清楚距離咱們腳底下數千公里,那個眼睛看不見,X 光也穿不透的地方,是什麼光景而質料又是啥。這些對我來說,簡直是不可思議的奇蹟;自從那一刻起,奇蹟成為了我對科學的看法。
  
  當時我非常興奮,該晚我還特地把這本教科書帶回家,在吃晚飯前就迫不急待的把書翻開來,通常這個反常的動作會使我母親伸手摸我的額頭,詢問我是否哪兒不舒服。然後我從第一頁開始,認真閱讀起來。
  
  但我大失所望。裡面的文字一點也不叫人興奮,也說不出一套讓我能懂的道理。最糟糕的是,它完全沒有回答一般人對那張地球剖面圖會有的疑問:諸如,為何得知我們這顆行星的中心有一個小太陽?而如果地心燃燒得那麼熾熱,為何咱們腳下的土地一點也不燙手?為何地球內部的其他部分,不會也呈熔融狀態?或者事實上的確是熔融狀態?當地心最後終於燃燒完畢時,地球表層會不會有部分崩陷到中空的地心,在地球表面造成一個大窟窿?如果有答案,這些答案怎麼來的?又是怎麼想到的?
  
  編寫教科書的人有一個有趣的觀念,
  認為任何事物只要寫成了公式,就立即變得清晰明白。
  他們還有另一個好笑且誤人誤己的信念:認為如果在每一章的末尾加上習題,
  孩子就會自動自發,花費大量課餘時間去思考、學習。
  
  奇怪的是,那本書的作者對上述細節隻字未提,文中充斥的卻是一些諸如次地背斜(anticlines)、向斜層(synclines)、軸偏離(axial faults)等,艱澀難懂的地質術語。看來作者似乎是在故布疑陣,要把好東西藏起來不讓人知道。之後許多年頭裡,我開始懷疑這並非單一事件,以我看來,教科書作者普遍有一項陰謀,那就是絕不能把教材內容寫得「有趣一點」,更不可能達到妙筆生花的境界。
  
  不過閱讀經驗多了後,我現在知道有滿多科學作家還真不賴,寫的散文既清新又教人振奮,隨意信手拈來三位,姓氏以字母F開頭的就有費力斯〔Timothy Ferris,著有《銀河系大定位》(Coming of Age in the Milky Way)〕、福提〔Richard Fortey,倫敦自然史博物館的資深古生物學家,著有《當三葉蟲統治世界》(Trilobite! : eyewitness to evolution)〕、及弗蘭納瑞(Tim Flannery,南澳大利亞博物館館長著有《失落的自然》(A gap in nature)〕。這還不包括現已過世,讓人當神一樣崇拜的費曼(Richard Feynman)。
  
  悲慘的是,我用過的教科書都不是前面這幾位作者寫的,編寫我的教科書的那些男士(似乎永遠都是男的)有一個有趣的觀念,認為任何事物只要寫成了公式,就立即變得清晰明白。他們還有另一個好笑且誤人誤己的信念:認為如果在每一章的末尾加上習題,美國孩子就會自動自發,花費大量課餘時間去思考、學習。在這樣的教科書薰陶下長大的我,認定科學「極端無聊」,雖然心裡仍然存著些許奢望,但態度上變得異常消極,對科學議題一概敬而遠之,只要能躲得過連想都不願去想。這也是長久以來,我對科學抱持的另一看法。
  
  然後又過了很久,大約是在四、五年前,有一回我乘坐長程飛機橫跨太平洋,隔窗望著月光下的海洋發呆,突然有一個強烈的想法從思緒中蹦了出來,讓我渾身不自在。什麼想法呢?就是我對這顆我這輩子居住的唯一行星,居然完全不瞭解。比方說,為什麼海水是鹹的,而北美洲五大湖的湖水卻否?對這個問題的答案,我一點概念都沒有,我更不知道隨時間消逝,將來海水會變得更鹹或是更淡?海水鹽分多寡的變化,是否值得我們關心?(我非常高興能告訴讀者諸君,在 1970 年代以前,科學家對這幾個簡單問題,也同樣沒有確切答案,只是他們沒有大聲說出來而已!)
  
  當然上述海洋鹽分只是我無知的一丁點表象而已,以前我壓根搞不清楚什麼是質子(proton),不知道它跟蛋白質(protein)有啥不同?同樣的,夸克(quark)跟類星體(quasar)的差異又在哪兒?我不知道原子是怎麼建構起來的,更無法想像居然有人能有辦法把原子裡的結構給推敲出來。後來也不知道是怎麼搞的,陡然間,我內心產生了一個強烈卻莫名的衝動,想知道這些東西是怎麼回事,並且想弄清楚人們當初是如何發現這些答案的。譬如說地球有多重?宇宙是何時開始的?開始時是什麼模樣?而它如今又有多大?科學家用了哪些巧妙的方法,得知地球上大陸板塊在六億年前的分布排列?之後是由於哪些力量的作用,使得它們改變成今天的樣子?但是科學家既然這麼聰明,為什麼仍然沒有辦法預測地震,也無法告訴我們,下星期三去看賽馬時,該不該攜帶雨傘?
  
  於是我決定奉獻出一部分人生(結果花了我三個年頭)廣泛並認真的從事閱讀,並且無可避免的找了一些極富愛心跟耐心的專家學者,回答一堆非常愚蠢的問題。我這麼做是很想知道,如此一來能否對科學的奇妙內涵跟偉大成就,達到某個程度的認識與瞭解,而能由衷讚嘆乃至於欣賞;而這個科學程度既不要過於專業、讓人吃不消,也不至全部流於潦草膚淺。
  
  這就是我心目中的想法跟期望,也就是我寫這本書的目的。不管怎麼說,你我已不是初生兒,剩下的可用時間遠低於650,000小時,更別提還有許多事物等待我們去涉獵,所以廢話少說,讓咱們就此言歸正傳吧!
  
  英文原文
  Welcome. And congratulations. I am delighted that you could make it. Getting here wasn't
  easy, I know. In fact, I suspect it was a little tougher than you realize.
  
   To begin with, for you to be here now trillions of drifting atoms had somehow to assemble
  in an intricate and intriguingly obliging manner to create you. It's an arrangement so
  specialized and particular that it has never been tried before and will only exist this once. For
  the next many years (we hope) these tiny particles will uncomplainingly engage in all the
  billions of deft, cooperative efforts necessary to keep you intact and let you experience the
  supremely agreeable but generally underappreciated state known as existence.
  
   Why atoms take this trouble is a bit of a puzzle. Being you is not a gratifying experience at
  the atomic level. For all their devoted attention, your atoms don't actually care about you-
  indeed, don't even know that you are there. They don't even know that they are there. They are
  mindless particles, after all, and not even themselves alive. (It is a slightly arresting notion
  that if you were to pick yourself apart with tweezers, one atom at a time, you would produce a
  mound of fine atomic dust, none of which had ever been alive but all of which had once been
  you.) Yet somehow for the period of your existence they will answer to a single overarching
  impulse: to keep you you.
  
   The bad news is that atoms are fickle and their time of devotion is fleeting-fleeting indeed.
  Even a long human life adds up to only about 650,000 hours. And when that modest
  milestone flashes past, or at some other point thereabouts, for reasons unknown your atoms
  will shut you down, silently disassemble, and go off to be other things. And that's it for you.
  
   Still, you may rejoice that it happens at all. Generally speaking in the universe it doesn't, so
  far as we can tell. This is decidedly odd because the atoms that so liberally and congenially
  flock together to form living things on Earth are exactly the same atoms that decline to do it
  elsewhere. Whatever else it may be, at the level of chemistry life is curiously mundane:
  carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, a little calcium, a dash of sulfur, a light dusting of
  other very ordinary elements-nothing you wouldn't find in any ordinary drugstore-and that's
  all you need. The only thing special about the atoms that make you is that they make you.
  That is of course the miracle of life.
  
   Whether or not atoms make life in other corners of the universe, they make plenty else;
  indeed, they make everything else. Without them there would be no water or air or rocks, no
  stars and planets, no distant gassy clouds or swirling nebulae or any of the other things that
  make the universe so usefully material. Atoms are so numerous and necessary that we easily
  overlook that they needn't actually exist at all. There is no law that requires the universe to fill
  itself with small particles of matter or to produce light and gravity and the other physical
  properties on which our existence hinges. There needn't actually be a universe at all. For the
  longest time there wasn't. There were no atoms and no universe for them to float about in.
  There was nothing-nothing at all anywhere.
  
   So thank goodness for atoms. But the fact that you have atoms and that they assemble in
  such a willing manner is only part of what got you here. To be here now, alive in the twenty-
  first century and smart enough to know it, you also had to be the beneficiary of an
  extraordinary string of biological good fortune. Survival on Earth is a surprisingly tricky
  business. Of the billions and billions of species of living thing that have existed since the
  dawn of time, most-99.99 percent-are no longer around. Life on Earth, you see, is not only
  
  
  brief but dismayingly tenuous. It is a curious feature of our existence that we come from a
  planet that is very good at promoting life but even better at extinguishing it.
  
   The average species on Earth lasts for only about four million years, so if you wish to be
  around for billions of years, you must be as fickle as the atoms that made you. You must be
  prepared to change everything about yourself-shape, size, color, species affiliation,
  everything-and to do so repeatedly. That's much easier said than done, because the process of
  change is random. To get from "protoplasmal primordial atomic globule" (as the Gilbert and
  Sullivan song put it) to sentient upright modern human has required you to mutate new traits
  over and over in a precisely timely manner for an exceedingly long while. So at various
  periods over the last 3.8 billion years you have abhorred oxygen and then doted on it, grown
  fins and limbs and jaunty sails, laid eggs, flicked the air with a forked tongue, been sleek,
  been furry, lived underground, lived in trees, been as big as a deer and as small as a mouse,
  and a million things more. The tiniest deviation from any of these evolutionary shifts, and you
  might now be licking algae from cave walls or lolling walrus-like on some stony shore or
  disgorging air through a blowhole in the top of your head before diving sixty feet for a
  mouthful of delicious sandworms.
  
   Not only have you been lucky enough to be attached since time immemorial to a favored
  evolutionary line, but you have also been extremely-make that miraculously-fortunate in your
  personal ancestry. Consider the fact that for 3.8 billion years, a period of time older than the
  Earth's mountains and rivers and oceans, every one of your forebears on both sides has been
  attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce, and sufficiently blessed by fate
  and circumstances to live long enough to do so. Not one of your pertinent ancestors was
  squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stranded, stuck fast, untimely wounded, or otherwise
  deflected from its life's quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right
  partner at the right moment in order to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary
  combinations that could result-eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly-in you.
  
  
  
  
  
  This is a book about how it happened-in particular how we went from there being nothing at
  all to there being something, and then how a little of that something turned into us, and also
  some of what happened in between and since. That's a great deal to cover, of course, which is
  why the book is called A Short History of Nearly Everything, even though it isn't really. It
  couldn't be. But with luck by the time we finish it will feel as if it is.
  
   My own starting point, for what it's worth, was an illustrated science book that I had as a
  classroom text when I was in fourth or fifth grade. The book was a standard-issue 1950s
  schoolbookbattered, unloved, grimly hefty-but near the front it had an illustration that just
  captivated me: a cutaway diagram showing the Earth's interior as it would look if you cut into
  the planet with a large knife and carefully withdrew a wedge representing about a quarter of
  its bulk.
  
   It's hard to believe that there was ever a time when I had not seen such an illustration
  before, but evidently I had not for I clearly remember being transfixed. I suspect, in honesty,
  my initial interest was based on a private image of streams of unsuspecting eastbound
  motorists in the American plains states plunging over the edge of a sudden 4,000-mile-high
  cliff running between Central America and the North Pole, but gradually my attention did turn
  in a more scholarly manner to the scientific import of the drawing and the realization that the
  Earth consisted of discrete layers, ending in the center with a glowing sphere of iron and
  nickel, which was as hot as the surface of the Sun, according to the caption, and I remember
  thinking with real wonder: "How do they know that?"
  
   I didn't doubt the correctness of the information for an instant-I still tend to trust the
  pronouncements of scientists in the way I trust those of surgeons, plumbers, and other
  possessors of arcane and privileged information-but I couldn't for the life of me conceive how
  
  
  any human mind could work out what spaces thousands of miles below us, that no eye had
  ever seen and no X ray could penetrate, could look like and be made of. To me that was just a
  miracle. That has been my position with science ever since.
  
   Excited, I took the book home that night and opened it before dinner-an action that I expect
  prompted my mother to feel my forehead and ask if I was all right-and, starting with the first
  page, I read.
  
   And here's the thing. It wasn't exciting at all. It wasn't actually altogether comprehensible.
  Above all, it didn't answer any of the questions that the illustration stirred up in a normal
  inquiring mind: How did we end up with a Sun in the middle of our planet? And if it is
  burning away down there, why isn't the ground under our feet hot to the touch? And why isn't
  the rest of the interior melting-or is it? And when the core at last burns itself out, will some of
  the Earth slump into the void, leaving a giant sinkhole on the surface? And how do you know
  this? How did you figure it out?
  
   But the author was strangely silent on such details-indeed, silent on everything but
  anticlines, synclines, axial faults, and the like. It was as if he wanted to keep the good stuff
  secret by making all of it soberly unfathomable. As the years passed, I began to suspect that
  this was not altogether a private impulse. There seemed to be a mystifying universal
  conspiracy among textbook authors to make certain the material they dealt with never strayed
  too near the realm of the mildly interesting and was always at least a longdistance phone call
  from the frankly interesting.
  
   I now know that there is a happy abundance of science writers who pen the most lucid and
  thrilling prose-Timothy Ferris, Richard Fortey, and Tim Flannery are three that jump out from
  a single station of the alphabet (and that's not even to mention the late but godlike Richard
  Feynman)-but sadly none of them wrote any textbook I ever used. All mine were written by
  men (it was always men) who held the interesting notion that everything became clear when
  expressed as a formula and the amusingly deluded belief that the children of America would
  appreciate having chapters end with a section of questions they could mull over in their own
  time. So I grew up convinced that science was supremely dull, but suspecting that it needn't
  be, and not really thinking about it at all if I could help it. This, too, became my position for a
  long time.
  
   Then much later-about four or five years ago-I was on a long flight across the Pacific,
  staring idly out the window at moonlit ocean, when it occurred to me with a certain
  uncomfortable forcefulness that I didn't know the first thing about the only planet I was ever
  going to live on. I had no idea, for example, why the oceans were salty but the Great Lakes
  weren't. Didn't have the faintest idea. I didn't know if the oceans were growing more salty
  with time or less, and whether ocean salinity levels was something I should be concerned
  about or not. (I am very pleased to tell you that until the late 1970s scientists didn't know the
  answers to these questions either. They just didn't talk about it very audibly.)
  
   And ocean salinity of course represented only the merest sliver of my ignorance. I didn't
  know what a proton was, or a protein, didn't know a quark from a quasar, didn't understand
  how geologists could look at a layer of rock on a canyon wall and tell you how old it was,
  didn't know anything really. I became gripped by a quiet, unwonted urge to know a little
  about these matters and to understand how people figured them out. That to me remained the
  greatest of all amazements-how scientists work things out. How does anybody know how
  much the Earth weighs or how old its rocks are or what really is way down there in the
  center? How can they know how and when the universe started and what it was like when it
  did? How do they know what goes on inside an atom? And how, come to that-or perhaps
  above all-can scientists so often seem to know nearly everything but then still can't predict an
  earthquake or even tell us whether we should take an umbrella with us to the races next
  Wednesday?
  
  
   So I decided that I would devote a portion of my life-three years, as it now turns out-to
  reading books and journals and finding saintly, patient experts prepared to answer a lot of
  outstandingly dumb questions. The idea was to see if it isn't possible to understand and
  appreciate-marvel at, enjoy even-the wonder and accomplishments of science at a level that
  isn't too technical or demanding, but isn't entirely superficial either.
  
   That was my idea and my hope, and that is what the book that follows is intended to be.
  Anyway, we have a great deal of ground to cover and much less than 650,000 hours in which
  to do it, so let's begin.

 

附录:台湾版《万物简史》介绍

 

萬物簡史(全四冊)

內容簡介

  《萬物簡史》是旅遊作家布萊森在大自然中做的一次「終極」旅行,他想從旅行中,逐一探討科學想解答的最有趣跟最重要的問題。這位打破沙鍋問到底的好奇作者,想瞭解世界上每件曾經發生的事情,早從大霹靂到文明的起源,或依照作者自己的說法:「……我們如何從啥都沒有,變成有那麼一丁點東西,然後又從那一點兒微不足道的東西,演變成了(如此複雜的)我們,並經歷其間的種種變化。」

  《萬物簡史 I》詳述這一切是怎麼發生的,宇宙是怎麼從無到有、創造了萬物。我們從地球出發想找出一切的答案,探不到宇宙的盡頭,卻發了現看不見的原子。

  《萬物簡史II》詳細敘述,一切東西都是原子做的,但要知道原子是什麼做的,可得先在地底打個大洞才行。但地殼可沒我們想得那麼堅硬不移,地球上最美麗的景致,多半是最危險的地方,我們的地球到底安不安全?

  《萬物簡史III》告訴我們,地球上怎麼會有生命?要是知道了這當中需要經過多少機緣巧合,我們才能來到這世間,你一定會忍不住大喊:感謝老天爺!

  《萬物簡史IV》描述我們是怎麼從水裡爬上了陸地、變成用兩隻腳站立的動物,然後還成為這寂寞星球的統治者。誰又知道,這究竟是天意、還是萬物的不幸!

作者簡介

比爾.布萊森 Bill Bryson

  是當今世界上最受喜愛的暢銷作家之一,他的文筆辛辣,一針見血,總是會讓讀者莞爾一笑後,更增深思。他最擅於寫旅遊見聞,常能見人所未見,用讓人讚嘆的角度,為讀者指出當地特色,所著的暢銷書包括《別跟山過不去》、《請問這裡是美國嗎?》、《澳洲烤焦了》、《歐洲在發酵》等等。

  這樣一位愛在全世界滿山遍野亂跑的作者,突然對腳底下的地球、頭頂上的天空,甚至這宇宙萬物如何來的,產生了興趣,用一位科學外行人的角度,以背包客讀萬卷書也行萬里路的精神,讀遍科學史籍、四處尋訪科學家,終於寫出《萬物簡史》這種讓科學家讚賞、一般讀者受用無窮的,有趣味、有深度,且別具一格的科學普及書。

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