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博主胡德良:邢台学院外语系英语教授,中国译协专家会员,河北省译协常务理事,邢台市译协副会长。爱好翻译,内容涉及宇宙探秘、医疗卫生、家庭保健、生命科学、能源科学、地球科学、环境科学、散文小说和纪实文学等领域。所译文章曾见于《光明日报》、《科技日报》、《健康时报》、《健康报》、《英语世界》、《英语知识》、《科技英语学习》、《科学之友》、《科学与文化》、《世界科学》、《生命世界》等全国各大报刊。博客特色:英汉对照、图文并茂,融趣味性、科学性、知识性为一体。

物理学家群英会  

2007-10-28 15:56:06|  分类: 名人风采 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Meta Physicists

By GEORGE JOHNSON  胡德良 张媛媛 译

As though their knowledge of the quantum secrets came with the power of prophecy, some three dozen of Europe’s best physicists ended their 1932 meeting in Copenhagen with a parody of Goethe’s “Faust.” Just weeks earlier, James Chadwick had discovered neutrons — the bullets of nuclear fission — and before long Enrico Fermi was shooting them at uranium atoms. By the time of the first nuclear explosion a little more than a decade later in New Mexico, the idea of physics as a Faustian bargain was to its makers already a cliché. Robert Oppenheimer, looking for a sound bite, quoted Vishnu instead: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” 

 对量子秘密的揭示仿佛是伴随着预言能力而进行的。1932年,三十六位欧洲最优秀的物理学家以自编自演歌德的《浮士德》而结束了在哥本哈根的聚会。就在几周前,詹姆斯·查德威克发现了核裂变的子弹中子;不久,恩里科·费米将中子射进铀原子。刚过十年之后,在新墨西哥州进行了首次核爆炸。此时,将物理学当作浮士德式交易的说法对核弹的制造们来说已经是老生常谈了。罗伯特·奥本海默想寻找接受采访时供广播用的材料,却引用了印度教主神毗瑟挐的话:“现在我变成了死神,成为大千世界的毁灭者。”

 Innocent of all that lay before them, the luminaries gathering at Niels Bohr’s Institute for Theoretical Physics were in a whimsical mood. Werner Heisenberg, Paul Dirac and Lise Meitner were there. Max Delbrück, the young scientist charged with writing the spoof — it happened to be the centennial of Goethe’s death — couldn’t resist depicting Bohr himself as the Lord Almighty and the acerbic Wolfgang Pauli as Mephistopheles.

 那些才智出众的人们对未来要发生的事情一无所知,他们怀着一种莫名其妙的心情参加了在尼尔斯·玻尔理论物理研究所的聚会。沃纳·海森堡、保罗·迪拉克和莉泽·迈特纳也在场。年轻的科学家麦克斯·德尔布吕克负责编写幽默台词当时正值歌德逝世一百周年纪念时期,他不禁将玻尔本人描述成万能的上帝,而将尖酸刻薄的沃尔夫冈·泡利描述成魔鬼摩菲斯特。

 They were perfect choices. The avuncular Bohr, with his inquisitive needling, had presided over the quantum revolution, revealing the strange workings within atoms, while the skeptical Pauli, who famously signed his letters “The Scourge of God,” could always be counted on for a sarcastic comment. (“What Professor Einstein has just said is not so stupid.”) Faust, who in the legend sells his soul for universal knowledge, was recast as a troubled Paul Ehrenfest, the Austrian physicist who despaired of ever understanding this young man’s game in which particles were just smears of probability.

 这是绝佳的选择匹配。酷似老伯父的玻尔,以他见缝插针的钻研精神主导了那场量子革命,揭示了原子内部粒子奇特的运动方式。而生性多疑的泡利,以在信件上署名“上帝之鞭”而著称,由他来进行讽刺性评论总是可靠的(如:“爱因斯坦教授刚才所说并不是那么愚蠢的”)。在传说中为获得真知而出卖灵魂的浮士德,被重新塑造成处于烦恼之中的保罗·埃伦费斯特,这位奥地利的物理学家对泡利的研究工作感到无望理解,其中的粒子只能被披上可能性的阴影。

 Disguised with makeup, younger physicists played the parts of their “elders.” (Pauli, who skipped the meeting, was just turning 32.) Faust’s tormented love, Gretchen, appeared as the fairylike neutrino. It was only in retrospect that the silliness became profound. The players were becoming possessors of “a truth with implicit powers of good and evil,” Gino Segrè writes in “Faust in Copenhagen,” his inventive new book about the era. And “the devil ... was in the details.”

 较为年轻的物理学家们化装起来,扮演他们“同行长者”的形象。(泡利没有参加聚会,他当时刚刚32岁。)浮士德备受折磨的情人格雷琴就象精灵般的中微子。只是在回顾中才意识到,当时看似愚蠢的言行意义却如此深刻。在描写那个年代的富有独创性的新书《哥本哈根的浮士德》中,吉诺·塞格雷写道:“那些演员们成为真理的拥有者,该真理被赋予潜在的善与恶之力量。”他还写道:“魔鬼藏于细微处(源于英国谚语,意为:搞清细微的东西是决定成与败关键)。”

 The story of the quantum revolution has been told so many times that it has become as ritualized as the stations of the cross. How Max Planck, faced with some curious observations about hot glowing objects, reluctantly proposed that light is sputtered out in packets — the quanta. How Albert Einstein, seeing deeper, realized that light must also travel that way, that its waves were also particles. How Bohr brought the graininess into the atom, with electrons hopping between orbits in quantum jumps. How Heisenberg, marooning himself on the bleak isle of Helgoland, saw that there were no orbits, that what happened inside atoms was different from anything that could be pictured by a human brain.

 量子革命的故事已讲述过很多遍,就象讲述耶稣受难经过的画像一样已经仪式化,诸如:马克斯·普朗克面对炽热物体一些不寻常的观测数据,如何艰难地提出辐射是一单元一单元地射出的,这种最小的单元即能量子;爱因斯坦观察得更深刻一些,如何意识到光线也是这样运行的,光波也是粒子;玻尔如何利用量子跃迁过程中电子在轨道之间来回跳跃,来揭示原子的多微粒结构;海森堡自我流放到阴冷的赫尔戈兰岛上,如何观察到原子内部并没有轨道,其内部所发生的情况不同于人脑可想象出的任何情况。

 Any reluctance I had to revisit these shrines was quickly overcome by Segrè’s inviting touch. A theoretical physicist at the University of Pennsylvania and a nephew of Emilio Segrè, who collaborated with Fermi on radioactivity research, the author begins with the “Faust” parody and circles back to it again and again. It acts like a magnet, reshaping the familiar into an interesting new design.

 不得不重游这些科学的神圣领地,但塞格雷的写作风格很快使一切不情愿的感觉荡然无存。塞格雷是宾夕法尼亚大学的理论物理学家,也是曾跟费米一道研究放射能的埃米利奥·塞格雷的侄子。塞格雷的写作开始于《浮士德》的滑稽表演,又不断地回到滑稽表演这个话题上,这就象一块磁铁吸引着读者,将大家熟悉的场面以一种全新有趣的形式重新展现出来。

 One of the most striking things about the quantum revolutionaries was their youthfulness. Heisenberg was 23 when he had his epiphany. Pauli, when not quite 25, came up with a fundamental tenet called the exclusion principle. Dirac was just a little older when he predicted the positron — another particle discovered the same year as the Copenhagen fest. By then the threesome was already past its prime. “Old age is a cold fever / That every physicist suffers with!” the actor playing Dirac complained. “When one is past 30, / He is as good as dead!”

 这些量子革命者最引人瞩目的情况之一就是他们风华正茂。海森堡年仅23岁时就显示出不凡的灵性;泡利提出电子排布的基本原理不相容原理时还不满25岁;迪拉克预知正子的时候年龄稍大一点,正子是在哥本哈根聚会那年发现的一种粒子。到聚会时三人都已经超过了做研究的最佳时期。扮演迪拉克的演员抱怨说:“老龄就象是一种令人心寒的流行病,每个物理学者都遭受这种病痛。当一个学者超过了30岁,他就无异于死亡!”

 Bohr at 46 was the grand old man. Absent altogether was Einstein, past 50 and out of the loop, trying to overthrow quantum mechanics with a wastebasket full of crumpled ideas. In the Copenhagen “Faust” he has a cameo role — the king leading his pet fleas. In Goethe’s telling, no one in the court dared complain about the pests, and so it was, the devilish Pauli proclaims, with the aging Einstein:

 玻尔46岁已是元老。一直缺席的是爱因斯坦,已年过半百,不属圈内人士,总企图利用大量蹩脚的观点推翻量子力学,但枉费心机。在哥本哈根版本的《浮士德》中,他充当了一个小配角领养一群跳蚤的国王。根据歌德的故事,宫廷中对这种令人讨厌的害虫没人敢于抱怨,情况就是如此,于是精力旺盛的泡利和正在步入老年的爱因斯坦一起宣布道:

 Half-naked, fleas came pouring
From Berlin’s joy and pride,
Named by the unadoring:
“Field Theories — Unified.”

 

不敬的人们取外号,

来自柏林的大跳蚤,

半裸着身体、带着欣喜与骄傲,

    声称:“场论统一了!”

 In the end the most inspired part of the production was the transformation of Ehrenfest into Ehrenfaust. Assailed by self-doubt and family problems, and overwhelmed by the rapid pace of the new physics, he was falling into a dark depression. Trading his soul for enlightenment might have seemed like a good deal. The shocking details of his suicide the following year, and the way Segrè ties them back to the Faust legend, brings a solemn close to a memorable retelling of one of science’s most heroic eras.

 在作品的最后,最能使人们受到启示的部分是由埃伦费斯特向“埃伦浮士德”的转型。埃伦费斯特深受自我疑惑和家庭问题的打击,物理学快速的更新步伐压得他透不过气来,他开始陷入黑暗的抑郁情绪之中,由他的灵魂来换取对人们的教化看来是一笔不错的交易。第二年(1933年)埃伦费斯特自杀。塞格雷对这一惊人消息的详尽描写,以及这种返回浮士德传说的独特方式,为重新讲述科学史上那个伟大的时代划上了一个庄严的句号,令人回味无穷。

 译自:《纽约时报》网站

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