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您现在的位置: 考试吧 > 双语阅读 > 英文报刊 > 正文

趣味科学:貌似简单实则复杂的那些事

来源:考试吧 2014-09-10 17:08:11 考试吧:中国教育培训第一门户 英语学习
这个世界上有很多事情人们都弄不懂,因为这是个令人迷惑的地方。不过有些真正简单的概念和观念我们都还能明白,这一点总能让我们感到些许慰籍。

  There are a lot of things in this world that people don’t understand because the world is a confusing place. But we can always take solace[1]) in the fact that there are some really simple concepts and ideas out there that we can all understand. However, as is often the way with life, when you start to look closely at some of these concepts, you realize that you’ve opened a giant can of worms[2]).

  1. The proof for “1+1=2” is 300 pages long.

  The equation 1+1=2 is probably the very first bit of math that most of us learned, because addition[3]) and subtraction[4]) are probably the simplest concepts in mathematics. If you have one apple and somebody gives you another, you have two apples. By the same logic, if you have two apples and someone takes one away, you only have one apple. It’s a universal fact of life[5]) that transcends[6]) barriers like language or race. Which is what makes the following sentence so unbelievable: the proof for 1+1=2 is well over 300 pages long and it wasn’t conclusively proven until the 20th century. According to Stephen Fry, in the early 20th century, Bertrand Russell wanted to conclusively prove that mathematics worked, so he decided to start with the simplest concept we know of and went right ahead and proved 1+1=2. However, what sounds like an incredibly simple task actually took the mathematician and philosopher 372 pages of complex sums. The mammoth[7]) solution was published as Principia Mathematica across three volumes, which we invite you to read if you aren’t planning on doing anything for the next few weeks.

  2. Yawning

  Yawning is a puzzling phenomenon. Even the simple act of talking about it is enough to make some people do it (some of you are probably doing it right now). There really is no other bodily function quite like it. Now, some of you reading this may be aware of the long-standing theory that the purpose of yawning is to keep us alert by forcing our bodies to take in an extra, large gulp[8]) of oxygen. That makes sense, because we mostly yawn when we’re tired or bored, situations where an extra burst of energy would come in handy[9]). The thing is, experiments have conclusively disproven[10]) that theory over the years. In fact, there is no universally agreed upon theory for why we actually yawn, even though everyone does it. A commonly accepted theory is that yawning actually cools down the brain, because various experiments have shown that one of the few things to actually change in the body during a yawn is the temperature of the brain itself. As for why yawning is contagious[11]), no one knows that either.

  3. Defining the word “the” is really difficult.

  The word “the” is one of the most common words in the English language. It’s so ubiquitous[12]) that most of us have probably never stopped to think about how strange of a word it actually is. As discussed here, it’s easily one of the most difficult words to explain to a non-native English speaker because it has such a massive range of applications, some of which are remarkably odd[13]) when looked at objectively. To quote: “Why do we say ‘I love the ballet’, but not ‘I love the cable TV’? Why do we say ‘I have the flu’, but not ‘I have the headache’? Why do we say ‘winter is the coldest season’, and not ‘winter is coldest season’?” Think about it—we use the word “the” in dozens of different situations and in reference to many different concepts, ideas, and objects interchangeably[14]). We can use the word to refer to everything from a specific item to an abstract metaphorical[15]) concept, and native speakers can instinctively tell when it’s being used incorrectly without thinking about it. The dictionary itself lists almost two dozen different ways the word can be used in a sentence correctly, which makes an exact definition of the word that is much more difficult to pin down[16]). Don’t believe us? Try defining it yourself.

  4. Some mosquitoes bite people because of their clothes.

  If you’ve ever been bitten by a mosquito, chances are someone nearby has given you a recycled explanation for why the insect decided to ruin your day. Maybe they said that you smelled good, or that you had a particular blood type, or maybe they just told you that your shirt makes you look like a victim. We’re not being facetious[17]) with that list, by the way—they’re all things that scientists believe can cause mosquitoes to find you more attractive. As a recent Smithsonian article details, 20 percent of people seem to be strangely attractive to mosquitoes, and no one is really in agreement as to why. The simple answer would appear to be that it’s something in a person’s blood that attracts mosquitoes. However, it would appear that the mosquitoes are actually attracted by a chemical signal given off by the body. It’s present in around 85 percent of us—which also explains why some people seem invisible to mosquitoes—and it indicates what your blood type is. Another, stranger theory is that mosquitoes are naturally attracted to darker, more vivid colors. In other words, it’s actually been theorized—and in some cases shown—that mosquitoes will bite people because they like their shirt.

  5. There’s no universally accepted theory on how bikes work.

  Bicycles have existed for over 100 years, and since they were invented we’ve mastered land, sea, and air travel while making impressive headway into space. We have planes that can traverse[18]) the globe in a matter of hours, so you’d think that by now we’d have the humble[19]) bicycle just about figured out. But oddly, that’s not the case. As mentioned in an article, “We Still Don’t Really Know How Bicycles Work”, scientists have been arguing about how exactly they work, or more specifically, how they stay upright, almost since they were first invented. For a long time, the major theory was that the gyroscopic force[20]) of the wheels spinning kept bikes upright, but when scientists built a special bicycle with contraptions[21]) attached to it designed to counteract[22]) any gyroscopic forces produced by the wheels, it stayed upright and no one could explain how. There are theories that the bike’s design allows it to steer into a fall[23]) and thus correct itself, but they’re still just theories. And because bicycle dynamics isn’t exactly an area of science into which researchers like to invest their time, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll know for sure anytime soon.

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