The Soft Universe

This is a history of scientific inquiry spanning two centuries, from the Napoleonic era to the twenty-first century, telling the story of the birth of relativity and the range of disciplines that developed under the idea of relativity. What has been the journey of mankind from the central view of the world as a circle in the sky to the realization that we are but a speck of dust in the universe? How did the mind-boggling physics of Big Bang cosmology, black holes, wormholes, and gravitational waves develop and be verified step by step? How did Newton, Einstein, Langevin and Hawking, the brains of these geniuses, discover step by step the fundamental forces that govern the universe and struggle to find answers to the future of human society? In this book, all your expected and unexpected perceptions will be presented in a new way. After reading this book, you will find that the scientific cognitive exploration of human beings is a journey that makes people's "three views destroyed" and their minds open wide. Your world will be turned upside down by this book. In Mr. Wu Jingping's funny and humorous narration, we have the honor to walk with the master in the wonderful process of understanding the "soft universe" and "curved space-time" step by step. The author has his own preferred perspective on this journey. The first perspective is that scientists do not live in a vacuum, and that great discoveries are not made by scientists in their heads, but each scientific discovery must be viewed in the context of history. For example, the development of thermodynamics is closely related to the large-scale application of steam engines, electromagnetism is inseparable from the second industrial revolution and the advent of the electrical age. The second perspective, that is - scientists are also human beings, they also have the seven emotions, also have joy and sorrow, also have the intricate interpersonal relationships. They are living, breathing, ordinary people, just like us. When the world war comes, will they be their own masters? Or do they defend the conscience and bottom line of humanity? Scientists show with the rich side of humanity. The journey of mankind is like an endless expedition, and studying a history is like looking back occasionally at the long trail of footprints behind you. We've come so far! So many detours! We can't help but feel the emotion. Yes, we have come so far, but there is still a long road ahead ......


In 1789, the French Revolution broke out, and at the beginning of the New Year in 1793, King Louis XVI was guillotined and his queen was killed, and during the Jacobin dictatorship from 1791 to 1794, 70,000 heads were cut off at the guillotine in Paris alone. People longed for a hero to lead France and put an end to this chaos, but who could fix it? Don't worry, history has already arranged a candidate for France. This man had already boarded a battleship from the Egyptian port of Alexandria and was hurrying back to France with straight sails.

In the foggy month of 1799, the young officer returned to France after a thirty-seven day voyage and was greeted by a star-studded crowd in the capital, Paris. Soon after, he staged a coup d'├ętat with the fervent support of the people and quickly took power, beginning his fifteen-year reign. This young officer was the famous Napoleon. Napoleon was a devout Christian, and once he came to power, he abolished the republican calendar and restored the Gregorian calendar, so that France would never again name the months after the snowy months.

Napoleon had just come to power, and his days were full of work. The country was also gradually recovering from its chaotic state, and there was a great deal of work for him to handle. He also volunteered to be the president of the French Academy of Sciences, which shows his love for natural sciences. Unfortunately, he did not have much energy to take care of specific matters himself, and entrusted mathematical physics to his teacher Laplace, and museum geology to Gouvrier, the two "big cows" cooperated in running the Academy of Sciences.

I'm afraid Napoleon did not notice that a large, thick book had been presented on his desk, which is the recently born tome "Celestial Mechanics". The first and second volumes were the only ones on his desk: two volumes in the first and three in the second. The latter will be written in five volumes, a total of sixteen volumes, the author is Napoleon's teacher Laplace. Napoleon was enrolled in the Military Academy, the mathematical exams were written by Laplace. In the military school he studied artillery, inevitably have to do some ballistic calculations and other work. For the mathematics, Napoleon is not an amateur, he occasionally have free time, found the teacher sent this thick book, open and look, a whole book, all is a large paragraph of calculus operations, even the basic training in mathematics Napoleon, can not help but look confused. In fact, Laplace is not the most excessive, Lagrange "analytical mechanics" written more than four hundred pages, from beginning to end even an illustration is not. In contrast, Sir Isaac Newton wrote a book to be more humane, his epoch-making masterpiece "Principles of Mathematics of Natural Philosophy" inside a large number of geometric approach, relatively speaking, to be much more intuitive.

Newton Lord Newton, although one of the inventors of calculus, but that is the grassroots period of calculus, Newton is still more accustomed to geometric methods to calculate physical problems, but decades have passed, to the hands of Lagrange, Laplace their generation, calculus has become the world's most powerful tool, the mathematical roots of physics. Napoleon was so excited that he invited his teacher Laplace into the Tuileries, the residence of the Consul.

Napoleon chatted with Laplace and said that this book, celestial mechanics, he had already read. This book contains very detailed descriptions of the laws of celestial orbits and the methods of calculations. It was also very informative, with the principles of theoretical mechanics, basic problems of celestial mechanics, the theory of attraction and the shape of equilibrium when a uniform fluid rotates, the theory of sea and atmospheric tides, age difference and chapter motion, lunar libration, and the motion of Saturn's rings. However, Napoleon felt that Laplace left one question undescribed: who exactly makes the universe work in this way? Laplace said, "I know who you mean, you mean God, don't you?" Napoleon said, "In this book of yours, God is not reflected!" Laplace made a deviant remark, "I don't need the hypothesis of God." In fact, Napoleon also asked his contemporary, the great scientist Lagrange, about this, and Lagrange's answer was much more rounded, saying, "The hypothesis of God is really good, yo, and can explain many problems ......"

Laplace wrote a relatively small book a few years ago called "The Theory of the Cosmic System", in which he proposed the "nebular hypothesis" of the origin of the solar system. In this hypothesis, Laplace used mathematics and Newtonian mechanics to describe how nebulae eventually formed the solar system and the planetary system. The whole process does not require a so-called "first impulse", and therefore there is no God. In Laplace's view, what cannot be observed can at best be treated as a "hypothesis", but it is necessary to discuss the mathematically calculated possibilities, and Newton's laws of motion will not prevent the existence of strange and bizarre things after all. In this book, Laplace described a very strange celestial body, also aroused the interest of Napoleon.

Napoleon asked Laplace, "Is there really that magical celestial body that we can't see at all?" Laplace replied, "It is possible, and I call it a 'dark star'. A very dense star, due to its gravity, will not allow any light to leave it, and the largest luminous object in the universe will not be visible to us. You are very familiar with cannons and you know that if the shells are not fast enough they will eventually fall back to earth. A very large star will also have a very large gravitational pull on its surface. The speed of light is ultimately finite, and when the gravitational force of a star is so strong that it escapes faster than the speed of light, then even light cannot escape. Newton described in his book "Optics" that light is a string of particles, like a miniature cannonball, and if it is not fast enough, then it cannot escape the cage of gravity."

Napoleon came to his senses and he asked again, "What is the speed of light? Descartes thought that light does not need to travel time, but Galileo thought it did, but Galileo also failed to measure the speed of light."

Laplace replied, "According to Bradley's observation of the light travel difference, it is about 300,000 kilometers." Napoleon asked again, "So can we observe dark stars?" Laplace, of course, could not give a satisfactory answer for a while, so who knows? This is just a mathematical hypothesis. Scientists are not prophets, scientists just have a piece of evidence to say. Take the hypothesis as the truth, and do not allow others to question, that number of people is a godsend.

In the next few years, Napoleon was busy with foreign operations, the army was invincible, his men also shoveled and pulled a variety of valuable art and scientific specimens back to France, the collection to the Louvre two hundred and fifty meters north of the Tuileries Palace, even fossil paleontology, he did not hesitate to send troops to grab back. Later, Napoleon was busy with the coronation of the emperor, naturally he had no time to take care of this aspect of celestial mechanics hobby, but Laplace will still present the newly published "celestial mechanics" to the emperor of the French Empire, including the revised version of the previous volumes, including the latest finished new chapter. If Napoleon had been interested in looking through it, he would have noticed that in the new edition, Laplace's description of the dark stars was missing! Gone! What happened to ...... to make Laplace silently delete the description of the Dark Star? A fantastic experiment by an ophthalmologist has ruined half of the European physics community ......