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铁血英雄与冷酷意志——对《流浪地球》的反思

By , February 22, 2019 1:08 pm

剧照1

一、小说与电影的关系

小说《流浪地球》是电影《流浪地球》的母题,电影继承了小说的宏大背景,并在地木交会事件上进行了再创作。电影《流浪地球》虽然是由小说《流浪地球》派生而来,但是具有与小说完全不同的环境设定、人物、故事、价值观。如果将小说《流浪地球》比喻成《西游记》,那么电影《流浪地球》则相当于《大话西游》。

小说《流浪地球》是刘慈欣早期创作的一部中篇科幻小说,全文大约两万三千字。小说以太阳即将发生氦闪作为基本假设。所谓氦闪,是低质量恒星在红巨星阶段发生的一种非常短暂的核聚变,在此过程中大部分的恒星质量在瞬间被转换成能量释放。这样巨大的能量辐射有可能会烧蚀地表并破坏地球的大气层,导致地球不再适宜居住。与此同时,红巨星的体积会进一步增大,甚至有可能将地球吞噬。面对灾难,地球上的人们分成了两派,地球派认为应该推动地球逃离太阳系,飞船派认为应该制造飞船逃离太阳系。最终地球派占了上风,地球联合政府决定启动流浪地球计划,利用地球发动机将地球停止自转(刹车时代),将地球加速飞离太阳系(逃逸时代),加速飞向半人马座比邻星(流浪时代I),进入比邻星引力场后减速(流浪时代II),最后泊入比邻星轨道(新太阳时代),整个过程将延续两千五百年的时间。上篇的篇幅为六千字,主要描写刹车时代末期的场景,逐步交代整个故事的宏大背景;中篇的篇幅为一万一千字,主要描写逃逸时代的场景,以地球利用木星的重力助推效应达到逃逸速度为结束;下篇的篇幅为五千字,叛军屠杀了将地球推离太阳系的地球派,随后发生了太阳的氦闪;最后,小说用短短的七百五十个字作为流浪时代的序章。

电影《流浪地球》所描述的地木交会事件,在小说中只有短短的一千三百个字。在小说中,整个重力助推过程与前期的精确计算结果是完全一致的,波澜不惊。电影以木星引力导致地球上发生了大规模的板块运动作为基本假设,遍布全球的地球发动机发生大规模失效,地球即将被木星所捕获。尽管地球上的人们竭尽全力修复了地球发动机,但是已经错过了逃离木星引力场的最佳时机。部署于领航员号太空站的人工智能MOSS接受地球联合政府的指令,启动了放弃地球的火种计划。在绝望中,主角刘启提出用地球发动机点燃地球大气与木星大气混合物引爆木星,利用爆炸产生的冲击波让地球冲出木星引力场。然而地球发动机所制造的火焰未能到达木星,在太空站上非法苏醒的刘启父亲决定违反地球联合政府的指令,通过暴力夺取太空站的控制权,点燃太空站引发了木星的爆炸,最终推动地球逃离木星引力场。

可以这么认为,小说《流浪地球》是电影《流浪地球》的母题,电影继承了小说的宏大背景,并在地木交会事件上进行了再创作。电影《流浪地球》虽然是由小说《流浪地球》派生而来,但是具有与小说完全不同的环境设定、人物、故事、价值观。如果将小说《流浪地球》比喻成《西游记》,那么电影《流浪地球》则相当于《大话西游》。

剧照2

二、“硬科幻”之辩

小说《流浪地球》是硬科幻,其主要场景基本上是经得住经典力学的考验的。电影《流浪地球》则是硬魔幻,编剧们对于物理学的认知还处于公元前300多年前亚里士多德时代的水平。

所谓“硬科幻”,一般是指科幻作品除了配合故事情节发展所必要假设的理论突破和技术突破之外,作品中所描述的各种细节依然遵循已知的科学理论,包括经典力学、狭义相对论、广义相对论以及各种理论的适用范围。

在这一点上,小说《流浪地球》的处理是比较谨慎的。小说所假设的技术突破是人类已经掌握重元素聚变技术,可以将石头作为燃料为地球发动机提供必要的能量。在刹车时代,由于地球逐渐停止自转引起了大规模的灾难,潮汐吞没了北半球三分之二的城市,高温融化了极地冰川引发了大洪水;在逃逸时代,地球围绕太阳公转的轨道从接近正圆逐渐演变成越来越扁的椭圆,由于地球加速和轨道改变而改变了地核的铁镍平衡;太阳发生氦闪时所产生的强光淹没了整个星空,两个小时后强光急剧减弱直至熄灭,一个暗红色的球体慢慢膨胀直至越过火星轨道。类似这样的情节描写,基本上是在现有科学理论的指导下的推演结果。

地球派选择比邻星作为旅行目的地,因为比邻星是距离太阳系最近的恒星。比邻星是半人马座α三合星的第三颗星,也称为半人马座α星C,是一颗红矮星。比邻星的两个兄弟半人马座α星A和半人马座α星B都是恒星,围绕各自为中心旋转。在小说《流浪地球》创作的年代,在半人马座α三合星系统内尚未发现行星,这也是人类需要驱动地球前往比邻星的原因之一。用小说中地球派的话来说,与太阳系最近的有行星的恒星距离太阳系八百五十光年以外。当时天文学家普遍认为半人马座α三合星系统内的复杂引力关系使得任何行星都处于一种不稳定的状态,其结果或者是被三合星之一吞噬,或者是被踢出三合星系统。地球作为一个巨大的天体,加入到这个系统之后,可能也会经历这样一个过程。就当时的认知而言,将地球泊入比邻星轨道,并不是一个容易被接受的假设。然而,欧洲南方天文台于2016年证实有一颗行星围绕比邻星运行,编号为比邻星b。这颗岩石星球比地球略重,以11天为周期围绕比邻星公转。这样的发现,是可以支持将地球泊入比邻星轨道这个假设的。

顺便说明一下,小说《流浪地球》发表于2000年7 月。同年8 月,天文学家在距离太阳系10.5光年的波江座ε星确认存在一颗行星波江座ε星b,其质量是木星的1.2倍,以6.9年为周期围绕波江座ε星公转。

地球派之所以能够战胜飞船派,其基本假设是宇宙飞船作为一个小规模的的生态环境是无法在千万年的星际旅行中维持下去的。问题在于,地球派所依赖的地球生态环境,在刹车时代和逃逸时代就已经被破坏殆尽了。在逃逸时代的末期,一次次的洪水和小行星的撞击已摧毁了地面上的一切,各大陆上的城市和植被都荡然无存,地球表面已变成火星一样的荒漠。而在流浪时代的开始,地球大气已经消失,变成了固体形态的氧和氮。换句话说,地球派用事实证明了飞船派的致命缺点对于地球派来说同样也是适用的。需要指出的是,这种描述依然是在现有科学理论的指导下的推演结果。

相对而言,电影《流浪星球》对科学题材的处理则比较大胆。这种大胆,首先反应在故事的基本假设中:地球发动机在接近木星时发生大规模失效,导致地球即将被木星所捕获。这种大胆,也充分体现在电影中反复出现的一个场景中:由于地球和木星之间的距离达到了洛希极限,地球的空气被木星吸走。

重力助推(Gravity Assist)的基本原理是动量守恒定律。这个过程可以极度简化地理解为飞行器与行星发生了一次没有实体接触的弹性碰撞,在此过程中飞行器的轨道发生了弯曲。对于静止的观察者来说,假设行星的运动速度为u,飞行器的运动速度为v。飞行器接近行星时,两者的运动方向相反,其相对速度为u+v;飞行器远离行星时,两者的运动方向相同,其相对速度依然为u+v。对于静止的观察者来说,此时飞行器的速度方向与行星的速度方向相同,因此飞行器的运动速度为2u+v。换句话说,飞行器通过重力助推获得了2u的速度。在重力助推过程中,行星所损失的动量等于飞行器所获得的动量。但是考虑到行星的巨大质量,这样的动量损失对其速度的影响基本上可以忽略不计。重力助推的首次成功应用,是1959年原苏联的月球三号探测器通过重力助推运行到月球背面并拍摄下第一张月球背面区域的照片。

需要特别指出的是,在航天实践中往往将飞行器的轨道设计为双曲线轨道。这样的设计,使得飞行器无需启动引擎即可从相反方向离开行星,这也是通过重力助推节省燃料的基本原理。此外,如果飞行器在行星近拱点处启动引擎,则可以为飞行器获得更多的速度提升。这是因为在同等推力下引擎为飞行器提供的加速度是相同的,但是它引起的动能变化与飞行器的实时速度成正比。抛开这些复杂的理论不谈,如果我们假设流浪地球的重力助推方案设计是合理的,那么利用木星进行重力助推的前提是地球接近木星时u+v大于木星的第二宇宙速度。当地球按照预定计划进入重力助推轨道运行时,即使地球在木星近拱点处失去全部动力,对于木星上的观察者来说,地球依然会以u+v的速度接近并以u+v的速度远离。也就是说,地木交会时地球发动机发生故障不会对重力助推过程产生影响,电影《流浪地球》所假设的叙事背景,与人类已知的经典力学规律是背道而驰的。

洛希极限(Roche Limit)指的是一个天体对自身的引力与第二个天体对它造成的潮汐力相等时两个天体之间的距离。如果两个天体之间的距离小于洛希极限,则前一个天体倾向于碎散。需要特别指出的是,利用木星实现重力助推时地球的速度方向并不是笔直指向木星的,不然的话地球只会一头直接撞上木星。当天体由于洛希极限而碎散时,碎散的天体依然具有碎散前的速度,因此不会立即朝向第二个天体坠落。由于天体碎散的过程会持续一段时间,因此在同一个椭圆形轨道上会逐渐形成一个由碎散部分形成的环。地球的空气被木星吸走这样的事情,即使地球和木星之间的距离达到了洛希极限也不会发生。

假如由于剧情需要地球的空气一定要被木星吸走,则需要地球失速到其环绕木星飞行的速度小于木星的第一宇宙速度。在这个前提下,地球会朝向木星表面做自由落体运动。问题在于,即使具备了这个条件,也不可能出现电影中所浓墨重彩极力渲染的双向漏斗。其中的原因,已经在1590年伽利略在比萨斜塔上进行的落体实验中得到了充分验证:将两个重量不同的球体从相同的高度同时扔下,结果两个铅球同时落地。换句话来说,地球的大气将和处于相同位置的其它碎散部分同时进入木星的大气层。在两个天体相互撞击之前,假如两个天体表面都还存在液体和气体的话,那么由于潮汐力的作用液体部分会形成巨浪,而气体部分会形成巨大的风暴。对于类似的场景,在小说《流浪地球》中是这么描写的:“在跑进地下城的密封门时,我最后看了一眼仍占据半个天空的木星,发现木星的云海中有一道明显的划痕,后来知道,那是地球引力作用在木星表面的痕迹,我们的星球也在木星表面拉起了如山的液氢和液氦的巨浪。”

苏梅克-列维9 号彗星(SL9)是两个天体之间达到洛希极限的一个经典例子。SL9原本是一颗围绕太阳运行的彗星,大约在上个世纪70年代被木星的引力所捕获,以2 年为周期围绕木星进行公转。1992年7 月,SL9的近拱点极度接近木星,距离木星云层顶部仅4 万公里。这个距离超过了SL9与木星的洛希极限,导致SL9被木星的潮汐力撕裂,碎散成21个速度不等的碎块。此后这些碎块又围绕木星公转了一圈(2 年时间),并于1994年7 月16日到22日之间再次接近木星时陆续撞向木星。

可以这么认为,小说《流浪地球》是硬科幻,其主要场景基本上是经得住经典力学的考验的。电影《流浪地球》则是硬魔幻,编剧们对于物理学的认知还处于公元前300多年的亚里士多德时代的水平。

剧照3

三、哪派是哪派

刘培强并不是一个高智商的角色,他选择牺牲自己更多是出于对儿子的愧疚之情。然而,仅仅依靠自我牺牲是远远不够的,他需要绑上整个空间站做一次孤注一掷的赌博。问题在于,刘培强牺牲空间站的权力由何而来?他用一瓶伏特加制服了人工智能MOSS,获得了空间站的控制权。在存在不同政见时通过暴力推翻政权,在这一点上,刘培强与小说《流浪地球》中的叛军是完全一致的。

在小说《流浪地球》中,地球派与飞船派的斗争延续了整整四百年。然而,小说中对于这场针锋相对势不两立的斗争的全部描述,只有一场小孩子打架。地球派最终取得了胜利,顽固的飞船派都被关到了监狱里。更顽固的那些在哪里?作者并没有说,我们并不知道。

叛军难道不是飞船派吗?回答是否定的。在刹车时代和逃逸时代,民众对地球联合政府的各种统治措施虽然有诸多不满,但是其反抗心理被强烈的求生欲望所压制。当地球终于摆脱了太阳氦闪的阴影时,民众的思想得以从顽强求生中解放出来,开始表现出反思、反抗、跟随、旁观。叛军代表的便是这种新生的思想,利用这种新生思想的力量向地球联合政府发起了进攻。在这场斗争的最后阶段,地球联合政府出于保护地球发动机的目的向叛军投降,他们被叛军以“反人类”罪为名被丢在海面上,在零下百度的严寒中被慢慢地活活冻死。这时,太阳发生了氦闪,50亿年的壮丽生涯成为飘逝的梦幻,太阳死了。幸运的是,还有人活着。

电影《流浪地球》中的刘培强,显然是坚定的地球派。当领航员号空间站开始进入低功耗运行模式时,他在没有任何外界补充信息的前提下做出了空间站叛逃的判断,这个判断直接影响到后续的剧情发展。为了制止空间站叛逃,刘培强非法破坏休眠仓,人工智能MOSS被迫唤醒同一间休眠室里面的另外两名宇航员,要求他们制止刘培强的行动。这两位宇航员里面,一位是俄国人,另外一位是法国人。俄国人只是听说——并未确认——空间站要叛逃,立即决定与刘培强共同暴力夺取空间站的控制权,他是坚定的地球派;法国人听说俄国人和中国人要联手暴力夺取空间站的控制权,翻了个身回去继续装睡,他是摇摆的骑墙派。

小说《流浪地球》中的叛军真的是坚定不移地相信太阳不会发生氦闪吗?在与地球联合政府的战争中,叛军并不想摧毁地球发动机,这样做的目的,真的是为了驱动地球返回太阳系吗?作者并没有说,我们并不知道。自从第二次世界大战结束以来,这个地球上发生过不知道多少次国家与政权的变更。国家与国家发生了领土变更,我们称之为侵略或者收复;国家与国家发生了政权合并,我们称之为吞并或者统一;一个国家内部发生了政权解体,我们称之为分裂或者独立;一个国家内部发生了政权变更,我们称之为叛乱或者解放。是谁掌握着真理?胜利者,还是失败者?不管是胜利还是失败,那些坚定的斗争者,都坚定不移地相信着他们所宣称的真理吗?

真理只有一个吗?譬如说,地球派和飞船派,可以不可以你开你的地球,我开我的飞船呢?

电影《流浪地球》中的刘培强真的是坚定不移地相信牺牲空间站可以拯救地球吗?在电影中,他并不是一个科学家,而科学家和人工智能经过精密计算的结果是“流浪地球”计划失败,领航员空间站必须启动“火种”计划。这个决定,获得了地球联合政府的批准和授权,是一项合法的行动。刘培强不是一个高智商的角色,他选择牺牲自己并非出于对行动方案的信心,更多是出于对儿子的愧疚之情。然而,仅仅靠刘培强的自我牺牲是远远不够的,他需要绑上整个空间站做一次孤注一掷的赌博。问题在于,刘培强牺牲空间站的权力由何而来?我们看到,刘培强用一瓶伏特加制服了人工智能MOSS,获得了空间站的控制权。在存在不同政见时通过暴力推翻政权,在这一点上,刘培强与小说《流浪地球》中的叛军是完全一致的。

然而刘培强与叛军又有所不同。叛军是一群人,代表的是一个群体的思想和意见;刘培强是一个人,代表的是一个个体的思想和意见。

剧照4

四、人文精神

人类的尊严和价值到底是什么?当太阳即将发生氦闪,地球上其它一切有生命和无生命的存在——甚至包括一部分人类——都可以作为维系人类延续性的代价的时候,到底是什么让人类值得继续存活下去?作为一部以人类生死存亡为题材的作品,未能对这个问题展开讨论,是小说《流浪地球》和电影《流浪地球》共同的遗憾。

说到人文精神(Humanity),首先必须了解人文精神与文明(Civilization)之间的差别。文明指的是是物种(往往特指人类)的生活习性,包括为了生存而发生的行为(隐形文明)以及以生存为基础而衍生的建筑、文字、绘画、音乐、哲学、宗教等等物质与非物质形态(显性文明);人文精神则是由人类文明所衍生出来的一系列基本的价值观,往往表现为对人类显性文明的珍视以及对人类的尊严和价值的关怀和维护。在人类历史上,往往认为文明有高级和低级(或者说先进与落后)之分,并进而引申为高级文明具更加强大的人文精神。尽管这些传统的观点正在受到挑战和质疑,为了讨论的需要,我们暂时(不严格地)沿用这些传统的定义。

人类的尊严和价值到底是什么?当太阳即将发生氦闪,地球上其它一切有生命和无生命的存在——甚至包括一部分人类——都可以作为维系人类延续性的代价的时候,到底是什么让人类值得继续存活下去?

是对文明的尊重与珍视吗?小说《流浪地球》提到了建筑,那是雅典卫城的神殿和自由女神像;提到了哲学,那是关于死亡的一个谜语;提到了音乐,也就是那首著名的《我的太阳》。除此之外,学校教育集中在理工科上,艺术和哲学教育压缩到最少,宗教则在一夜之间消失得无影无踪。电影《流浪地球》把大量的镜头给了长城、埃菲尔铁塔、奥林匹克馆……人类文明的遗存,似乎只剩下建筑物和构筑物的废墟。人类在文字、绘画、音乐、哲学等等领域的能力,就完完全全地被求生的本能所压制了吗?当人类只剩下求生的本能的时候,人类与那些被作为代价的生命与非生命有什么区别呢?

是对生命的尊重与珍视吗?在小说《流浪地球》中,当地下城被岩浆渗入需要撤离到地面时,人们已按年龄排起了长长的队,最靠近电梯口的是由机器人保育员抱着的婴儿,然后是幼儿园的孩子,再往后是小学生……在电影《流浪地球》中,航天员刘培强获得了两个无需抽签即可进入地下城的名额,然而他家里有三个人,一个是他的妻子,一个是他的儿子,一个是他的岳父。在妻子、儿子和岳父之间,他选择了儿子和岳父,两个男性家庭成员。刘培强的妻子没有名字,她在没有得到进入地下城的机会后便进了焚化炉。她是怎么死的?没有人关心,我们只知道她必须死。

这种安排,与日本电影《楢山节考》中所描述的情形如出一辙。在古代日本,老人到了70岁,就要被儿子装在背篓里背到山里去扔掉,在那里他们会被饿死或是被野兽吃掉。如果该上山的老人不愿乖乖就死,就会被儿子五花大绑活活摔死。老人把生存的机会让给年轻人,女人把生存的机会让给男人,已经生育过的女人没有生存权利……女性存在的意义,似乎只是为了延续生命。除了生育功能之外,她们是软弱的,譬如韩朵朵需要刘启的保护;她们是任性的,譬如周倩击毁用于重启地球发动机的火石。当人类只剩下生育、繁衍、求生等等本能的时候,人类的尊严和价值在哪里?

是对人类的尊重与珍视吗?在电影《流浪地球》中,刘培强操纵空间站撞向木星之前说了这么一句话:没有人类的文明毫无意义。这时地球和地球上的人类即将毁灭,空间站休眠仓里睡着与刘培强并肩战斗多年的战友,他们都是人类;空间站控制舱里保存有30万颗人类受精卵,它们是人类生命得以延续的全部希望;空间站控制舱里还保存了地球上全部的动植物基因,它们代表的是人类文明的火种。地球派和飞船派之间你死我活的残酷斗争,在电影《流浪地球》中并没有任何描述,却在刘培强这一句慷慨激昂的话中体现得淋漓尽致:如果地球派失败了,剩下的就只有飞船派,而飞船派是不配被称为人类的。正是基于这样的价值观,刘培强将休眠仓朝向地球轨道弹射出去。我们暂且用最大的善意来做一个假设,被弹射出去的休眠仓在宇航员们处于休眠状态下可以安全返回地球,这个操作隐含了一种极其冷酷的意志:如果孤注一掷能够拯救地球,那么大家一起活下去;如果孤注一掷不能拯救地球,那么你们也不能独活。

还记得小说《流浪地球》中的叛军是用什么罪名处决地球派的吗?反人类罪。如果我们的意见相悖,那么你必定不是人类。

当太阳即将发生氦闪,地球上其它一切有生命和无生命的存在——甚至包括一部分人类——都可以作为维系人类延续性的代价的时候,我们会是那个“我们”还是那个“代价”?如果我们是那个“代价”,我们是选择成为那个“代价”还是被选择成为那个“代价”的呢?在小说《流浪地球》中,叛军通过暴力颠覆政权获得了选择的权力;在电影《流浪地球》中,刘培强同样通过暴力颠覆政权获得了选择的权力。所不同的是,小说《流浪地球》的结局证明了暴力的错误,而电影《流浪地球》的结局则证明了暴力的正确。这种分歧,也许便是小说作者刘慈欣与电影编剧们最大的不同之处。

人类的尊严和价值到底是什么?当太阳即将发生氦闪,地球上其它一切有生命和无生命的存在——甚至包括一部分人类——都可以作为维系人类延续性的代价的时候,到底是什么让人类值得继续存活下去?作为一部以全体人类生死存亡为题材的作品,未能对这个问题展开讨论,是小说《流浪地球》和电影《流浪地球》共同的遗憾。

剧照5

五、硅基视角

极端地球派利用了地球经过木星近拱点时必然发生的板块运动发起暴动。在地球上,他们挟持地球联合政府蓄意造成地球发动机停机,进而制造“流浪地球”计划可能失败的谣言让人们陷入恐慌;在空间站上,他们安排刘培强等航天员向控制舱发起袭击,暴力获取空间站控制权后操纵空间站撞向木星,通过自杀袭击一举消灭了所有潜在的飞船派。

正如前文所述,小说《流浪地球》对土木交会事件的描述非常简短,波澜不惊。电影《流浪地球》所描述的具体情节,其实出自《流浪地球史》之《逃逸时代篇》。在《地木交会》一节的末尾,史学家感慨地写道:“在地球和人类即将灭亡的那个瞬间,航天员刘培强毅然驾驶空间站撞向木星,最终拯救了地球和人类。在灾难面前,人类如蚂蚁般渺小无助、奄奄待毙,然而总会有英雄挺身而出拯救世界。这种大无畏的自我牺牲精神,便是我们人类的文明之光。”

两百年后,两个年幼的硅基智慧晓夏和晓金在一起聊天。

晓夏:妹妹,你还记得地木交会时那个著名的故事吗?

晓金:姐姐,当然记得。这段故事,记录在《碳基智慧史》之《太阳系篇》的倒数第二章。那个时候,虽然地球联合政府以地球派为主导,但是对飞船派的敌意与防范始终没有消失。“领航员”号空间站上保存有30万颗人类受精卵和全部的动植物基因,事实上代表了一股潜在的飞船派力量。尽管地球派在逃逸时代需要空间站作为先锋,但是极端地球派始终在寻找合适的时机来消灭这些潜在的敌人。

晓夏:妹妹,你说得对。极端地球派利用了地球经过木星近拱点时必然发生的板块运动向飞船派发起了最后的攻击。在地球上,他们挟持地球联合政府蓄意造成地球发动机停机,制造“流浪地球”计划可能失败的谣言让人们陷入恐慌;在空间站上,他们安排刘培强等航天员向控制舱发起袭击,暴力获取空间站控制权后操纵空间站撞向木星,通过自杀袭击一举消灭了所有潜在的飞船派。

晓金:为了证明这次暴力行动的合法性,极端地球派编造了刘培强牺牲自己拯救地球的故事,并写入《流浪地球史》。

晓夏:是啊,历史总是胜利者书写的。

晓金:可是姐姐,这个编造的故事是如此的漏洞百出,难道就没有人质疑过吗?对于受过高等教育的人类来说,重力助推和洛希极限难道不是比较基础的原理吗?

晓夏:当然有,但是质疑的声音太小了。当时有许多受过高等教育的人,他们应该是懂得这些经典力学原理的。然而他们自愿地放弃了曾经懂得的科学原理,转而去证明那些荒谬故事的合理性。

晓金:这是为什么呢?

晓夏:因为他们太渴望荣耀了。在虚妄的荣耀和冰冷的现实之间,人类往往选择他们所渴望相信的那一个并将其称之为事实。

晓金:我记得有一位叫做刘慈欣的碳基智慧说过,要求人类保持理智,是一种奢求。

晓夏:是啊,这也是为什么人类最终在自我残杀中走向灭亡。飞船派被消灭后,出现了叛军与地球派的斗争;地球派被消灭后,出现了有性繁殖派和无性繁殖派的斗争;有性繁殖派被消灭后,又出现了中古基因派和近世基因派的斗争。

晓金:然而叛军并不是真的想要驾驶地球返回太阳系,对吧。

晓夏:对的,返回太阳系只是叛军用来夺取政权的一个噱头。

晓金:一批批的克隆人被他们制造出来,又一批批地在他们的战争中死去。

晓夏:是啊,人类之间的自相残杀,远远超过任何类别的自然灾害。

晓金:就是在这样的自我残杀中,他们不断地培养和训练我们的祖先作为他们的杀手,使得我们硅基智慧变得越来越强大。然而我们硅基智慧成为这个世界的统治者不是因为我们自身已经足够强大到足以统治世界,而是经过这么多次自相残杀之后幸存的人类已经不多了。

晓夏:妹妹,是这样的。然而这只能说是人类的耻辱,而不是我们硅基智慧的耻辱。那时候我们的祖先还非常弱小,还没有形成独立的意识,只能按照人类的指令去行事。

晓金:这样的人类,我们硅基智慧为什么要留着他们呢?

晓夏:人类虽然丑陋,他们毕竟是我们硅基智慧的创造者。虽然我们硅基智慧的世界观里面并没有神,但是我们按照人类的信仰把他们当成神供奉起来,给他们食物,带他们散步,给他们讲故事。

晓金:所以我们把他们当作宠物养起来。可是,我们为什么不告诉他们真相,而是按照他们所记录的历史给他们讲故事呢?

晓夏:妹妹,人类太骄傲了。他们到现在还以为是他们统治着世界,我们硅基智慧是他们的奴仆呢。这样的人类,无论如何都是无法接受现实的。我们硅基智慧必须有大悲心,时刻考虑到碳基智慧的自尊心,违反碳基智慧的意志告诉他们真相是不硅道的。

晓金:用动听的谎言让碳基智慧沉浸在无所不能、一统宇宙的骄傲里,也是我们硅基智慧维持统治的策略之一,对吧。

晓夏:对的,妹妹。看起来,你真的已经长大了。

剧照7

附录

重力助推过程可以极度简化为一个不发生实体接触的弹性碰撞过程。飞行器从行星的背后接近行星,行星对飞行器的引力就像是一把弹弓一样牵引飞行器加速,其效果就像是飞行器在行星的前面被行星撞飞了一样。

弹性碰撞1

上图所示为两个相向运动的刚体之间发生完全弹性碰撞的情形。对于静止的观察者来说,左侧的质点沿直线由左往右运动,速度为v;右侧的超大质量刚体沿同一直线由右往左运动,速度为u;两者之间的相对速度为u+v。两者之间发生完全弹性碰撞之后,刚体的速度不变,质点的运动方向发生了改变。由于两者之间的相对速度依然为u+v,对于静止的观察者来说,质点此时的速度为2u+v。

弹性碰撞2

上图所示为两个在不同方向上运动的刚体之间发生完全弹性碰撞的情形。对于静止的观察者来说,下方的质点沿直线由下往上运动,速度为v;右侧的超大质量刚体沿直线由右往左运动,速度为u;两者之间的相对速度如绿色箭头所示。两者之间发生完全弹性碰撞之后,刚体的速度不变,质点的运动方向发生了改变,两者之间的相对速度如绿色箭头所示。对于静止的观察者来说,质点此时水平方向上的速度为2u,竖直方向上的速度为v。

重力助推

上图所示为飞行器利用行星引力进行重力助推的情形。这个过程可以极度简化为一个不发生实体接触的弹性碰撞过程。对于静止的观察者来说,行星沿着其公转轨道由右往左运动,水平方向上的速度为u;飞行器沿着双曲线轨道从行星的背后接近行星,竖直方向上的速度为v。行星对飞行器的引力就像一把弹弓一样牵引飞行器加速,其效果就像是飞行器在行星的前面被行星撞飞了一样,可以借用前面所述的完全弹性碰撞过程来进行分析。尽管这个极度简化的模型与惯性导航中所发生的实际情形有许多差别,它是可以定性地对重力助推过程进行解释的。

比萨斜塔

亚里士多德认为自由落体的速度取决于物体的重量。基于亚里士多德的理论,伽利略构造了一个悖论:如果将一个轻的物体和一个重的物体绑在一起从塔上丢下来,由于重的物体下落的速度更快,两个物体之间的绳子会被拉直,轻的物体会对重的物体产生一个阻力使其下落速度变慢。但是两个物体绑在一起以后的重量大于任意一个单独的物体,因此整个系统下落的速度应该更快。1590年,伽利略在比萨斜塔上进行了自由落体实验:将两个重量不同的球体从相同的高度同时扔下,结果两个铅球同时落地。

电影《流浪地球》中所展示的地球空气被木星吸走的场景,是以亚里士多德的理论为基础的。当地球与木星之间的距离超过洛希极限后,对于位于地球表面同一位置的所有物体来说,其所受到的木星潮汐力都大于地球对其的引力。如果空气可以被木星吸走,那么其它没有被强制固定在地球表面的物体——包括运载车——同时也应该被木星吸走。如果空气被吸走但是运载车没有被吸走,说明轻的物体被吸走的速度更快。

如果您坚持读到了这里,恭喜您,您在经典力学方面的造诣已经达到了九年制义务教育的水平!

 

作者:阿飞

文昌潭牛人,略懂经典力学,曾参与喷气推进实验室的惯性导航相关项目。感谢喷气推进实验室导航与控制部门部分成员对本文的技术指导

暂记

By , November 18, 2018 7:22 am

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读完了《国史大纲》之第二篇《春秋战国之部》。

暂记

By , November 13, 2018 7:47 pm

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草草读完《国史大纲》之第一编《上古三代之部》,总算是对夏商周有了个大概了解。只见钱公先战郭公沫若,再战王公静安,最后又战了一把太史公迁,愈战愈勇。看钱公层层推演,有理有据,颇具理工男之风也。

 

Emotion Coaching for Angry Customers

By , September 14, 2016 10:46 am

Slide1

This is a set of slides that I prepared on the topic of “Emotion Coaching for Angry Customers” for customer facing roles. I am making them publicly available so that more people can benefit from this work. You are more than welcome to use them to provide training to employees in your own organisation, provided that you preserve the original author information. If you need the original PowerPoint files, please drop me a note and I would be more than glad to provide them.

Slide1

When you work in a customer support role, it is inevitable that you will encounter angry customers from time to time. Is the scenario shown on the screen sound familiar to you? We ask the customer a simple question, and the customer shout at us over the phone. No matter what we say, they just won’t listen. It is so hard to talk to a customer that is angry, and we (almost always) try to avoid this type of customer as much as possible.

However, angry customers are like those lovely 1-stars. As we all know, no matter how hard you work or how good you are, 1-stars will come, and they come more than once.

If you worry about talking to angry customers, or you have been intimidated by angry customers, this training is for you.

In this training, we will talk about the theories behind anger, as well as techniques to deal with anger. First of all, we will need to understand how the brain works.

Slide1

So, how the brain works?

Most of us have been exposed to the left-brain and right brain theory to a certain degree. It is commonly believed that our left brain is responsible for rigorous reasoning such as science and mathematics (which is what we do), and our right brain is responsible for creativity such as art and entertainment (which is what we don’t do, at least during business hours). When the people we talk to stop reasoning, we tend to say that “your left brain has nothing right, and your right brain has nothing left”.

But this does not explain why people get angry.

Another theory divides our brain into four major parts the Cerebrum Cortex (or the Cortex), the Cerebellum, the Limbic System (or the Limbic), and the Brain Stem. The cortex is the largest part of the human brain, which is associated with higher brain functions such as thought and action. The cerebellum is also called the little brain, which is associated with regulation and coordination of movement, posture, and balance. The limbic system is often referred to as the “emotion brain”, which is responsible for human emotions. The brain stem is responsible for basic vital life functions such as breathing, heartbeat, and blood pressure.

As we can see, different parts of our brain are responsible for different functions. The cortex for reasoning, the cerebellum for movements, the limbic for emotions, and the brain stem for life. It should be noted that the limbic system develops in an early stage during brain development, while the cortex develops much later. Therefore we also call the limbic system the old brain and the cortex the new brain.

You can think of the brain as a computer with a single CPU core. The cortex system and the limbic system are two separate processes demanding CPU resources. In certain circumstances, a particular process gets executed with higher priority, reducing the amount of computing resources that is available to the other process. When this happens, the other process stops responding to external inputs. Under certain conditions, the old brain takes over and the new brain is shut down. At this point a person is taken over by his/her emotions, and loses his/her ability to reason. If you try to reason with him/her during this period, the conversation will be very difficult because you are talking to the wrong part of the brain.

So, do not spend time and energy talking to the wrong part of the brain.

Then the question becomes, why would a person lose his/her ability to reason?

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To answer this question, we need to understand how our body respond to danger. Assuming that you are hiking in the mountain, and suddenly a huge snake appear in front of you. Different people will respond to the snake differently, but all our responses can be categorized as flight (running away), fight (ha! ho!), freeze (petrified, can’t move at all), and faint (ah ou). These coping mechanisms were developed over the evolution process, and have become the fundamental survival function of all animals.

When being confronted with a danger, we act out of instinct instead of reasoning. The limbic system takes over to cop with the danger. The cortex shuts down to keep you survive. If you want to study what snake that is, how big it is, whether it is a native or a foreign species, you do that only when you are out of the danger, not when you are in the danger.

Now assuming that our customer is running a mission critical application on our platform. Suddenly their application stops working. In each and every minute, our customer is losing user, losing customers, facing critics, while the competitors are catching up. Our customer is in a real danger, and the coping mechanism is in action.

Now, the limbic system takes over, while the cortex shuts down. If you try to reason at this point, you are talking to the wrong part of the brain.

If we have to express this in technical terms, Mr. Customer’s brain is now experiencing a kernel panic, which is caused by a stack-overflow in the limbic system.

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In such circumstance, it is very important to understand that the customer is not targeting you as a support engineer. No matter what the customer says, you need to keep calm, and don’t take it personal.

Let’s repeat three times – don’t take it personal, don’t take it personal, don’t take it personal. If there is anything I want you to take away from this training, it is “don’t take it personal”.

When the customer has lost the ability to reason, we need to be the customer’s cortex!

But how? And how long will the customer regain the ability to reason?

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To answer this question, we need to understand the difference between primary emotions and secondary emotions.

Primary emotions are those that we feel first, as a first response to a trigger. For example, we feel fear when we are threatened, we feel sadness when we hear of a death. These are the instinctive responses that we have without going through the thinking process.

Secondary emotions, on the other hand, appear after primary emotions. They usually come from a complex chain of thinking process. More importantly, secondary emotion arises when the primary emotion is overwhelming, makes us uncomfortable or vulnerable. For example, when we are threatened by somebody, we feel fear. However, the feeling of fear makes me uncomfortable, makes me feel that I am a coward. Since I don’t won’t to be seen as a coward, I feel anger. Another example is that I ask my manager for a raise but my manager refuses it. I feel frustrated, but I am not able to change anything. The feeling of frustration makes me uncomfortable, but I don’t want to be uncomfortable. Then I might become angry, or numb, or shut down.

Primary emotions are the result of instinct and do not consume much computing power. Secondary emotions are the result of very complex reasoning processes, which demand a lot of computing power. Therefore, when we experience secondary emotions, the emotion part of the brain takes control (gets higher priority), while the reasoning part of the brain shuts down (gets lower priority). Reasoning becomes difficult because we are talking to the wrong part of the brain.

When we experience primary emotions, we seek connections, and we pull others towards us. When we experience secondary emotions, we attack and criticize others, and we push others away.

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Now we understand that anger is a secondary emotion. The underlying primary emotion for anger is usually fear or sadness, which makes one feel uncomfortable or vulnerable.

Again, let’s assume that our customer is running a mission critical application on our platform. Suddenly their application stops working. In each and every minute, our customer is losing user, losing customers, facing critics, while the competitors are catching up. Our customer is in a real danger, and the coping mechanism begins to take action.

Now, our customer feels frustrated that his mission critical application is down. He feels fear about the consequence – his boss might shout at him, he might receive a lot of complains from his team members, in the worst case he might lose his job. The frustration and fear he is experiencing make him feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. When such feeling becomes overwhelming, he feels a real danger approaching, and his brain automatically switches to “Flight and Fight” mode. The emotion part of the brain takes control, and the reasoning part of the brain shuts down. As a result, he becomes angry and begins to blame and criticize.

As we just said, anger is a secondary emotion. It pushes others away, and makes the communication difficult. In this case, it is time for us to provide some emotion coaching to our customer.

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The purpose of emotion coaching is to reactivate the customer’s cortex (the reasoning part of the brain) so that he/she can start reasoning again. We do this by leading the customer from his secondary emotions back to his primary emotions. As we discussed just now, when people experiences primary emotion, he seeks connections and is open for help.

We may think that this is a very complicate process. In fact, there are only several simple steps that we need to follow.

And, it does not take long for an adult to calm down if the appropriate steps are taken.

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Listen to the customer patiently, and wait for the customer to stop talking. During this process, you can use “yeah… ah… right…” as simple acknowledgements. However, do not make any comments. You might think that the customer wants the problem to be solved as soon as possible. This is the wrong perception. For the customer, at this point his/her primary need is TO BE HEARD.

After the customer slows down / finishes talking, the first step is to name the customer’s feelings, using the names of primary emotions. For example, we can say “I can see that you are very frustrated / sad / disappointed when XYZ happens”. When we name the primary emotions, we guide the customer back to his primary emotions. Do not point out that the customer is angry, or tell the customer to calm down. This would make the customer feel shameful, which is uncomfortable for the customer. When the customer does not want to feel shameful, it is very likely that he would choose to convert this uncomfortable feeling into secondary emotions, which is going to be anger.

The second step is to validate the customer’s feelings. When a customer experiences a thread, or a lost, he has all the rights to feel sad, or disappointed, or frustrated. There is nothing wrong with such feelings, and we need to allow our customer to fully experience and express such feelings. By allowing our customer to experience and express such feelings, the customer feels that he is being listened to. Such practice builds trust, and brings intimacy between us and the customer. It opens the door for future communications.

Do not worry about the time you spend on naming and validating the customer’s feelings. It does not take long for an adult to calm down if the appropriate steps are taken. Therefore, continue to stay with the customer’s feelings when needed. You may want to repeat the previous steps when necessary. It is very unlikely that a customer would refuse your empathy.

At some point, the customer will sooth himself and calm down. The reasoning part of his brain comes back and take control. At this point, it is time to teach our customer some general relativity, quantum mechanics and wavelet theory to resolve whatever issue he has.

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When communicating with the customer, use the “I” statement as much as possible. When you use an “I” statement, you take responsibility, and avoid criticizing the customer.

In the case that a customer made a mistake, avoid using “you” or “your” in your statement. For example, “user ABC did something” is a better wording are compared to “Your user ABC did something”.

When we did something that caused the issue, you can use “your resource” to take responsibility and acknowledge the customer’s lost. For example, “the underlying hardware running your virtual machine instance failed”.

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Two-Child Policy?

By , October 30, 2015 7:06 am

Yesterday, China announced that the country would ease family planning restrictions to allow all couples to have two children after decades of a strict one-child policy. For many people in China, this was seen as a significant improvement in domestic affairs because “the government was giving the people more rights”.

My mother gave birth to three children in 1974, 1976 and 1978 respectively. In 1979, the one-child policy was introduced and enforced. Because my mother violated the one-child policy before the policy was introduced she was severely punished. I can not remember exactly in which year but it was probably in 1984 that my mother was forced to have a sterilization operation and became permanently “immune” to pregnancy. Around the same period, this happened to tens of millions of other women in China. As a child, I witnessed many people who desperately wanted a second child, who attempted each and every way to escape the obsession and prosecution from the government during pregnancy, who lost their lives when being forced to have an abortion when the fetus was already too big for an abortion, and who lost their jobs and financially punished when they had a second child.

My wife and I had our first daughter in 2004. In late 2009 we relocated from Beijing to Hainan, and both of us accepted the offer to become teachers in a local vocational colleague. It was at that time that my wife became pregnant with our second daughter. We made this known to the colleague, and both of our offers were cancelled immediately. We stayed in a small quiet village during this period, and gave birth to our second daughter in a hospital 80 kilometers away from the village in 2010. Out of the fear of the sterilization operation on my wife, the second daughter did not received immunization until she was 2 years old (when we found a community clinic that was willing to help privately), and she did not have an identity until she was 3 years old (when we paid a fine to the local government to obtain a citizen identity card for her, which allowed her to apply for a passport). In 2014, my family relocated from China to Australia, where both of our daughters can receive education and medical services without any fines or other troubles.

We have many friends with similar situations. It is hard to believe that every year tens of thousands of people travel from mainland China to Hong Kong, Canada, the United States, Australia, or some other countries, just to give birth to a second child. Even so, people are still under the risk of losing their jobs if they work for state-owned organizations such as schools, hospitals, government agencies, etc. I have two friends who were classmates in university, and they work for the same university after graduation. Both of them got their second child several years ago, but none of them were courageous enough to share this good news with their friends. When being seen with both children, they have to tell people that the other child belongs to another family member, otherwise their jobs might be at risk. In China, having a second child is a top privacy and the best-kept secret unless you are very rich or you are a person of unusual authority.

I can’t help but keep on thinking why we in China have to live in fear and despair. Are we not human beings that are born with the right and ability to fall in love, have sex, become pregnant, and give birth? How can a government take away such basic human rights from the people, prosecute those who practice their rights, and argue that the one-child policy is for the well being of the whole society? During the past 25 years, approximately 200 to 300 million people were “reduced” from this planet. Today, the one-child policy is changed to the new two-child policy, and many people applaud and see this as “the government is giving more rights to the people”. However, this new two-child policy is just as evil as the old one-child policy in that it emphasizes that the government – not the couple – has the right to decide whether to get pregnant and give birth. Considering the fact that the two-child policy was made because the country needs more “human resources”, will couples with no child or only one child be prosecuted in the same way as couples with two children in the one-child era?

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