I read “A Brief History of Time”

  In classical general relativity, one cannot predict how the universe began because all known laws of science break down at the Big Bang singularity. The universe could have started out in a very smooth and ordered state, which would lead to the well-defined thermodynamic and cosmological arrow of time as we observe it. However, it could just as reasonably start with a very choppy disorder. In that case, the universe would already be in a state of complete disorder, so disorder would not increase over time. Or, it keeps constant, and then, there is no well-defined thermodynamic time arrow; or it will decrease, and then, the thermodynamic time arrow is opposite to the cosmological time arrow.
   —— Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time”, Chapter 9 “The Arrow of Time”,
   I have no doubt that professionals can understand such an exposition, but I can’t. Because I can’t read it, I like this language instead. I don’t know if this kind of reading psychology is healthy—generally speaking, it’s more or less masochistic and abnormal for a person to read something that he can’t understand at all. But I still want to say that I am not masochistic or perverted. Because I know that there are a large number of people who like to read “A Brief History of Time”. I have discussed this book with many people, and there is one sentence that I ask a lot: “Can you read it?” The answer I get is comforting: “I can’t read it.” People who understand “A Brief History of Time”, but I didn’t make such a question: “Why do you still read it if you can’t read it?” Because I know, it is stupid to ask.
   It’s not stupid to read books you don’t understand, it’s stupid to avoid books you don’t understand.
   I have read the book “A Brief History of Time” many times, but I have never gained anything. Every time I read “A Brief History of Time”, I feel like I am traveling, in Tibet, or in Xinjiang. Outside the window is the snow-capped mountain, steep and holy, very far away from me. I know very well that it is impossible for me to climb up in my life. But, to be more romantic, why do I have to go up there? To put it a little more romantically, wouldn’t it be nice to watch them “over there” from a distance through the window?
   In April of that year, I went to Xinjiang. Across the Tianchi Lake, I saw Bosten Peak behind the peaks. It is snow-white, and under the sunlight, it exudes the dazzling reflection that only crystals have. There are no clouds in the sky, and Bosten Peak has completely lost its reference. Its whiteness and silence make it difficult for me to calm down. I just looked at it like that, as if I had penetrated the prehistory. At that moment, I recognized that I was the most complete person in the world, and my only regret was that I was not a stone—but what can I regret?
   Einstein was more of a novelist than Hawking. I like him. Many people asked Einstein, what is the theory of relativity? Each time, Einstein took the trouble to explain his theory of relativity. However, the situation is not good. The authoritative statement is that at that time, there were “no more than five people in the world” who could understand the theory of relativity, and there were also people who doubted Einstein. One of the most paradoxical things is that in 1905, the editor of “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies” actually failed to understand it. Here lies the power of genius: what does it matter if you don’t understand? Since you can’t understand it, then publish it for people who can understand it, even if there are only five.
   Thus happened the greatest meeting in the history of human civilization: Einstein, and Marie Curie—two snow-capped, crystal-reflecting snow peaks came together. They met in a booth. According to those present, their conversation was in German. All the people present are proficient in German, but no one who is fluent in German can understand what Einstein and Marie Curie are “saying”. Yes, they just spoke some language.
   At Princeton, however, Einstein explained relativity to young college students this way—
   a train, no matter how fast it goes, cannot catch up with the speed of light. Because the faster the train, the greater its own mass and the greater the resistance. The mass of the train will change as the speed of the train changes. The mass of the train is relative, it is impossible for it to catch up with the light. (main idea)
   When I read this passage in a book, I was so happy that I almost scratched my head. I actually “understand” the theory of relativity. This is a miracle I have performed. However, I calmed down immediately, and I didn’t do miracles. Speaking rationally, a donkey could understand what Einstein said. I can only say that when Einstein used the image of a train to describe the theory of relativity, he was the greatest poet in the world. At that moment, Einstein and Goethe were one and the same.

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