唯美 / 独立 / 有趣
专注于"书影音"的垂直媒体

环球掠影||从家庭妇女到顶尖物理学家 韩瑞国(编译)

编译|韩瑞国

战胜习俗与偏见,最终在极光研究领域取得杰出成就的琼·费曼,于2020年7月22日去世,终年93岁。

Joan Feynman died on July 22nd

The astrophysicist who studied auroras and prevailed against prejudice was 93

Sep 19th 2020 |

IN THE DUSTY Spanish town of Tordesillas in 1494, Spain and Portugal divided the unclaimed world between them. The moment is famous. Less well known is that around 1963, she at Columbia, he at Caltech, Joan Feynman and her brother Richard divvied up the universe.She took auroras, the Northern and Southern Lights that shimmer through the night sky in the highest latitudes. He, nine years older and fast becoming a world star in physics, took all the rest, which was fine with her.

1494年,在尘土飞扬的西班牙小镇托德西拉斯,西班牙和葡萄牙瓜分了尚且无人认领的世界。那一时刻世人皆知,而几乎为人不知的是,1963年左右,美国哥伦比亚大学的琼·费曼和她在加州理工学院的哥哥理查德瓜分了宇宙。费曼分得了在地球最高纬度地区夜空闪烁的南极光和北极光,而年长9岁,很快成为物理学研究领域世界级明星的理查德则拿走了剩余的所有东西。费曼对这样的划分感到满意。

The arrangement was serious. When, many years later, Richard was asked to look into auroras, he said he would have to ask Joan’s permission. She said no. They were hers, and besides, he had started the fascination. One night when she was small he dragged her out of bed, made her get dressed and took her to the golf course in Far Rockaway, near their house. Auroras did not normally come down to lower latitudes, but here was one. As she stared at a sky that was dancing with red, gold and green lights, he told her that no one knew how they happened, which was true back then. The mystery, with the lights, lodged in her head for good.

这种安排是严肃认真的。多年之后,有人请理查德研究极光,他回答说必须征得琼的允许。琼说不行,极光是她的领地,再说她着迷于此还是哥哥最早启发的。她还很小的一天晚上,哥哥把她从床上拽下,带她去了他们家附近的法尔洛克威高尔夫球场。极光通常不会在这样的低纬度地区出现,可那天晚上却出现了。琼凝视着五光十色的极光翩翩起舞的夜空,哥哥则告诉她,世界上没人弄清其中的缘故,那时候的确如此。一种神秘感连同色彩斑斓的光线由此永远萦绕在琼的脑海。

After years of looking into it, she found the answer. Auroras happened when particles from the solar wind, the stream of free electrons and heavy ions flowing out of the Sun, penetrated the magnetosphere that protected the Earth. The magnetic fields of the Earth and the solar wind, bound in different directions, intersected, and the colours were caused by solar particles colliding with oxygen and nitrogen in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. During coronal mass ejections, when huge flares of material were flung out of the Sun at speeds of up to 1,500km a second, auroras increased in frequency and range on the Earth. The faster the speed, the greater the geomagnetic disturbance.

经过多年研究,她终于找到了答案。原来,太阳风即从太阳射出的自由电子和重离子流粒子流,穿过保护地球的磁层时,就会产生极光。方向不同的地球磁场和太阳风发生交汇,而这些颜色是由太阳粒子与地球上层大气中的氧和氮碰撞而形成的。在日冕物质抛射过程中,当太阳以每秒1500公里的速度喷出巨大耀斑时,地球上极光的频率和范围都会迅速增加。速度越快,产生的地磁扰动就越大。

Her studies expanded, fuelled by data sent back by Explorer 33 in 1966, to cover as much as possible of the Sun’s behaviour: its 11-year sunspot cycles, its 88-year Gleissberg cycles, its strange peaks and troughs of activity. Most usefully for the Space Age, she found that coronal mass ejections could be detected by the presence of helium in the solar wind. They also came in groups. If these storms could to some extent be predicted, spacecraft could be designed to resist them better. In short, that night walk in childhood had led her to a lifetime of considering the interplay between the Earth and its giant, vital, fluctuating star: a star it faced with its magnetosphere flattened on the day-side like a shield, while on the night-side of Earth the magnetosphere relaxed, with a wide, long, open tail. That shape, too, she had discovered.

1966年,在“探索者33号”卫星传回数据的推动下,琼的研究扩展到太阳活动的更多领域:太阳11年的黑子活动周期;88年的格利斯伯格周期以及奇异的活动波峰和波谷。在太空时代最有用的是,她发现日冕物质抛射可以通过太阳风中存在的氦气中得到探测。同时,日冕物质抛射团簇状发生。如果能在某种程度上预测到这些风暴,就可以更好地设计航天器以抵御其影响。简而言之,童年那天晚上的散步让她一生都在思考地球与其体型巨大、至关重要而剧烈波动的恒星之间的关系。地球面向太阳一侧的磁层被压平,像一张巨大的盾牌,而背对太阳一侧的磁层释放开来,带着一个又宽又长的开放式尾巴。这种形状也是她发现的。

Yet she might never have done any of this work. At every turn people tried to put her off science as a career. Women couldn’t do it, her mother said. Their brains were too feeble. At Syracuse University, where her thesis was on absorption of infra-red radiation in crystals, she was told to write one on cobwebs, more useful for cleaning her house. When she tried, after graduating, to place an ad in the New York Times for a research job, she was told only men could do so, in the men’s section.

然而,她本来断然不会从事这样的工作。周围的人一直试图让她放弃科研这一职业。母亲说,女人大脑不强,做不了那样的事情。在雪城大学(Syracuse University),她的毕业论文是关于晶体吸收红外辐射,可校方却要她写有关蜘蛛网的论文,后者对打扫房间更有用处。毕业后,她试着在《纽约时报》上登广告找份研究工作,结果被告知那是是男人的专有领地,只有他们才能从事研究工作。

Marriage and children therefore seemed inevitable as well as desirable, but full-time housewifery drove her to misery and then depression. Science was her life. Now it seemed mostly confined to her kitchen, observing how long it took to heat the baby food, or showing her elder son, as she baked, how to mix an acid with a base in a bottle to get an explosion. There were shades of her upbringing here, in a family jumping with curiosity, where everything—a napkin rolling across the table, a bug on a leaf, the wonder that the heavy waffle-iron was made of atoms—had been investigated. The how and why of everyday science still delighted her, but even part-time research was hard to fit in. And all the while the shining Sun reminded her what she should be working on.

这样,结婚生子似乎就顺理成章,也值得去做,但全职家庭主妇却让她感到痛苦,进而陷入抑郁。科学是她的生命,可现在似乎全部被限制在厨房里,观察加热婴儿食品要花多长时间,或在烤东西时,给大儿子演示瓶子里混合酸碱就会引起爆炸。这里也有她成长中经历的影子。在一个充满好奇心的家庭,所有的东西——桌上卷的餐巾、叶子上的虫子以及对沉甸甸的华夫饼干也由原子构成的好奇——都得到研究。尽管日常科学的方法和原因也让她高兴,但兼职研究很难融入日常生活之中。另外,灿烂的阳光也一直提醒着自己应该做些什么。

The one person who had always encouraged her was Richard. Though she constantly doubted herself, ready to shrink into some background role, he told her to aim for the top. As soon as she could talk he had challenged her with sums and made her his assistant in his bedroom-lab, to throw switches and hold her finger in a spark-gap to feel the little shock. Bringing her water at night, he would whirl the glass around to show the magic of centrifugal force. On her 14th birthday, feeding her fascination with the night sky, he gave her a college textbook on astronomy. It was hard going, but on page 407 came a revelation as good as the aurora, or almost. Below a figure of a spectrum was a reference to a work by Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin on stellar atmospheres—a woman, a married woman at that, doing science. So the world was not closed to her. It could open. She just had to persist and, over 60 years, she did.

一直鼓励她从事科研的就是哥哥理查德。琼老怀疑自己的能力,准备退缩承担幕后的角色,但理查德却要她要瞄准顶尖科学。从会说话起,理查德就用算数挑战她,还让她充当其卧室实验室的助手,要她切换开关,并把小手放在火花缝隙去感受小小的电击。晚上给她送水时,他会转动杯子展示离心力的魔力。为了她对夜空的迷恋,在她14岁生日那天,理查德送给妹妹一本大学天文学教科书。这本书十分难啃,但在第407页,琼却发现极光一样绚丽的启示。在一张光谱图的下面引述的,是塞西莉亚·佩恩-加波施金(Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin)关于恒星大气的著作,那是一位从事科究的已婚女性的著作。因此,世界并未对她关闭,是可以打开的。她必须坚持下去,这样坚持了60多年。

Increasingly she was interested not simply in the science of Earth-Sun relations, but in their history. From 1985, working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, she studied observations of auroras from ancient China and medieval Europe, when people feared they portended war, famine, the return of spirits or the work of devils. She consulted records, kept methodically for centuries, of water levels in the Nile, to trace the impact of the Sun on the climate of north Africa. Though the Sun was in a historically stable phase, and had been for billions of years, to her eye it still showed considerable, often strange, variation—variation which, she thought, might explain the relative tardiness of Homo sapiens to take up agriculture, waiting until, round 10,000BC, the climate stabilised.

后来,让她越来越感兴趣的不仅是有关地日关系的科学,而且有日地关系的历史。从1985年在加利福尼亚州帕萨迪纳市的喷气推进实验室工作开始,她研究了古代中国和中世纪欧洲的极光观测情况,当时人们担心极光预示着战争、饥荒、灵魂回归或恶魔活动。为了追踪太阳对北非气候的影响,她查阅了几个世纪以来被人们有条不紊地保存的尼罗河水位记录。尽管太阳处于历史上的稳定阶段,而且这种情况已经持续几十亿年,但在琼看来,太阳仍然表现出了相当大的、经常是奇怪的变化——她认为,这种变化可能解释智人开始从事农业的时间较晚的原因。智人直到大约公元前10000年,气候稳定下来以后才开发农业。

To those who asked why, in her late 80s, she went on researching, her answer was partly that she still had plenty of questions. How, for example, did the Sun end up with a cycle of 88 years? And why did it act in the unexpected ways it did? The beauty of auroras was beguiling. But with one extra-high-speed ejection, as it had shown from time to time, the Sun could disable Earth’s communications. And it was also possible, with only a small bout of laziness, that it could turn the golf course in Far Rockaway—that golf course where Richard had told her, “Nobody knows”—back into the ice rink it had been 12,000 years before.

有人问她年近九旬为何仍在坚持研究,她回答说,部分上是还有许多的问题需要弄清。例如,太阳为什么最终会有88年的周期?为何它的行为难以预料?极光之美令人陶醉,但如果是超高速喷射,太阳会中断地球上的通信,常常发生这样的事情。还有一种可能,太阳只消稍微懒散一下,就会把法尔洛克威高尔夫球场重新变为12000年前那样的溜冰场,而正是在那个高尔夫球场,理查德对她说“世界上还没有人弄清其中的缘故。”

原载·英国《经济学人》2020年9月19日

赞(0)
转载请以链接形式标明本文地址:梦千寻 » 环球掠影||从家庭妇女到顶尖物理学家 韩瑞国(编译)
分享到: 更多 (0)

梦千寻 - 梦里寻它千百度

电影台词名人名言