Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Three Body Problem

As people look toward 2017 with relief that 2016 will be over, I have several thoughts.

  1. First, a lot of people probably think 2016 was great.  Their candidate was elected to office and now their 'enemies' are feeling what they have felt for the last eight years.  (I could, of course, argue that this is different, but in their minds it's the same - their team won.)   
  2. Second, as I read the headlines in the paper and online about what a bad year it's been, I'm wondering what makes people think 2017 is going to be better.  There's lots of news we never read about because it wasn't sensational enough or bad enough.  But the key news item - the US election - doesn't suggest to me a better year.  There will be unanticipated benefits like in any disaster.  People will pull together and discover friends and personal strengths they didn't know they had.  But the man who will be slumming by moving to the White House, thinks he's the smartest guy around.   The truly smartest people are those who know they know very little.  The only way one can be totally sure of oneself is if one has a very simplistic view of the world.  And we have a very cocksure new president and that doesn't bode well.  Yes, there will be some positive impacts here and there, but overall and in the long run, the American people and the world are going to pay big time for the new president's on-the-job training and winner mentality.  
  3. But third, I've just finished reading The Three Body Problem which has as one of its key points - don't assume the alternative of a very bad thing won't be worse.   This is a very interesting book, not simply because of the story it tells and how it tells it.  It is a Chinese science fiction novel that won the Hugo Award for best novel in 2015, which makes it unique already.  

The story begins with the Red Guard harassing to death a renowned physics professor during  the Cultural Revolution.   Physicists play a big role in this book.  I really don't want to talk about any more of the plot than that.  Having the plot reveal itself as you turn the pages is a big part of the enjoyment of the book.

I will say that the book's structure has the reader  opening doors into new worlds and thinking wow, I didn't expect this.  Only to have a new door and another new world and another wow, and then another, and another, and another.  This is the first part of a trilogy. The other parts are already available.  I'm just a little behind.

But, getting back to the opening of this post, I will say that the reader will spend time in a secret Chinese military post scanning the universe for signs of intelligent life.  And there's a signal.  And the person who is on duty at the time secretly sends back a signal.  The human condition, this physicist feels, is so dire, that humans would be better off being rescued by a superior form of being.

I'll say no more about the plot, but I'd send you back to my third point above.

It's a fascinating book and I'm looking forward to the next volume of the trilogy.  Have a Happy New Year and focus on making what we have better rather than looking for a savior to take care of things for us.

1 comment:

  1. “The fundamental cause of the trouble in the modern world today is that the stupid are cocksure, while the intelligent are full of doubt.”
    —Bertrand Russell


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