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更新时间:2017-2-19 9:45:07 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Winston Churchill Wrote of Alien Life in a Lost Essay

LONDON — Even as he was preparing for the biggest struggle of his life, leading Britain in its fight against Nazi Germany, Winston Churchill had something else on his mind: extraterrestrials.

伦敦——即便是在准备迎接生命中最大的挑战——带领英国对抗纳粹德国时,温斯顿·丘吉尔(Winston Churchill)的心中也在想着别的事情:外星人。

In a newly unearthed essay sent to his publisher on Oct. 16, 1939 — just weeks after Britain entered World War II and Churchill became part of the wartime Cabinet — and later revised, he was pondering the likelihood of life on other planets.


Churchill, who went on to become prime minister during much of World War II and again from 1951 to 1955, was so enthralled by the subject that he even ordered a suspected sighting of an unidentified flying object by the Royal Air Force to be kept a secret for 50 years to avoid “mass panic.”

继而在二战的很长一段时间里担任英国首相、并于1951年至1955年间再度担此要职的丘吉尔,对这一话题极为痴迷,甚至曾勒令将皇家空军(Royal Air Force)疑似见到不明飞行物的信息保密50年,以免引发“大恐慌”。

In an 11-page essay titled “Are We Alone in the Universe?” the statesman showed powers of reason “like a scientist,” said Mario Livio, an astrophysicist who read the rarely seen draft and wrote about it in an article published Wednesday in Nature magazine.

丘吉尔的文章长11页,题为“我们是独自存在于宇宙中吗?”看过难得一见的草稿并就此撰文于周三发表在《自然》(Nature)杂志上的天文物理学家马里奥·利维奥(Mario Livio)说,这位政治家在文章中展示了“如科学家般”的推理能力。

“The most amazing thing is that he started this essay when Europe was on the brink of war and there he is, musing about a question about a scientific topic that is really a question out of curiosity,” he said in an interview.


Churchill first defines what life is, then details the requirements for life to exist and progressively expands his reasoning to the existence of life in other solar systems, Livio said. “He’s really thinking about this,'’ Livio said, “and though he didn’t have all the knowledge at hand, he thinks about this with the logic of a scientist.”


Churchill’s interest in science stemmed from his early years as an army officer in British-ruled India, where he had crates of books, including Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species,” shipped to him by his mother.


He later became friends, at least for a time, with the writer H.G. Wells, whose hugely popular “The War of the Worlds,” about Martians invading Britain, was broadcast in 1938 — a year before Churchill wrote his article. (Churchill once said Wells’ “The Time Machine” was one of the books he would like to take with him to purgatory.)

他后来和作家H·G·威尔斯(H.G. Wells)成了朋友,至少有一段时间是如此。威尔斯著有广受欢迎的《世界之战》(The War of the Worlds),写的是火星人侵略地球的故事。1938年,也是就丘吉尔撰写那篇文章的一年前,该书曾被电台广播。(丘吉尔说过,如果要下地狱,那威尔斯的《时间机器》[The Time Machine]会是他想要带在身边的书之一。)

Churchill argued that it was probable that extraterrestrial life existed somewhere in the universe. This was years before Frank Drake, the U.S. astronomer and astrophysicist, presented in 1961 his theory about the number of communicative civilizations in the cosmos. “It is astonishing that Churchill wasn’t a scientist and yet he showed such an interest in science,” Livio said.

丘吉尔指出,外星生命可能存在于宇宙中的某个地方。这比美国天文学家和天体物理学家弗兰克·德雷克(Frank Drake)于1961年提出关于宇宙中可沟通文明数量的理论早了很多年。“令人惊讶的是,丘吉尔并不是科学家,但他对科学表现出了极大的兴趣,”利维奥说。

The manuscript was passed on to the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri, the site of Churchill’s famed 1946 Iron Curtain speech, in the 1980s by Wendy Reves, the wife of Churchill’s publisher, Emery Reves. It had been overlooked for years until Timothy Riley, who became the museum’s director last year, stumbled upon it recently. Soon after news of the discovery, two other copies were found in a separate archive in Britain.

上世纪80年代,这份手稿被丘吉尔的出版人的妻子温迪·列韦斯(Wendy Reves)提交给了密苏里州富尔顿的国立丘吉尔博物馆(National Churchill Museum)——丘吉尔于1946年在富尔顿发表过著名的铁幕演说。它被忽略了很多年,直到去年上任的馆长蒂莫西·赖利(Timothy Riley)最近偶然发现了它。该手稿重见天日的消息传出后不久,英国有人在另外一个档案馆里又发现了两份副本。

Although the article was sent to Reves in 1939, it was not published. Churchill had revised it a number of times in the 1950s.


In his article, Churchill wrote: “I am not sufficiently conceited to think that my sun is the only one with a family of planets.”


“I, for one, am not so immensely impressed by the success we are making of our civilization here that I am prepared to think we are the only spot in this immense universe which contains living, thinking creatures,” he wrote, “or that we are the highest type of mental and physical development which has ever appeared in the vast compass of space and time.”


Largely self-educated in the sciences, Churchill had boundless curiosity for practically anything, an attitude he once described as “picking up a few things as I went along.”


He wrote about 30 million words in his lifetime, including wartime speeches, an African travelogue, a book on oil painting, a lengthy memoir, and even an essay on an imagined invasion of Russia when he was just 15. For his body of work, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953.


Welding an active imagination with scientific thought, Churchill produced a few madcap ideas — which he called “funnies” — that he actually championed while he was prime minister, as a means to defeat Nazi Germany.


There was Operation Habakkuk, an imagined fleet of aircraft carriers made from wood pulp and ice to fight German U-boats in the mid-Atlantic. Then there was the Great Panjandrum, an enormous, rocket-propelled wheel packed with explosives. Churchill even invented a green velvet “siren suit” to be put on in a hurry during air raids.

先是“哈巴谷行动”(Operation Habakkuk)——按照设想,一支由木浆和冰制成的航母编队将开赴大西洋中部,与德国人的U型潜艇作战。然后是“大首领”(Great Panjandrum),一种由火箭驱动的巨型爆破车。丘吉尔甚至设计了以绿色丝绒制成的“警报套装”,可供人在空袭期间匆忙套在身上。

While none of these ideas came into being (the giant wheel having run amok in the testing stage), science was not just a hobby for Churchill.


He was the first prime minister to hire a science adviser. Frederick Lindemann, a physicist, became Churchill’s “on tap” expert and once described him as a “scientist who had missed his vocation,” said Andrew Nahum, who curated an exhibition on Churchill and science at the Science Museum in London. He found a separate copy of the essay in the Churchill Archives Center at the University of Cambridge.

他是第一位聘任科学顾问的首相。在伦敦科学博物馆(Science Museum)以丘吉尔和科学为主题策划过一场展览的安德鲁·内厄姆(Andrew Nahum)说,物理学家弗雷德里克·林德曼(Frederick Lindemann)成为了丘吉尔“随时”讨教的专家,曾经形容他是一个“入错行的科学家”。内厄姆在剑桥大学(University of Cambridge)丘吉尔档案中心(Churchill Archives Center)找到了一份文章副本。

Churchill also met regularly with scientists such as Bernard Lovell, the father of radio astronomy and the Lovell telescope.

丘吉尔还会和一些科学家定期碰面,譬如射电天文学之父、洛维尔望远镜的发明者伯纳德·洛维尔(Bernard Lovell)。

Churchill founded in 1958 the British equivalent of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at Cambridge — Churchill College — which has since produced 32 Nobel Prize winners.

丘吉尔于1958年在剑桥创办了英国版的麻省理工——丘吉尔学院(Churchill College)。该学院迄今为止已经培养出了32名诺奖得主。

In the interwar period, Churchill wrote numerous scientific articles, including one called “Death Rays” and another titled “Are there Men on the Moon?” In 1924, he published a text asking readers “Shall We All Commit Suicide?”, in which he speculated that technological advances could lead to the creation of a small bomb that was powerful enough to destroy an entire town.


Churchill’s recently unearthed article on extraterrestrial life was probably written in the same vein and probably was intended to be published as a popular science piece for a newspaper.


Two other scientific essays — one on cell division in the body and another on evolution — are stored in the museum’s archives in Fulton, Riley, the museum director, said in an interview.


Churchill had a “natural curiosity and general optimism about life,” Riley said. He had “a willingness to see technical and scientific advances improve not only his immediate world or his country, but the world.”