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万物简史(MP3+中英字幕) 第141期:基本物质(9)

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In the early 1800s there arose in England a fashion for inhaling nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, after it was discovered that its use "was attended by a highly pleasurable thrilling." For the next half century it would be the drug of choice for young people. One learned body, the Askesian Society, was for a time devoted to little else. Theaters put on "laughing gas evenings" where volunteers could refresh themselves with a robust inhalation and then entertain the audience with their comical staggerings.
19世纪初,英国开始风行吸入一氧化二氮,或称笑气,因为有人发现,使用这种气体会“给人一种高度的快感和刺激”。在随后的半个世纪里,它成了年轻人使用的一种高档毒品。有个名叫阿斯克协会的学术团体一度不再致力于别的事情,专场举办“笑气晚会”,志愿者可以在那里狠狠吸上一口,提提精神,然后以摇摇摆摆的滑稽姿态逗乐观众。
It wasn't until 1846 that anyone got around to finding a practical use for nitrous oxide, as an anesthetic. Goodness knows how many tens of thousands of people suffered unnecessary agonies under the surgeon's knife because no one thought of the gas's most obvious practical application.
直到1846年,才有人有时间为一氧化二氮找到了一条实用途径:用做麻醉药。事情是明摆着的,过去怎么谁也没有想到,害得天知道有多少万人在外科医生的刀下吃了不必要的苦头。
笑气I mention this to make the point that chemistry, having come so far in the 18th century, rather lost its bearing in the first decades of the 19th, in much the way that geology would in the early years of the 20th. Partly it was to do with the limitations of equipment—there were, for instance, no centrifuges until the second half of the century, severely restricting many kinds of experiments—and partly it was social. Chemistry was, generally speaking, a science for businesspeople, for those who worked with coal and potash and dyes, and not gentlemen, who tended to be drawn to geology, natural history, and physics. (This was slightly less true in continental Europe than in Britain, but only slightly.) It is perhaps telling that one of the most important observations of the century, Brownian motion, which established the active nature of molecules, was made notby a chemist but by a Scottish botanist, Robert Brown.(What Brown noticed, in 1827, was that tiny grains of pollen suspended in water remained indefinitely in motion no matter how long he gave them to settle.The cause of this perpetual motion—namely the actions of invisible molecules—was long a mystery.)
我提这一点是为了说明,在18世纪得到如此发展的化学,在19世纪的头几十年里有点儿失去方向,就像地质学在20世纪头几十年里的情况一样。部分原因跟仪器的局限性有关系--比如,直到那个世纪末叶才有了离心机,极大地限制了许多种类的实验工作。还有部分原因是社会。总的来说,化学是商人的科学,是与煤炭、钾碱和染料打交道的人的科学,不是绅士的科学。绅士阶层往往对地质学、自然史和物理学感兴趣。(与英国相比,欧洲大陆的情况有点儿不一样,但仅仅是有点儿。)有一件事兴许能说明问题。那个世纪最重要的一次观察,即确定分子运动性质的布朗运动,不是化学家做的,而是苏格兰植物学家罗伯特•布朗做的。(布朗在1827年注意到,悬在水里的花粉微粒永远处于运动状态,无论时间持续多久。这样不停运动的原因--即看不见的分子的作用--在很长时间里是个谜。)
重点单词   查看全部解释    
obvious ['ɔbviəs]
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adj. 明显的,显然的
联想记忆
inhalation [,inhə'leiʃən]
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n. 吸入;吸入药剂
 
slightly ['slaitli]
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adv. 些微地,苗条地
 
entertain [.entə'tein]
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v. 娱乐,招待,怀抱
 
invisible [in'vizəbl]
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adj. 看不见的,无形的
n. 隐形人(或物
 
settle ['setl]
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v. 安顿,解决,定居
n. 有背的长凳
 
suspended
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adj. 悬浮的;暂停的,缓期的(宣判)
 
perpetual [pə'petʃuəl]
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adj. 永恒的,永久的,一再往复的
联想记忆
refresh [ri'freʃ]
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v. 使 ... 生气蓬勃,提起精神,恢复精神
 
continental [.kɔnti'nentl]
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adj. 大陆的
 
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