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万物简史(MP3+中英字幕) 第154期:基本物质(22)

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At McGill University in Montreal the young New Zealand–born Ernest Rutherford became interested in the new radioactive materials. With a colleague named Frederick Soddy he discovered that immense reserves of energy were bound up in these small amounts of matter, and that the radioactive decay of these reserves could account for most of the Earth's warmth. They also discovered that radioactive elements decayed into other elements—that one day you had an atom of uranium, say, and the next you had an atom of lead. This was truly extraordinary. It was alchemy, pure and simple; no one had ever imagined that such a thing could happen naturallyand spontaneously.
在蒙特利尔的麦克吉尔大学,新西兰出生的年轻人欧内斯特·卢瑟福对新的放射性材料产生了兴趣。他与一位名叫弗雷德里克·索迪的同事一起,发现很少量的物质里就储备着巨大的能量,地球的大部分热量都来自这种储备的放射衰变。他们还发现放射性元素衰变成别的元素——比如,今天你手里有一个铀原子,明天它就成了一个铅原子。这的确是非同寻常的。这是地地道道的炼金术;过去谁也没有想到这样的事儿会自然而自发地发生。
放射性材料Ever the pragmatist, Rutherford was the first to see that there could be a valuable practical application in this. He noticed that in any sample of radioactive material, it always took the same amount of time for half the sample to decay—the celebrated half-life—and that this steady, reliable rate of decay could be used asa kind of clock. By calculating backwards from how much radiation a material had now and how swiftly it was decaying, you could work out its age. He tested a piece of pitchblende, the principal ore of uranium, and found it to be 700 million years old—very much older than the age most people were prepared to grant the Earth.
卢瑟福向来是个实用主义者,第一个从中看到了宝贵的实用价值。他注意到,无论哪种放射物质,其一半衰变成其他元素的时间总是一样的——著名的半衰期——这种稳定而可靠的衰变速度可以用做一种时钟。只要计算出一种物质现在有多少放射量,在以多快的速度衰变,你就可以推算出它的年龄。他测试了一块沥青铀矿石——铀的主要矿石——发现它已经有7亿年——比大多数人认为的地球的年龄还要古老。
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efficient [i'fiʃənt]
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adj. 效率高的,胜任的
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jointly ['dʒɔ:intli]
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adv. 共同地,连带地
 
exposed [iks'pəuzd]
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adj. 暴露的,无掩蔽的,暴露于风雨中的 v. 暴露,
 
decade ['dekeid]
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n. 十年
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diminishing
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v. 减少;衰减;递减;削弱…的权势(diminish的
 
radium ['reidiəm]
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n. [化]镭
 
carelessly ['kɛəlisli]
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adv. 粗心大意地,疏忽地
 
impression [im'preʃən]
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n. 印象,效果
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certain ['sə:tn]
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adj. 确定的,必然的,特定的
pron.
 
drawer ['drɔ:ə]
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n. 抽屉,拖曳者,制图员,开票人
(复)dr
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