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(Contents of Volume I)
01 Out of Primal Chaos
02 Evolution of the Universe
03 The Stone Age
04 Human Species and Languages
The Ancient Period
05 The Four Great Civilizations
06 Africa and the Americas in the Early Times
07 Hellenistic Civilization
08 Periods of the Spring-Autumn and the Warring States
09 The Founding and Spread of Buddhism
10 The Qin Dynast
11 The Han Dynasty
12 The Roman Empire
13 Jewish Civilization and the Founding and Spread of Christianity
14 Science and Technology before the Common Era
15 Literature and the Arts before the Common Era
16 The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and the Split of Christianity
17 Wei-Jin and the Northern and Southern Dynasties: Split in the Country
18 Wei-Jin and the Northern and Southern Dynasties: National and Cultural Integration
The Middle Ages
19 Sui-Tang and the Five Dynasties
20 Korea and Japan in the Early Times
21 Southeast Asia in the Early Times
22 The Song Dynasty
23 The Founding and Spread of Islam and the Rise of the Arab Empire
24 Europe in the Early and High Periods of the Middle Ages
25 The Rise of Russia
26 The Mongol Empire encompassing Europe and Asia
27 The Ming Dynasty
28 Europe in the Late Middle Ages
29 Cultural Developments before the Renaissance
30 The Renaissance in Europe
The Early Modern Period
31 The Protestant Reformation
32 International Trade and Voyages of Discovery
33 Sea Hegemony and the Scramble for Colonies
34 Africa and South Asia during the Colonial Period
35 Southeast Asia and Australasia during the Colonial Period
36 The Early Qing Period
37 The Enlightenment in Europe
38 The First Industrial Revolution
39 The American War of Independence
40 The French Revolution
41 The Meiji Restoration in Japan
42 The Late Qing Period
ca. 4000 BCE
01 Out of Primal Chaos
The prehistory 15–4.5 billion years ago
If time travel is possible, where are the tourists from the future?
The English physicist Stephen Hawking (1942– ) has been confined to a wheelchair since the age of twenty as a result of a motor neuron disease related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which left him with a paralysed body; at forty-three he contracted pneumonia and had to have a tracheotomy, which removed his ability to speak altogether. However, he never lost heart but spared no efforts in pursuing his research and in the end became the most distinguished theoretical physicist in the contemporary world. His renowned work, A Brief History of Time: from the Big Bang to Black Holes, published in 1988, established him as the highest authority on cosmology.
According to the findings of Hawking and other scientists, from the outer space, originally in the state of a vacuum, appeared at an unknown time a gravitational singularity in what is called “the cosmic egg”. (Hawking thinks that within the limits of the space-time in which the singularity exists, all scientific laws and predictability cease to be effective.) This singularity exploded about 15 billion years ago with a Big Bang and formed the universe.
The universe expanded rapidly, largely because of the presence of “dark energy”, after the explosion, occupying a space from zero to immensity, its diameter spanning a light year. The matter produced by the explosion gradually cooled down to form nebulae, which in time evolved into the galaxies.
There are numerous nebulae and galaxies in the universe. One of the galaxies is called the Milky Way. It came into existence 10 billion years ago. Within the Milky Way are numerous stars and planets. The former are still in a state of combustion, giving out light and heat while the latter have cooled down and give out neither light nor heat.
The galaxies revolve in the universe on fixed orbits; stars revolve in the galaxies on fixed orbits as well. Planets, as dependencies of the stars, revolve round the star to which each belongs. They are attracted to each other by universal gravitation, which keeps them at a safe distance apart all the time.
The Sun is a small star in the Milky Way. Its precursor was a nebula. About 5 billion years ago, this nebula collapsed and contracted owing to the explosion of a supernova nearby. In the contracted nebula, the centre was occupied by the sun, with planets revolving round it on oblong-shaped orbits. The larger planets are eight in number: Mercury is the star closest to the sun; the others in order are Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
The Earth, besides revolving round the Sun, also rotates on its axis. This is a formless axis on which the Earth self-rotates, its two ends being the North and South Poles, perpendicular to the equatorial plane and forming an angle of 66.5 degrees with the Earth’s orbital plane. The Earth’s rotation gives rise to day and night; owing to the slanting position of the axis, the Earth’s revolution (taking 365.24 days to complete one cycle round the Sun) gives rise to the four seasons. It can be imagined that once the angle of the Earth’s axis changes, global climatic changes will follow. This has happened before.
The Moon is a satellite of the Earth, revolving round the Earth, taking 29.53 days for one cycle.
It had taken about 0.5 billion (500 million) years from the explosion of the supernova to the formation of the Earth. We will take a close look at the evolution of the Earth in the past 4.5 billion years in the following chapter.
01 混沌初開 150–45 億年前的歷史
霍金，英國人，生於 1942 年。20 歲時，因肌肉萎縮而全身癱瘓， 要終生坐輪椅；43 歲時，又因肺炎要做穿氣管手術，以致從此不能說話。可是他沒有氣餒，仍然努力不懈，潛心研究，終於成為近世最傑出的理論物理學家。1988 年，他寫成《時間簡史》一書，奠定了他作為宇宙學最高權威的地位。
地球除了環繞太陽旋轉外，還繞着地軸自轉。地軸是一條有質無形的地球自轉軸，它的兩端是南極和北極，和赤道面相垂直，和地球的軌道面相交成 66.5 度角。地球自轉造成晝夜；因為地軸傾斜的緣故，公轉(繞着太陽旋轉，一周需時 365.24 日)造成四季。可以想像，一旦地軸的傾斜度出現變化，世界各地的氣候就會有所改變。這情況以前就曾發生過。
月亮是地球的衞星，它繞着地球運行，一周需時 29.53 日。
從超新星的爆發到地球的形成，中間經過大約五億年。我們將會在下一章細看地球在過去 45 億年演化的情況。