The Three Body Problem (The Book)

18 December 2018

Today I finally finished the Three Body Problem, one of the most well-known Chinese sci-fi books that’s come out recently. On its surface, it’s a story about scientists and alien contact and its very confusing at first but you eventually zoom out and everything slowly begins to make sense. I really liked the sense of scale it always kept with it, and I especially liked the semi-dreamy writing style. But fundamentally it’s a story about whether or not humans are good. That’s not really in my wheel-house and I wouldn’t be able to really speak intelligently about that particular issue, but I do want to bring up some of the technology that appears later in the book. Light spoilers ahead.

In the second half of the book, there’s few chapters dedicated to the idea of multiple dimensions that exist on a micro-scale. I have no idea of valid this idea may be, but it does bring up an interesting question about just how far we are along in understanding the fundamental nature of the universe. There was some quote from the book about how there’s no real difference (relative to technologically advanced aliens) between discovering fire and discovering the transistor, because they’re both just manipulating atoms at the macro level. Maybe whoever discovers the next phase in theoretical physics will help us along and create a new sudden shift in the technology that were able to produce, akin to the discovery of micro-dimensions in the book.

Another thing the book got me to think about was whether or not the search for alien life is a good thing. Maybe we’ll find a civilization that’s incredibly wise and advanced and will lift us out of our suffering. Or maybe we’ll find a war-like and conquering empire that will colonize Earth and make us slaves. Or maybe there’s nobody out there, either because they all died or there weren’t any to begin with. Speaking of which, I should probably do a post about the Fermi Paradox at some point.

One minor plot point that interested me was the use of the Sun as a giant radio antenna, magnifying a message a million times so that it could reach other solar systems. The explanation given was that the energy of radiation within the sun decreased as a step function, rather than a gradual decline, which allowed it to act as a mirror for radiation. I wonder whether or not that’s actually true, and if it is, could it be a way to contact aliens? Would that even be a good idea?

Anyway, the books really good and people should read it if they have time. I don’t really read much fiction, but I enjoyed it and it made me think.