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高一英语人教版必修三Unit 4 课文内容


Unit 4 Astronomy: the science of the stars HOW LIFE BEGAN ON THE EARTH No one knows exactly how the earth began, as it happened so long ago. However, according to a widely accepted theory, the universe began with a “Big Bang” that threw matter in all directions. After that, atoms began to form and combine to create stars and other bodies. For several billion years after the “Big Bang”, the earth was still just a cloud of dust. What it was to become was uncertain until between 4.5 and 3.8 billion years ago when the dust settled into a solid globe. The earth became so violent that it was not clear whether the shape would last or not. It exploded loudly with fire and rock. They were in time to produce carbon dioxide, nitrogen, water vapour and other gases, which were to make the earth’s atmosphere. What is even more important is that as the earth cooled down, water began to appear on its surface. Water had also appeared on other planets like Mars but, unlike the earth, it had disappeared later. It was not immediately obvious that water was to be fundamental to the development of life. What many scientists believe is that the continued presence of water allowed the earth to dissolve harmful gases and acids into the oceans and seas. This produced a chain reaction, which made it possible for life to develop. Many millions of years later, the first extremely small plants began to appear on the surface of the water. They multiplied and filled the oceans and seas with oxygen, which encouraged the later development of early shellfish and all sorts of fish. Next, green plants began to grow on land. They were followed in time by land animals. Some were insects. Others, called amphibians, were able to live on land as well as in the water. Later when the plants grew into forests, reptiles appeared for the first time. They produced young generally by laying eggs. After that, some huge animals, called dinosaurs, developed. They laid eggs too and existed on the earth for more than 140 million years. However, 65 million years ago the age of the dinosaurs ended. Why they suddenly disappeared still remains a mystery. This disappearance made possible the rise of mammals on the earth. These animals were different from all life forms in the past, because they gave birth to young baby animals and produced milk to feed them. Finally about 2.6 million years ago some small clever animals, now with hands and feet, appeared and spread all over the earth. Thus they have, in their turn, become the most important animals on the planet. But they are not looking after the earth very well. They are putting too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which prevents heat from escaping from the earth into space. As a result of this, many scientists believe the earth may become too hot to live on. So whether life will continue on the earth for millions of years to come will depend on whether this problem can be solved. A VISIT TO THE MOON Last month I was lucky enough to have a chance to make a trip into space with my friend Li Yanping, an astronomer. We visited the moon in our spaceship! Before we left, Li Yanping explained to me that the force of gravity would change three times on our journey and that the first change would be the most powerful. Then we were off. As the rocket rose into the air, we were pushed back into our seats because we were trying to escape the pull of the earth’s gravity. It was so hard that we could not say anything to each other. Gradually the weight lessened and I was able to talk to him. “Why is the spaceship not falling back to the earth? On the earth if I fall from a tree I will fall to the ground.” I asked. “We are too far from the

earth now to feel its pull,” he explained, “so we feel as if no gravity at all. When we get closer to the moon, we shall feel its gravity pulling us, but it will not be as strong a pull as the earth ’s.” I cheered up immediately and floated weightlessly around in our spaceship cabin watching the earth become smaller and the moon larger. When we got there, I wanted to explore immediately. “Come on,” I said. “If you are right, my weight will be less than on the earth because the moon is smaller and I will be able to move more freely. I might even grow taller if I stay here long enough. I shall certainly weigh less!” I laughed and climbed down the steps from the spaceship. But when I tried to step forward. I found I was carried twice as far as on the earth and fell over. “Oh dear,” I cried, “walking does need a bit of practice now that gravity has changed.” After a while I got the hang of it and we began to enjoy ourselves. Leaving the moon’s gravity was not as painful as leaving the earth’s. But returning to the earth was very frightening. We watched, amazed as fire broke out on the outside of the spaceship as the earth’s gravity increased. Again we were pushed hard into our seats as we came back to land. “That was very exhausting but very exciting too,” I said. “Now I know much more about gravity! Do you think we could visit some stars next time?” “Of course,” he smiled, “which star would you like to go to?”


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