Dangers from outer space 來自外星的危險

What is the future of Earth? Could a giant rock from space strike our planet?
Could a giant rock from space strike our planet?

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地球已經存在了 46 億年,在此期間它經受了一些災難性的事件,比如隕石衝擊和氣候的巨大改變。那麼未來又會是怎樣呢?繫好安全帶,讓我們一起探討那些來自外星際對地球可能會造成的危險。

課文內容

Vocabulary: Science 詞彙: 科學

What is the greatest threat to life on our planet? Is it climate change? Shortages of food or water? Or might an altogether bigger danger come from somewhere further away: space?

We’re not talking about an invasion by little green men here. Instead, how about the prospect of being hit by a gigantic meteorite, zapped by lethal cosmic rays or fried by the deadly energy of an erupting star?

It wouldn’t be the first time. Good old planet Earth has had a rough ride over the last 3.7 billion years, with some spectacularly devastating events. The most famous mass extinction was 66 million years ago, when it’s widely believed a meteorite killed off the dinosaurs. A 110-mile-wide crater in Mexico with the same geological age supports this theory.

Believe it or not, this wasn’t the most brutal episode in our planet’s history. That was when a staggering 96% of life was wiped out at the end of the Permian period, 252 million years ago. Scientists don’t know for sure why this happened, but any potential explanations carry with them the grim possiblity that similar events could happen again.

For example, some experts believe that our Sun has a very dense, dim twin star which is too far away to observe directly. This sleeping giant, dubbed the “Death Star”, could distort the paths of orbiting chunks of icy rock and hurl them towards the rest of the Solar System.

Is this what happened 252 million years ago? Or is there instead, perhaps, a distant, ninth planet in our Solar System which pulls in passing comets and sends them hurtling our way?

If that isn’t enough to put you off your breakfast, then consider what’s happening to our friend, the Sun. The star that has given us the warmth to sustain life is gradually turning into a deadly foe. Like all stars, it is slowing dying, burning through its energy supplies. As it does so, it expands, and in about 2 billion years it will have grown so much that the heat will make life on planet Earth unbearable.

While all this sounds a little macabre, take comfort from the fact that the chance of being hit by a giant interstellar projectile is incredibly slim, and that 2 billion years is a very long time.

And there’s another thing: if the dinosaurs had not snuffed it when they did, it’s extremely unlikely that human beings would have had the chance to evolve at all.

詞彙表

little green men (比喻)外星人
meteorite 隕星、隕石
cosmic ray 宇宙射線
good old (讚美語氣)老牌的、可靠的
a rough ride 一段艱難的歷程
mass extinction 物種大滅絕
to kill off 殺死、消滅
crater (火山口式的)圓坑
geological 地質的
to wipe out 徹底滅絕
dense 密度大的
to orbit 沿軌道圍繞(行星或恆星)運行
Solar System 太陽系
comet 彗星
to hurtle 猛衝
to put someone off (something) 喪失對某事的興致
macabre 恐怖的,令人害怕的
interstellar 星際的
to snuff it (俗語)死亡,斷氣

測驗與練習

1. 閱讀課文並回答問題。

1. When did dinosaurs become extinct?  

2. What evidence is there that a meteorite wiped out the dinosaurs?

3. Why was 96% of life destroyed at the end of the Permian period? 

4. Which verb means: ‘to throw’?    

5. True or false: All stars eventually run out of energy.

2. 請你在不參考課文的情況下完成下列練習。選擇一個意思合適的單字填入句子的空格處。

1. Last year was __________. I’m glad to see the end of it.

rough riding     a rough rider     a rough ride     rough ride

2. Washing clothes in boiling water __________ bacteria.

makes     extinct     kills off     snuffs     wipes off

3. Can we change the topic? Talking about it _________ my food.

put me off    puts off     puts off me      puts me off

4. One day I’d love to travel to _________! I’d even buy a one-way ticket to Mars.

space     the space     the Space     spaces

5. Earth orbits _________.

the Sun     the Moon     the planets     the solar system

答案

1. 閱讀課文並回答問題。

1. When did dinosaurs become extinct? 
    Many scientists believe that dinosaurs became extinct 66 million years ago.

2. What evidence is there that a meteorite wiped out the dinosaurs?
    A huge crater was discovered which struck Earth at the same time as when the dinosaurs became extinct.

3. Why was 96% of life destroyed at the end of the Permian period?
    Scientists aren’t sure why this happened. It may have been caused by an object hitting the Earth, for example a comet or icy         rock sent our way by a dim star or ninth planet.

4. Which verb means: ‘to throw’?
    To hurl.

5. True or false: All stars eventually run out of energy.
    True. All stars eventually burn through their energy supplies. 

2. 請你在不參考課文的情況下完成下列練習。選擇一個意思合適的單字填入句子的空格處。

1. Last year was a rough ride. I’m glad to see the end of it.

2. Washing clothes in boiling water kills off bacteria.

3. Can we change the topic? Talking about it puts me off my food.

4. One day I’d love to travel to space! I’d even buy a one-way ticket to Mars.

5. Earth orbits the Sun.

 

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