Scientists talk to the creator of "Three-Body Problem": Do aliens choose silence in order to survive?

For seven years, he insisted on sending the original work of "The Three-Body Problem" to the screen, and received high praise for "reasonable adaptation, loyal to the original" after broadcasting.

What is the biggest difficulty in the adaptation of "The Three-Body Problem"? Where is the spiritual core of "The Three-Body Problem", which has been popular for more than ten years? Has The Three-Body Problem changed our imagination of the universe and alien civilizations? To what extent does hard science fiction coincide with contemporary science?

Guest information

  • 1 Wang Yi Associate Professor, Department of Physics, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
  • 2 Tian Liangliang Chief screenwriter of the TV series "The Three-Body Problem"
  • 3 Bai Yiqing is the chief producer of the TV series "The Three-Body Problem"
  • 4. Qi Rui, Deputy Director of Beijing Planetarium
  • 5 Zigan, Ph.D., Institute of High Energy, Chinese Academy of Sciences

First, the original book to the script: four years of perseverance just to sharpen a sword

The restoration and adaptation of realistic techniques, the trade-offs behind "staying true to the original"

Wang Yi: I heard that the production team spent four years polishing the three-body script, and it took more than ten versions to finally decide on the current version. What principles were adhered to in the process of script creation and repeated scrutiny of "The Three-Body Problem"? What's the biggest challenge?

Tian Liangliang: The biggest difficulty in early planning is choosing the right creative direction. Since there is not much experience to refer to, we can only use the "stupid method" of trial and error, after all, only if you have actually done it, you know where things will go wrong. In fact, we have tried the adaptation scheme discussed by netizens, including criminal investigation, emotional drama, "Marvel temperament" sci-fi sense direction and many other creative directions, and finally decided to adopt realistic methods and reproduce the original work as much as possible.

Stills from the TV series "The Three-Body Problem" Wang Miao

Wang Yi: Indeed, the most praise received since the broadcast of the TV series "The Three-Body Problem" is "loyal to the original", and the famous scene often has the barrage of "original party ecstasy" floating by. What exactly is the trade-off between the original and the adaptation?

Bai Yiqing: The disadvantage of film and television adaptations compared with literary works is that the text can very concisely outline a certain scene state, for example, the original work can be interspersed with explanations of the "dyeing" plan (editor's note: one of the plans proposed by the three-body ruling faction, using the side effects of science and technology to make the public fear and disgust with science, and then kill human science), but film and television works cannot be strung together. So we need to adapt it to help promote the reasonable development of the plot, otherwise the plot will be very jumpy, bringing a very poor look and feel to the audience who have not seen the original work.

The characters in the drama version enter reality from the surface of the paper, providing the audience with another space for imagination

Wang Yi: Which of the two scientists' favorite characters in the TV series "The Three-Body Problem"? Is the character portrayal of the drama version satisfactory to the original party?

Qi Rui: As a science fiction writer, Liu Cixin mainly presents readers with science fiction content and grand events in the future, and correspondingly cannot provide too much ink in terms of characters, which leads to the character of Wang Miao in the original work is not so three-dimensional. But the original plot of Wang Miao being invited by her daughter to give a physics science lecture at school moved me to tears, and I experienced the intentions of the crew as the original party.

When reading the original work, I may not like Shi Qiang for the first time, but the drama version of Shi Qiang is particularly grounded, he used the "stewed" Beijing snack as a three-body game landing ID to reflect Chinese characteristics, making people like it more and more, it can be said that the casting and script adaptation of the drama version have given Shi Qiang more vitality and attractiveness.

Zi Qian: Our grasp of the characters when reading the original book is often not so complete and specific, but the drama provides another space for our imagination, and after watching the play, we can combine the image in the play with the original text, and the reading experience is very good.

As a scientific research worker, when watching similar science fiction dramas, I will unconsciously substitute the role of matching scientist, but after all, there is a gap between the work and reality, and the role of scientist will make me play. So I especially like Shi Qiang, he is thick and thin, affectionate and righteous. The countdown tied to his body and the understanding of wave-particle duality have made Shi Qiang come alive, which shows that the crew has put a lot of effort into character portrayal.

TV series "The Three-Body Problem" Shi Qiang

Tens of tons of steel slices are then extruded to build the wreckage of the "Judgment Day" - big cost brings big production

Wang Yi: The most important thing in "The Three-Body Problem" is the famous scene. What is the most impressive picture in the movie?

Qi Rui: What impressed me the most was the scene at the Red Bank base. The Xinglong Observatory of Beijing Astronomical Observatory has a telescope built on the mainland in the 70s of the last century, and its base part is painted yellow with green color, and the base of the transmitter built by the crew is exactly the same as one of them, very restored, but it may only be found by those interested in astronomy. It can be seen that scene construction is sometimes a matter of "insider watchmanship", and the crew is also very invested.

Stills from the TV series "The Three-Body Problem" Red Bank Antenna

Bai Yiqing: Our production team did go to the places you mentioned. Worried about professional errors, we looked for the closest real instruments we could find to the 60~70s for reference, and these instruments could still be operated when plugged in, and strive to restore the various instruments in the Red Bank base scene as much as possible.

The single most costly part of the production process is the guzheng operation. There are two parts to where it burns money, the first part is that we have to find a ship similar to the "Judgment Day" to shoot, and the items and scenes on board need to be carefully prepared; The second part is to choose full CG to present the cutting scene and build the wreckage in real life on the basis of multiple field experiments when cutting the flying blade. We had planned to go to the Panama River to shoot this part, but due to the epidemic could not make the trip, we inspected almost all the rivers in the country, and did many impact tests, and finally built the wreckage of the "Judgment Day" with steel in the "dumbest" way on the side of a certain river, made dozens of tons of steel into sliced appearance, and then pressed into the wreckage after impact. Perhaps the overall cost is not as good as the animation cost of the three-body game, but the cost of a single scene is indeed high. The crew did their best to hope that the climactic plot of Operation Guzheng would satisfy everyone.

Stills from the TV series "The Three-Body Problem" The "Judgment Day" was cut by a flying blade

Second, the core of "The Three-Body Problem": cosmic civilization and scientific exploration

After more than a decade of popularity, why is "The Three-Body Problem" still attracting more audiences?

Wang Yi: The most lacking thing in big IP adaptations is often the combination of seriousness and genius creativity, and the drama version of "The Three-Body Problem" made me, an original fan, very moved. Whether it is the original party or new fans, the original work and film adaptation of "The Three-Body Problem" continue to attract more and more audiences, and more people will enter the pit in the future.

So why does the big IP of "The Three-Body Problem" have such strong vitality as a multi-dimensional cultural product? What's its biggest attraction?

Bai Yiqing: "The Three-Body Problem" itself has a strong sense of science fiction with strong Chinese literary characteristics, the emotional restraint between the characters and the earth is restrained, and the way of expression is very characteristic, which is why "The Three-Body Problem" can become a multi-dimensional international cultural product widely loved by everyone. We probably read "The Three-Body Problem" a little more often than the average reader, and what is "scary" is that the more we read it, the more we feel as if we haven't seen it, and we make new discoveries every time. Even though the episode has already aired, we still feel that new content is emerging when we watch some passages in the first two days, which is the great thing about "The Three-Body Problem", which is rich in content and provides readers with a huge imagination.

Qi Rui: I read the earliest version, and the first chapter is still "The Age of Madness", which takes me back to the era when I grew up with loudspeakers, but it was not very new as a passerby. When I saw the human-column computer presenting doors, ands, and non-doors, I particularly felt how clearly science fiction used this form to show von Neumann's computer structure system, and how clearly it could show computer principles. Da Liu is a man of science and technology, and he can explain his professional knowledge in a simple and clear way that we science communication people dream of, and the LSI realizes all functions at once, which makes me like "The Three-Body Problem" at once.

Stills from the TV series "The Three-Body Problem" Human-column computer

As the pinnacle of existing science fiction in the world, the biggest feature of "The Three-Body Problem" is that it discusses human beings, as a seed of civilization that has appeared in the universe, what role they should play in the evolution of the universe and even what choices they should make. Many readers don't like the choice of the last journey, but it may be the last vote of mankind, one of the millions of cosmic civilizations that have appeared, that is, to return to the universe. The novel has strong humanistic feelings, even beyond nationality, beyond the earth, to the level of the universe, it touched me a lot.

Zi Qian: What attracted me most about "The Three-Body Problem" was the "epic sense" of the contrast between grandeur and smallness. Ye Wenjie is a small "bug", and the opposite is a grand universe; Bai Mulin's small thoughts and plantings brought subsequent cosmic-level events. In contrast, many science fiction film works often know from the beginning that the theme is grand, the ending is also grand, and all the plots and results are brought about by making great decisions in the face of the grand universe. "The Three-Body Problem" is different, standing on the scale of the universe level, constantly deriving backwards to find the original source, and finding that the source is daily life. This is a shocking "sense of epic".

Has The Three-Body Problem changed our imagination of the universe and alien civilizations?

Wang Yi: Commander Ye Wenjie's delicate fingers trigger cosmic-scale events after pressing the button, and such scenes are many in "The Three-Body Problem", which makes us think. The exploration and thinking of aliens and alien civilizations may be fantastical in daily life, but it seems very reasonable in the context of "The Three-Body Problem". After coming into contact with "The Three-Body Problem", have the imaginations and cosmology of alien civilizations changed?

Tian Liangliang: We have surveyed many people, and their feelings are that after reading the novel "The Three-Body Problem", they look up at the starry sky, and at this time the starry sky is no longer silent but extremely noisy. That's what makes the work special and great.

Qi Rui: I work in a planetarium, and the children are the largest group of visitors, and they are naturally curious, and the most common question they ask is whether there are aliens. "The Three-Body Problem" actually explains this problem for them from the side, although it is hard science fiction, it contains a lot of scientific truths such as the Fermi paradox, etc., and the attempts and ideas of human beings to explore alien civilizations in reality are also reflected in the novel.

Wang Yi: I remember Liu Cixin once talked about his feelings in an essay that one day when he went out and looked up at the starry sky, he felt that the earth had disappeared, and only the starry sky existed deeply. The drama version of "The Three-Body Problem" also makes us feel this sense of emptiness looking up at the starry sky, we really need to look up more, we need science.

Stills from the TV series "The Three-Body Problem" young Ye Wenjie

Laws of the Dark Forest: Silence for Survival?

Wang Yi: Fermi's paradox and the law of the dark forest are one of the spiritual cores of "The Three-Body Problem", what do you think of the law of the dark forest?

Zi Qian: The law of the dark forest is not entirely a matter of natural science, but more of a social science problem. Liu Cixin himself has said that the dark forest is not a scientific reasoning, and no one has carried out serious scientific research around it, which can be said to be a novel setting.

Tian Liangliang: Hawking has also repeatedly reminded us what we should and should not do on a cosmic scale. I was personally "brainwashed" by "The Three-Body Problem", and we fully accept and agree with many of the theoretical basis and logical reasoning provided by the "Three-Body Problem" work, which is what the creators must do, otherwise the series cannot be promoted.

Bai Yiqing: We also invite a large number of scientists to be our consultants in our creation, which is also the good thing about our crew - knowing their own shortcomings and being willing to ask. We have consulted many scientists to see what is the reaction of the result of "the existence of alien civilizations" presented to them by ETO, and they all say "how can you commit suicide, you must be happy and crazy!" "But we, as creators, cannot be without purpose, and still use literary logic and film and television language logic to tell why scientists collapse in fiction."

Qi Rui: The law of the dark forest is actually a very important theory. According to the methodology of modern science, there is a postulate in front, that is, an axiom, and then there is a logical deduction. Regardless of whether these axioms hold or not, axioms can only be accepted and not accepted, and do not need to be proved.

But I think there is something wrong with the law of the dark forest, that is, in the novel, Ye Wenjie's mouth tells Luo Ji that there are many stars and many civilizations in the universe, and if we simplify the civilization on each planet into a point, then the entire universe can become a cosmic society. The relationship between these civilizations between them can be studied using cosmic sociology.

I think there is something wrong with this sentence. How can a civilization be reduced to a point? This simplification process makes the subject untenable. A person is complex in itself, let alone a civilization. So I think that such a large civilization to do such a simplification will make some of the later theories pale.

Wang Yi: In the original work, the law of the dark forest was introduced through the discussion between Ye Wenjie and Luo Ji, which may also be part of the so-called "plan". The scene where Luo Ji wants to speak to the trisolarans is shocking, but from another angle, he actually has his wall-breaker. Da Liu once introduced that he is still full of hope for the future of mankind; The radio of the final zeroer can also reflect that human beings are not just small bugs in the universe, but a glorious existence in the universe.

Stills from the TV series "The Three-Body Problem" Red Bank Base

Is it really possible for intelligent life to change the laws of physics?

Wang Yi: The trisolarans in "The Three-Body Problem" can even change the laws of physics of our earthlings as the ultimate weapon in the war between civilizations. So is it really possible for intelligent life to change the laws of physics?

Tian Liangliang: We should believe in all possibilities. The work "Three-Body Problem" is actually praising the greatness of life in the whole universe, even if it is finally zeroed, every living form and every civilization is blooming with the light of life force, so we believe in the existence of every possibility. In the past, there were not many designs for the construction of alien ideas and society in science fiction works and personal imagination, and we rarely considered the world composition, social composition, formation environment and political environment of alien civilizations, and the three-body problem discussed these things in depth, which is also where the depth of the three-body is.

Zi Qian: I think we should believe that nothing is possible. Conclusive conclusions cannot be given until empirical evidence is obtained. Bold hypothesis, careful verification, existence or non-existence must be rigorously proved, giving more valid information.

Qi Rui: At present, the boundary of science is still relatively clear, scientists believe that we must draw a boundary when discussing physics, if there are any possibilities, then science has no way to explore. I personally agree, but I still feel that science should be more open.

The question of the laws of the universe may as well be openly imagined. If we understand the performance of the universe in physics from the language of science, the academic community hopes to use a fixed function to describe all changes in the universe, that is, the grand unified theory. But I think this is a paradox, because everything in the universe is changing, and why is it the function of the universe that describes it? So the answer may be open, and we need to continue to explore.

Science and science fiction: The gray area at the intersection gives us wings of imagination

Wang Yi: I myself have published academic papers on curvature engines in serious scientific journals, and I have also written faster-than-light papers. In fact, as long as it can explain where the hypothesis is, the academic community is quite tolerant of this "gray area" between imagination and science. So to what extent should hard science fiction and contemporary science coincide? Conversely, how should science fiction literature and film and television creators take advantage of the "gray area" at the intersection of science and science fiction?

Tian Liangliang: Imagination can be fantastic, but arguments need to be carefully consulted. In the creative process, we invited many scientists to help us verify whether the imagination is valid, because we can use the "gray area" imagination to create, but the argument process should be rigorous, and it needs to be convincing to apply it to the meaning of the theme and the logic of the characters to be presented in the end.

Bai Yiqing: Some of the excellent science fiction works have strong social colors, and explore human nature through the hypothetical environment of science fiction; Better science fiction works will also inspire scientific development or scientific product development on this basis. For example, many things in our lives today are quite "science fiction" when they get the "Three-Body Problem" book in 2007. So the good thing about science fiction is that it gives us space for imagination and gives us inspiration to realize our imagination.

Qi Rui: Hibernation technology was discussed in the work "The Three-Body Problem", and under normal circumstances, the government does not allow hibernation technology to be used in commercial operations, and it will only become a reality when facing a crisis hell in the future. It sounds sci-fi, but it's very realistic. Cutting-edge scientific research such as genetic modification is likely to face problems like hibernation technology, and we have no idea what we are studying now will do in the future. Therefore, scientists should have such a responsibility and obligation to consider what impact their research will have on mankind from a social and humanistic perspective, and make their own contributions to the continuation of civilization, rather than bowing their heads and pulling carts.

Zi Qian: My attitude towards science fiction works is that "fantasy" comes first, and only "science" becomes scientific research. Whether it is hard science fiction or soft science fiction, it does not have to be completely consistent with science, it is more in the face of the majority of non-scientific research workers' literary works, the most important thing is humanistic things, science is an auxiliary to the humanistic spirit of the work. How to add the component of "science" to "fantasy" is worth exploring, perhaps 10%~15% of scientific content, auxiliary works from a new scientific dimension, can enhance the grandeur of science fiction.

Stills from the TV series "The Three-Body Problem" VR game

Wang Yi: In fact, scientific research is like dancing in shackles, a plus or minus sign, a difference of 0.01, but science fiction removes this shackles, let us let our imagination fly in the world view of science fiction, I think this kind of space is very precious. Although some places of science fiction can be singled out by "science", I still hope that everyone can have an inclusive and open mind, let science fiction plug in the wings of imagination for us, and let everyone have more contact with science. Science fiction is becoming more and more popular, can we expect the birth of science fiction works like or even surpass "The Three-Body Problem" in the future?

Tian Liangliang: In fact, everyone can start their own creation at any time, the threshold for literary creation itself is not so high, and the cognition of scientific knowledge and the imagination of science fiction are also open to everyone. The most important thing is not to be bound by the hat of "beyond xx", but to actively create and make the soil of science fiction more fertile. The world of science fiction is very vast, the story types are rich and the tension is also very strong, we hope that science fiction film and television can be more prosperous, and more people like this type of literary and artistic works.

Bai Yiqing: The time, energy, financial investment and return ratio of science fiction film and television is actually not comparable to other film and television works, but we can't give up the production, many excellent works are worth our best to present, after the successful start of film and television, this category will become thicker and heavier, I hope this track is getting better and better, and there are more and more excellent science fiction works. We want kids to watch some sci-fi when they're young, so that their imaginations can be opened.

Qi Rui: Recently, the film and television of Da Liu's works has been booming, and in an interview, he said that it is this era that has created the credibility of his works. If it had been put on the screen decades ago, there would have been many people who did not believe that small earthlings and Chinese could do such a great thing, and thought it was "fantasy". But to this day, we have made so many efforts and sacrifices Chinese, achieved great achievements, and everyone's understanding of science fiction has also gone further. Between reality and the future, making us feel that it is reachable, beyond our imagination, and integrated into social and humanistic characteristics, this is an excellent science fiction work. With the advent of a new era, creators of different ages will emerge to create more sci-fi works.

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