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Part One of Cixin Liu’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past Trilogy

“I introduced one of my best friends to the series. He’s currently reading The Dark Forest – not even halfway through – and he called me and I listened to his existential crisis for 30 mins. I told him, not to worry, you’ll soon forget about your crisis because it will be replaced by pure terror. 😬”    [A comment made by a fan of Quinn on his channel]

“The real reason modern life is so perplexing is because of the almost unchallenged influence of a wrong idea.”

Cixin Liu’s epic SF trilogy is soon to be turned into a series of NETFLIX films that are sure to make waves in the year ahead. I read the series over 6 years ago and have been fascinated ever since by the amount of interest in the books.  Because, oddly enough, for me this is the darkest vision of mankind’s future that I have ever read in over 60 years as a fan of Science Fiction.

One would wonder why people would be interested in something so dark. My personal explanation for this phenomenon ─ the world’s persistent interest in dystopian films and books─ is because the average person seems to sense there’s something wrong with reality and is looking for a reason for hope. And it seems that it’s the dark ideas that make us realize we don’t yet have all the answers.

The Three Body Problem is the title of the first book in the series Cixin Liu calls Remembrance of Earth’s Past.  The title refers to a perennial problem in theoretical physics, “the 3-Body Problem”. What’s odd is that modern physicists still don’t have the answer to “the 3 Body Problem”. I don’t claim to understand the problem, (I’m not a physicist or a mathematician).  The  best I can do is listen to the experts  (and even the experts don’t have all the answers.) 

Here are two interesting videos I’ve found that have helped me:

Newton's 3-Body Problem Explained

Solving the 3 -Body Problem

But why would Cixin Liu use “The 3-Body Problem” as a title for the first novel?

 My best guess is because this “problem in theoretical physics”  explains why an alien civilization would need to abandon their home planet and go looking for a new one. 

You see, the inhabitants of a planet orbiting one of the three stars in the Alpha Centauri solar system, the “Trisolarans”, have for millennia suffered from the harmful effects of their home planet’s erratic and unpredictable orbit. (This fictional situation helps explain why here on Earth various ancient civilizations like the Druids and the Mayans and the Egyptians built such colossal stone edifices like the Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge. They built them so they could track “the times and the seasons”─ because without the certainty of regular seasons how could societies dependent on agriculture know when to plant and when to harvest? Or even nomadic societies─ how would they know when to leave for the high pastures? Even the birds need the regularity of the seasons to successfully migrate year after year!

 If you really want to understand how cosmic stability is essential for survival, watch the excellent film (still available for free on Youtube) called.
“The Privileged Planet”

The Privileged Planet examines in detail the number of factors that need to line up for a planet to be dubbed a “Goldilocks Planet”. Many astrophysicists have commented on the fact that for some reason, we “Earthlings” seem have “won the lottery” ─ we inhabit a planet so perfectly suited for life that our existence here is nothing short of a miracle.

So the reason he called the book that begins the series The Three Body Problem is because some problems─ like the poor Trisolarans orbiting an unstable star─ are so complex and difficult to understand,  let alone solve, that we have to consider another explanation if our first explanation leads to a dead end.

And that’s precisely what this ANALOGYMAN analogy is all about. I’m taking the BEST GUESSES from modern science (that’s what Science Fiction is supposed to do) and following them through to see where they go. I’m using ART (the 3-Book novel) to paint a visible picture of where the current world-view of reality is leading us. 

But I’m also using the idea raised in theoretic physics to show how a stable two-body problem can be turned into an unstable and almost unsolvable problem if a wrong idea is allowed to upstage a right idea. And that is exactly what has happened in the modern world. Until about 200 years ago the prevailing explanation for the cosmos and for life on earth was Creation ─ the Universe was created by the wise, benevolent God of the Bible. The reason life no longer makes sense in many cases is because the two-body explanation of reality (God+man) has been effectively overturned by a three-body explanation─ (matter+energy+Evolution). 

So which of these two ideas do you believe? And how’s it working for you?

In conclusion: I got the impression while reading The Three Body Problem that Cixin Lui was setting me up for some ideas that would complicate my view of reality in a big way. But I found the conflicts and ideas so irresistibly interesting that I was hooked by the end of the 1st novel, and so I entered The Dark Forest completely unprepared for the darkest vision of the future of life in the Universe I had ever read in over 50 years of reading SF.

Editor’s note:  the first three “3 Body Analogy” posts are a general summary of the novels to bring readers up-to-date as to why the novels are so DARK. These posts contain SPOILERS and may frustrate readers familiar with the trilogy. If at any time you want to skip forward to the SOLUTION EPISODE, (the whole point of this project) click on the appropriate links provided.