Einstein's Dreams (1993)
Fittingly enough, Alan Lightman--a professor of physics and writing at MIT--demonstrates the validity of two scientific theories, perhaps unintentionally, in this fine short novel. The first is Stephen Wolfram's recent hypothesis that immense complexity can be derived from running even simple programs. What Mr. Lightman has done is started his novel from a simple idea: it is an early morning in 1905 in Berne, Switzerland and Albert Einstein awaits the typist who will prepare the paper [On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies (A. Einstein, June 30, 1905)] he has just finished working on:
In the long, narrow office on Speichergasse, the room full of practical ideas, the young patent clerk still sprawls in his chair, head down on his desk. For the past several months, since the middle of April, he has dreamed many dreams about time. His dreams have taken hold of his research. His dreams have worn him out, exhausted him so that he sometimes cannot tell whether he is awake or asleep. But the dreaming is finished. Out of many possible natures of time, imagined in as many nights, one seems compelling. Not that others are impossible. The others might exist in other worlds.As Einstein dozes, Mr. Lightman recounts that series of dreams and the alternate natures that time might have taken.
These dreams have a lyrical, often haunting, often heart-breaking quality to them. Time might be circular, with each moment lived over and over again. It might be peculiar to location, so that the time is never the same in any two places. Time might run backwards, so that we begin by dying and end by being born:
26 April 1905
29 May 1905
10 May 1905
22 June 1905
This really only offers a taste of the melancholy but beautiful vignettes of life in general and of individuals' lives that Mr. Lightman concocts for the reader. He seems as wise in the ways of humanity as in the laws of physics.
The second theory can be seen at work in the theme that unifies these varied worlds, because people are almost uniformly unhappy. Mr. Lightman seems to have adopted the anthropic principle--which states that: We may occupy a preferred place or preferred time in the Universe (we may also occupy a preferred universe)--at least for purposes of this book. It's hard to come to any other conclusion but that he thinks we live in a universe where the laws that govern time are structured in such a manner that they maximize human happiness and/or achievement. This makes the book ultimately uplifting, though many of the stories within are ineffably sad.
Alan Lightman Links:
-ALAN LIGHTMAN: John E. Burchard Professor, Creative Writing, Physics (MIT)
-MIT Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies: Alan Lightman
-ART: Caricature of Alan Lightman (David Levine Gallery, NY Review of Books)
-EXCERPT: Sticky Time from Einstein's Dreams
-EXCERPT: World Without Freedom from Einstein's Dreams
-EXCERPT: Smile from Dance for Two
-ESSAY: Art That Transfigures Science: What exactly does science have to offer the arts? What are the particular ways in which science provokes us, inspires us and examines who we are? (ALAN LIGHTMAN, 3/15/03, NY Times)
-ESSAY: Relativity and the Cosmos (Alan Lightman, Nova: Einstein Revealed)
-ESSAY: The Role of the Public Intellectual (Alan Lightman, MIT Communications Forum)
-ESSAY: How I Write (Alan Lightman, May 2001, The Writer)
-STORY: Maine Light (Alan Lightman, April/ May 1996, Boston Review)
-REVIEW: of THE DECHRONIZATION OF SAM MAGRUDER By George Gaylord Simpson (Alan Lightman, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW: Megaton Man: "Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics by Edward Teller, with Judith L. Shoolery" (Alan Lightman, NY Review of Books)
-REVIEW: of GALILEO'S DAUGHTER: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love By Dava Sobel (Alan Lightman, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW: of Art and Science: Investigating Matter by Catherine Wagner (Alan Lightman, Double Take)
-REVIEW: of Einstein's Miraculous Year edited by John Stachel (Alan Lightman, Atlantic Monthly)
-LECTURE: The World is Too Much With Me: Finding Private Space in a Wired World (Alan Lightman, 2002 Hart House Lecture)
-AUDIO INTERVIEW: with Alan Lightman (The Fine Print, November 11, 2000, NPR)
-INTERVIEW: Alan Lightman (Bookreporter, November 17, 2000)
-INTERVIEW: Creative tensions (Soundings, Spring 1999)
-INTERVIEW: Lightman Discusses the Writing of Physics (MIT Tech Talk, November 6, 1991)
-INTERVIEW: Interview: Alan Lightman (Identity Theory)
-PROFILE: Valuing Ourselves: Examining How Technology Affects Us (Orna Feldman, Fall 2001, Spectrum)
-PROFILE: Alan Lightman (Odyssey '97, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Orientation
-Einstein's Web / Einstein's Dreams: Alan Lightman
-READERS' GUIDE TO EINSTEIN'S DREAMS (Einstein's Web)
-EinsteinsDreams.vt.edu: devoted to the current book in Virginia Tech University's Common Book project
-Project on Alan Lightman's Einstein's Dreams (Sara Perry, mit.edu)
-Online Literary Criticism Collection: Sites about Einstein's Dreams by Alan P. Lightman (IPL Online Literary Criticism Collection)
-ReadingGroupGuides.com: The Diagnosis by Alan Lightman
-ARCHIVES: The New York Review of Books: Alan Lightman
-ARCHIVES: "Alan Lightman" (Find Articles)
-REVIEW: of Einstein's Dreams (Kathleen Sullivan)
-REVIEW: of Einstein's Dreams (Dr. George Johnson, txtwriter)
-REVIEW: of Einstein's Dreams (Teresa Santoski, Stranger Things)
-REVIEW: of Einstein's Dreams (Idris Hsi, GA Tech)
-REVIEW: of Einstein's Dreams (Larry Zeller, NYU)
-REVIEW ESSAY: February 22, 2001: Charles Simic, Intensive Care (NY Review of Books)
The Diagnosis by Alan Lightman
Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman
Good Benito by Alan Lightman
Dance for Two by Alan Lightman
-REVIEW: of Good Benito by Alan Lightman (Carl Djerassi, SF Chronicle)
-REVIEW: of Good Benito (JASON ANDERSON, Eye Weekly)
-REVIEW: of DANCE FOR TWO Selected Essays By Alan Lightman (CHRISTOPHER LEHMANN-HAUPT, NY Times)
-REVIEW: of Dance for Two ( Ron Fletcher, Book Page)
-REVIEW: of The Diagnosis by Alan Lightman (Abraham Verghese , NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW: of The Diagnosis (Floyd Skloot, SF Chronicle)
-REVIEW: of The Diagnosis (Charlie Onion, The Wag)
-REVIEW: of The Diagnosis (Marge Fletcher, Bookreporter)
-REVIEW: of The Diagnosis (Amy Paris, Sacramento News & Review)
-REVIEW: One for Al: "Einstein's Dreams" is an evocative and expertly staged - if not naturally dramatic - exploration of the imagination of the young Albert Einstein. (JOSHUA TANZER, www.offoffoff.com)
-REVIEW: of Einstein's Dreams (David Finkle, Theater Mania)
Book-related and General Links:
-Nova: Einstein Revealed (PBS)
-Einstein in Princeton: Scientist, Humanitarian, Cultural Icon (The Historical Society of Princeton)
-Albert Einstein (School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St Andrews, Scotland)
-Einstein - Image and Impact (American Institute of Physics)
-ARTICLE: E and mc2: Equality, It Seems, Is Relative (DENNIS OVERBYE, December 31, 2002, NY Times)
-anthropic-principle.com: Here you will find both popular overviews and scholarly material on everything related to observation selection effects, the anthropic principle, self-locating belief, and associated applications and paradoxes in science and philosophy. (Nick Bostrom, Dept. of Philosophy, Yale University)
-The Anthropic Cosmological Principle and Related Issues (Glenn T. McDavid)
-ESSAY: Barrow and Tipler on the Anthropic Principle vs. Divine Design (William Lane Craig, Leadership U)
-RESPONSE: Is the Weak Anthropic Principle Compatible With Divine Design?: A Response to Craig (Kyle Kelly, Internet Infidels)
-POEM:Anthropic Principle (Emily Gaskin, 11/18/02, Strange Horizons)
-ARCHIVES: "anthropic principle" (Find Articles)
Copyright 1998-2015 Orrin Judd
Expanding Perception in Alan Lightman’s Einstein's Dreams
- :: 2 Works Cited
- Length: 816 words (2.3 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
Expanding Perception in Alan Lightman’s Einstein's Dreams
To attempt to describe Einstein's Dreams would be like trying to explain magic. For example, imagine that a magician holds a ping-pong ball playfully, transferring it from one hand to the other. The magician invites the audience to examine a red silk kerchief that had been neatly tucked into his jacket's front pocket. He then lays the kerchief flat in his left hand and places the ping-pong ball in that kerchief-covered palm. The magician gathers the four corners of the kerchief together, flings it into the air and lets it fall to the floor. He picks up the kerchief and presents it again to the audience for examination: The ping-pong ball is nowhere to be found. Can you say that, from reading this description, you were full of awe and wonder when you discovered the ping-pong ball's disappearance? I would wager that you were not.
If you have ever read Einstein's Dreams, you can appreciate my dilemma. If you have not yet had the opportunity to experience this wonderful novel by Alan Lightman, I guarantee that after you read it you will expand your perception of the nature of time and of human activity. The novel is enchanting. It is a fictional account of what one of the greatest scientific minds dreams as he begins to uncover his theory of relativity.
Whenever I suggest the novel to the uninitiated, they often say that they are not interested in the sciences. This novel is more like art and poetry, I reply. Einstein's Dreams is Lightman's first work of fiction, although he previously wrote at least six books and for several magazines. Lightman currently teaches physics and writing at M.I.T. From these two seemingly conflicting backgrounds come reviews like "A wonderfully odd, clever, mystical book of meditations on time, poetically spare and delightfully fresh" and "Endlessly fascinating. A beguiling inquiry into the not-at-all theoretical, utterly time-tangled, tragic and sublime nature of human life."
Only sixteen of the 179 pages relate to Albert Einstein. The rest of the novel describes some of his "dreams" from April 15 to June 28, 1905. What if time were a circle? What if cause and effect were erratic? What if the passage of time brought increasing order? What if we had no memories? What if time flowed backward? What if we lived for only a day? What if time were measured by quality and not quantity?
How to Cite this Page
|Childhood Dreams To Adulthood Reality Essay - Nothing gets lost in the transition from childhood dreams to adulthood reality. The Childhood dream world resides with the subconscious stream of images and ideas, and are perpetually modified and refined throughout our lives. This continuance is in accordance with an ever evolving self enlightenment, and includes a strong influence from our interactions with others. That is, the gradual transition from childhood to adulthood is subject to constant internal and external changes, guiding a spiritual journey from the conception to the culmination of our desires.... [tags: Dreams]||446 words|
|Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley Essay - In his wickedly clever debut mystery, Alan Bradley introduces the one and only Flavia de Luce: a refreshingly precocious, sharp, and impertinent 11-year old heroine who goes through a bizarre maze of mystery and deception. Bradley designs Bishop’s Lacey, a 1950s village, Buckshaw, the de Luce’s crumbling Gothic mansion, and reproduces the hedges, gently rolling hills, and battered lanes of the countryside with explicit detail. Suspense mounts up as Flavia digs up long-buried secrets after the corpse of an ominous stranger emerges in the cucumber patch of her country estate.... [tags: Alan Bradley]||1012 words|
|Dreams and the Talent Show Essay - As she was sleeping peacefully through the night, the girl would always wake up screaming. She would always have the same dream every single night since her fourteenth birthday. She was sick and tired of it and didn’t have an idea of what it meant. For all she wanted was for the dream to go away. The dream would always start with her on center stage in one of the most enormous and beautiful places she had ever seen. She noticed how a single ray of light would shine down upon her face. It was very dark, she couldn’t tell how many people were there but she could hear their screams, apparently they were cheering for her.... [tags: dreams, ]||888 words|
| Essay on Dreams and Déjá Vu - You walk into the house of a new friend. As you scope it out, you realize something a bit strange… You’ve been there before. But not exactly in person. You think about it a little bit, and you then realize that it was in a dream, a dream that perfectly portrayed with every small detail the exact room you’re now standing in. Sound familiar. This is an experience that is not as rare as most people think. For many, these arbitrary feelings of extreme familiarity, known as déjà vu, come through dreams that some say predict the future.... [tags: Dreams]|
:: 4 Works Cited
|Leonardo Dreams of Hid Flying Machine Essay - Charles Alan Sylvestri’s poem “Leonardo dreams of hid flying machine” is a dramatic story of hope and optimism that takes the listener on a great adventure into the great unknown. Leonardo functions as the agonist of the poem who is “tormented” by his need to fly and touch the sky. Finally, after much planning and determination Leonardo takes a great leap of faith with his flying machine and his dreams of flight are consummated. In order to fully encapsulate Leonardo’s conquest of the almighty heavens it would only be fitting to have the text set to a full orchestra accompanied by a SATB choir.... [tags: Charles Alan Sylvestri, Poetic Analysis]||889 words|
|Theories About Dreams Essay - In this paper I hope to open a window to the vast and mysterious world of dreaming. To most people, information about dreams isn’t common knowledge. In researching this subject though, I found that everybody has and reacts to dreams, which are vital to your mental health. You will also find how you can affect your dreams and how they affect you. All over the world different people, scientists, and civilizations have different dream theories. For instance, the Senoi tribe in Malaysia has a fascinating tradition of dream telling.... [tags: Dreams]||947 words|
| Profile of Rorschach in Alan Moore’s Watchmen Essay - Who chooses our heroes. Who watches our heroes. Who watches the Watchmen. Over the course of history, many public figures have been scrutinized for heroic actions that some have deemed controversial. Charles Darwin dismantled theories of Creationism with his discoveries in evolutionary biology. President Harry Truman single-handedly ended World War II by authorizing the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, killing thousands upon thousands of civilians. Gangster John Dillinger stole from banks all across the U.S.... [tags: Alan Moore, The Watchmen 2014]|
:: 3 Works Cited
|Alan Bennett's Monologues as Dramas Essay - Alan Bennett's Monologues as Dramas These plays are written for TV rather than theatre and are experimental for different styles of acting with more emphasis being placed on the single actors face. This is in order to show subtle changes in expressions hopefully giving the viewer a more clear insight into the characters feelings. This is more appropriate for "A Cream Crackerâ€¦" as it is a moving story, which is portrayed, even more so in the subtle movement of Doris's face "Cracked the photo.... [tags: Alan Bennett Essays Monologue]||1212 words|
|Homeboyz by Alan Sitomer Essay - Alan Sitomer’s newest fast paced novel Homeboyz is a hardcore suspense story that will immediately put readers on the edge and leave them breathless in the end. Sitomer’s character, Teddy ‘T-Bear’ Anderson is an aloof seventeen year old that doesn’t care for anything other than to avenge his innocent fourteen year old sister Tina’s death, by targeting the infamous gang members of his city. As Teddy’s family mourns and his mother falls into a deep depression, his father Mr. Anderson, also known as Pops attempts to run the dysfunctional ailing household and his linen delivery company by himself.... [tags: Alan Sitomer Homeboyz]||976 words|
| Animal Dreams Essay - Animal Dreams "'Stop it!' I yelled. My heart was thumping. 'You're killing that bird!'" - Codi Noline, Animal Dreams Those are the words of Codi Noline, a brave heroine with her mind set on rescuing a beautiful but defenseless peacock from horrible torture by a group of demented children on her first day back in her hometown of Grace, Arizona. Much to Codi's chagrin, the bird turns out to be just a piñata, spilling candy and bright treasures rather than a gory mass of blood and bone. The children aren't a pack of hopelessly troubled youth engaging in animal mutilation for sport, only a normal group of kids participating in a party game very common to the Southwestern Mexico-influen... [tags: dreams]|
:: 4 Works Cited
Einstein Alan Dreams Perception Fictional Account Human Activity Magician Left Hand Wager Backgrounds
Or, "imagine a world in which there is no time. Only images" (1). You may have asked yourself questions like these in the past, or you may have not. This book answers these questions and more. It may even prompt you to raise similar questions of your own. Regardless, even the most cynical of readers will look at time in a different way.
"14 May 1905. There is a place where time stands still. Raindrops hang motionless in the air.... The aromas of dates, mangoes, coriander, cumin are suspended in space. As a traveler approaches this place from any direction, he moves more and more slowly. His heartbeats grow farther apart, his breathing slackens, his temperature drops, his thoughts diminish, until he reaches dead center and stops. For this is the center of time" (2).
If you get the chance, take a glance at this mystical book. It is a tiny book, a quick read. Even if you think none of these theories are feasible, you will agree with this fact: In our existence, time is limited. Einstein's Dreams helps you value what you may have once taken for granted.
"And so, at the place where time stands still, one sees parents clutching their children, in a frozen embrace that will never let go. The beautiful young daughter with blue eyes and blond hair will never stop smiling the smile she smiles now, will never lose this soft pink glow on her cheeks, will never grow wrinkled or tired, ...will never unlearn what her parents have taught her, ...will never tell her parents that she does not love them, ...will never stop touching her parents as she does now" (3).
"And those who return to the outer world... Children grow rapidly, forget the centuries-long embrace from their parents, which to them lasted but seconds. Children become adults, ...learn ways of their own, suffer pain, grow old. Children curse their parents for trying to hold them forever, curse time for their own wrinkled skin and hoarse voices. These now old children also want to stop time, but at another time. They want to freeze their own children at the center of time" (4).
1: Lightman, Alan. Einstein's Dreams. New York: First Warner Books Printing, 1994. Page 75.
2: _Ibid_, Pages 70-71.
3: _Ibid_, Pages 71-72.
4: _Ibid_, Pages 73-74.
Sources of biographical information for Alan Lightman
Lightman, Alan. Einstein's Dreams. New York: First Warner Books Printing, 1994. Cover.
Helmer, Marguerite. http://www.english.uwosh.edu/einstein/lightman.html