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Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman
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Einstein's Dreams (1993)

by Alan Lightman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
short stories, time, ( )
  rowen1 | Jun 15, 2015 |
Do I have time to write this review? Do you have time to read it? How do you know? By what standard do you measure time? Mechanically? Organically? Metaphysically?

In this beautifully written book, Alan Lightman muses upon the nature of time. His approach is to imagine a series of dreams Albert Einstein had while developing his theory of relativity as an anonymous clerk laboring away in the patent office at Berne. The dreams are short-- three to four pages each--and play off the everyday images Einstein that would have been familiar to him from his life in Berne. Lightman is a genius with the images. His doctorate is in theoretical physics, but he writes like a poet. Each dream is one to savor.

And each emphasizes the relativity of time. What temporally conditioned conditioned creatures we all are! Ultimately, Einstein's Dreams makes me marvel at the place we inhabit within this marvelously complex Universe.
( )
1 vote kvrfan | Apr 25, 2015 |
A slight little fantasy that didn't do anything for me. It was recommended to me by my brother, who also recommended Sophie's Choice, which I also didn't care for a whole lot. I wonder if I dare read [b:Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit|227265|Ishmael An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit|Daniel Quinn|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1320403682s/227265.jpg|1041162], his other recommendation.

Maybe I will after I re-read Lightman's book, because I do see, now that I've read some GR reviews, that I probably wasn't in the right frame of mind to appreciate it. So, iow, this review is subject to revision. :) ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
Each dream explored the relationship between humans and time.

Fun times infinity! My brain is all tingly right now. After the first chapter, about five pages long, I knew I was gonna have to buy my own copy of Einstein's Dreams. There were dozens of worlds to explore and ponder, and one reading just won't do it. I would love, love, love to read longer stories set in any of those worlds. So I'll be reading more of Lightman's fiction in the near future. Or maybe I won't? Maybe I'll wake up tomorrow not knowing I ever read it the first time?

5 stars ( )
  flying_monkeys | Dec 6, 2014 |
66. Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman (1993, 144 page e-book, Read November 9-16)

Couldn't take it in. I just wasn't in the right state of mind. I liked what I "saw", but in the same way one wanders through a museum casually, noting each exhibit but not engaging. So, I could kind of appreciate that there was something nice here.

Einstein's Dreams gets rave reviews for its inspiration for creativity. Lightman uses Einstein as sort of source because of Einstein's ideas of space-time and relativity. Each chapter is about four pages on a different world with different physics, and the imagined experience on those worlds. Most of the physical changes have to do with time. In some worlds time moves backwards, in others people can sense time, in one world they can even see it. In some worlds time is relative to the observer so that each person experiences time differently.

Our sense of time is outside our regular senses. As our awareness of it comes and goes, so our sense of time becomes more and less attuned to real time. One cumulative affect is that we do actually each have a varying sense of time perception. Further, we don't really know what time is. It has a physical reality that alludes our senses. It's out there, fundamentally affects us, and yet we have trouble understanding its fundamentals. But yet we count on time's regularity. It has a permanence that we rely on for our sense of reality. Lightman puts it less concretely, "A world in which time is absolute is a world of consolation. For while the movements of people are unpredictable, the movement of time is predictable. While people can be doubted, time cannot be doubted."

Each of Lightman's worlds has an aspect that we can relate to in some way, that is they all touch on something in our reality. But each offers a change of perspective. It also offers an opportunity for the reader to continue well beyond the four pages of the chapter, and create their own worlds that Lightman's ideas might lead us to. That, I think, is the true value of the book. But...I didn't do that. Instead I got caught up in a soft but persistent skepticism, looking for inconsistencies or shrugging at some of the silly details. I maintained a safe, observational distance, if you like. So, I missed out. I'll have to consider trying again.

"Suppose that time is not a quantity but a quality, like the luminescence of the night about the trees just when a rising moon has touched the treeline. Time exists, but it cannot be measured."
2 vote dchaikin | Nov 19, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
A beautifully written and thought-provoking book.
added by Katya0133 | editVirginia Quarterly Review (Jun 1, 1993)
 
The dreams do more than just catalog our neuroses. They also underscore some fundamental conflicts in the human relationship to time.
added by Katya0133 | editTechnology Review, David Brittan (May 1, 1993)
 
THIS book contains 30 brief fictional dreams. All are about time, and all are dreamt by Albert Einstein in Berne, in the spring and early summer of 1905, as he works on his paper 'On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies' and proceeds inefficiently towards the special theory of relativity. Some contain distorted traces of his discoveries. In one dream, people live up mountains and build their houses on stilts, having discovered that time flows relatively more slowly as one moves further from the centre of the earth. In another, banks, factories and houses are all motorised and constantly on the move, for time is money and slows down as you accelerate, so the faster you go the more you have.
 
Like the best fables, Lightman's seriousness is seductively cumulative.
added by Katya0133 | editNew Statesman & Society, Guy Mannes-Abbott (Jan 29, 1993)
 
The writing, beautifully simple, conveys better than most texts the strangeness of Einstein's ideas.
added by Katya0133 | editTime (Jan 18, 1993)
 

» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alan Lightmanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Costello, ChrisIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Griese, FriedrichTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In some distant arcade, a clock tower calls out six times and the stops.
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"It is a world of impulse. It is a world of sincerity. It is a world in which every word spoken speaks just to that moment, every glance given has only one meaning, each touch has no past or future, each kiss is a kiss of immediacy."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Im Jahr 1905 sitzt der junge Patentexperte Einstein an seinem Schreibtisch im Berner Patentamt. Seine revolutionäre Abhandlung zur speziellen Relativitätstheorie ist so gut wie beendet, und Einstein schließt die Auten und träumt - von neuen, unerhörten Wirklichkeiten, in denen die Zeit nicht mehr gleichmäßig fließt, sondern stockt oder springt, sich umkehrt oder verschwindet...

Mit jeder Wendung des Traumes entsteht eine neue, faszinierende Welt, die unsere eigene Welt in erhellendes, ungewohntes Licht taucht.
Auszug

14. APRIL 1905

Angenommen, die Zeit ist ein Kreis, in sich gekrümmt. Die Welt wiederholt sich, exakt, endlos.

Die meisten Leute wissen nicht, daß sie ihr Leben nochmals leben werden. Händler wissen nicht, daß sie dasselbe Geschäft wieder und wieder abschließen werden, Politiker, daß sie vom selben Pult aus im Kreislauf der Zeit endlose Male reden werden. Eltern bewahren das Andenken an das erste Lachen ihres Kindes, als würden sie es nie wieder hören. Liebende, die sich zum erstenmal lieben, legen schüchtern ihre Kleider ab, sind erstaunt über den geschmeidigen Oberschenkel, die zarte Brustwarze. Woher sollen sie wissen, daß jeder verstohlene Blick, jede Berührung sich noch und noch wiederholen wird, genau wie vorher?

In der Marktgasse ist es das gleiche. Wie können die Ladenbesitzer wissen, daß jeder handgestrickte Pullover, jedes bestickte Taschentuch, jede Praline, jeder Kompaß und jede komplizierte Uhr wieder in ihren Laden zurückkehren wird? Wenn der Abend kommt, gehen sie heim zu ihren Familien, oder sie trinken Bier im Gasthaus, begrüßen ihre Freunde in den überwölbten Gassen mit fröhlichen Rufen, liebkosen jeden Augenblick wie einen Smaragd, der ihnen vorübergehend anvertraut wurde. Wie sollen sie wissen, daß nichts vergänglich ist, daß alles erneut geschehen wird?
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 140007780X, Paperback)

If you liked the eerie whimsy of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, Steven Millhauser's Little Kingdoms, or Jorge Luis Borges's Labyrinths, you will love Alan Lightman's ethereal yet down-to-earth book Einstein's Dreams. Lightman teaches physics and writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, helping bridge the light-year-size gap between science and the humanities, the enemy camps C.P. Snow famously called The Two Cultures.

Einstein's Dreams became a bestseller by delighting both scientists and humanists. It is technically a novel. Lightman uses simple, lyrical, and literal details to locate Einstein precisely in a place and time--Berne, Switzerland, spring 1905, when he was a patent clerk privately working on his bizarre, unheard-of theory of relativity. The town he perceives is vividly described, but the waking Einstein is a bit player in this drama.

The book takes flight when Einstein takes to his bed and we share his dreams, 30 little fables about places where time behaves quite differently. In one world, time is circular; in another a man is occasionally plucked from the present and deposited in the past: "He is agonized. For if he makes the slightest alteration in anything, he may destroy the future ... he is forced to witness events without being part of them ... an inert gas, a ghost ... an exile of time." The dreams in which time flows backward are far more sophisticated than the time-tripping scenes in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, though science-fiction fans may yearn for a sustained yarn, which Lightman declines to provide. His purpose is simply to study the different kinds of time in Einstein's mind, each with its own lucid consequences. In their tone and quiet logic, Lightman's fables come off like Bach variations played on an exquisite harpsichord. People live for one day or eternity, and they respond intelligibly to each unique set of circumstances. Raindrops hang in the air in a place of frozen time; in another place everyone knows one year in advance exactly when the world will end, and acts accordingly.

"Consider a world in which cause and effect are erratic," writes Lightman. "Scientists turn reckless and mutter like gamblers who cannot stop betting.... In this world, artists are joyous." In another dream, time slows with altitude, causing rich folks to build stilt homes on mountaintops, seeking eternal youth and scorning the swiftly aging poor folk below. Forgetting eventually how they got there and why they subsist on "all but the most gossamer food," the higher-ups at length "become thin like the air, bony, old before their time."

There is no plot in this small volume--it's more like a poetry collection than a novel. Like Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, it's a mind-stretching meditation by a scientist who's been to the far edge of physics and is back with wilder tales than Marco Polo's. And unlike many admirers of Hawking, readers of Einstein's Dreams have a high probability of actually finishing it.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:46:53 -0400)

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A fictional work in which a twenty-six-year-old Albert Einstein, working in a patent office in Switzerland, imagines possible worlds in which time works differently as he formulates his theory of relativity.

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