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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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3,628881,452 (4.01)123
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Showing 1-5 of 88 (next | show all)
This is a great little book, and I'm looking forward to rereading it as soon as possible. It dovetails nicely with my dissertation, but aside from that it is just a lovely, lovely book filled with beautiful imagery. ( )
  anna_hiller | Jun 22, 2016 |
Einstein’s Dreams: A Novel - Lightman
4 stars

This is a book that plays with time. The first thing I noticed was that despite the fact that it had less than 200 half-sized pages, I could not finish this book quickly. It did not take me very long to read each of the short vignettes. My time was spent in reflection.

In each miniature chapter a story begins; there’s a detailed setting, interesting character sketches, and an alternative universe of time. Imagine a place where time is so slow that an entire life takes place in a single day. Or, where in each small town time proceeds at different rates. Time is circular, or time is linear. All is finite and predetermined, or time is variable presenting infinite futures. Each of Lightman’s explorations in time is a different prose poem. Very interesting. Very evocative. Very dreamlike.
( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
How does time flow? Why does time flow? Einstein’s Dreams, by Alan Lightman, attempts to answer those questions and more in thirty short stories – each set in a world where time doesn’t flow as we know it. The book begins in a Swiss patent office, where Einstein toils away every day, reviewing patent applications at the same time as writing his theory of time. Every so often, he writes inventors to suggest product enhancements – even though, much of the time, those lucky people don’t even know who’s making the proposals. The majority of this book is filled by the tales of Einstein’s dreams as imagined by Alan Lightman (as it should be), but the few pages here and there about Einstein’s real life are just enough to get the reader interested in what kind of a person he was.

In one story, cause and effect don’t always have to come in that order. When cause or effect can come first, how can one tell the two apart? In another tale, one part of a town may live in the fifteenth century while another lives in the twenty-first. In one fun-to-imagine world, people have discovered that an increase in speed through physical space results in a decrease in speed through time. Eager to preserve as much time as possible, they race everywhere they go. In another short story that really gets one thinking about different people’s different attitudes in the world, everyone lives forever. The world then separates into Nows and Laters. The Nows reckon that they might as well cram as much into their lives as possible, and thus rush to do everything as fast as possible. The Laters reason that, with all the time they have, why bother with work when they can just do it some other time? Those are all just a few of the many eye-opening and fanciful stories found within this masterful blend of art and science.
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
I really enjoyed this book. At the basic level, each chapter (which are usually ~4 pages) is it's own vignette about time and different kinds of time. I recommend picking it up. ( )
  raignn | Feb 28, 2016 |
In the top 3 books I've ever read.. sits behind my head at night just so when I cant read I can pick it up and feel like I never put it down. ( )
  nraichlin | Jan 26, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 88 (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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:54 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

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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