Sunday, August 4, 2019

Expanding Perception in Alan Lightman’s Einsteins Dreams :: Lightman Einsteins Dreams Essays

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?

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