Einstein’s Dreams

Posted by barb on Jan 17, 2004 in Books |

by Alan Lightman

I picked this book up partly because I’m familiar with Lightman’s textbook writing, and was curious to see how he would do with a novel. Einstein’s Dreams is a series of short dreams that Lightman imagines Einstein may have had while developing his special theory of relativity. These dreams explore the different aspects of space and time that Einstein’s theory imply. In one, time is felt by all people at all times to pass in the same way — it this world, there is no “time flies when you’re having fun.” In another dream, the difference in time experienced by people living in a valley versus those living on a mountaintop is noticeable. Most people try to live in the mountains, and come down only when pressed by business.

At first I was jarred by each dream, wondering what exactly was going on. But after reading a few, I started to see the different concepts of relativity that Lightman was exploring in each dream. I wonder, however, if this novel would be completely lost on someone without at least a passing knowledge of relativity.

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