Patrick Gibson's Reviews > Einstein's Dreams

Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman
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's review
Feb 04, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: contemporary-literature
Read in February, 2009

Einstein, working as a patent clerk, just finished a paper on “The Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies.” It is 1905. He is waiting for a typist to prepare his manuscript. He dreams while waiting.

And every night for the next thirty, he dreams of relativity and the fantastical concept of time.

In every dream, time operates differently—in one, time is circular and people repeat their triumphs and mistakes over and over. In another, there is no time, only frozen moments.
Each reverie contains a world that behaves according to a particular model of space, inhabited by people who have evolved behaviors as a consequence of this paradigm. The dreams are lyrical, often haunting, sometimes heart-breaking.
People who live in a world where time is about to run out seize all the moments they can and abandon restraint, dance naked, fulfill fantasies, abandon bitterness and express love unequivocally. Reverse time and people begin with their deaths.

Habitants of a fixed time world get to see their future like a series of rooms—each being illuminated as they pass through doorways. There is a profound sadness to some episodes and in others a universe predisposed to the joy of humanity.

More than a thought experiment (as expressed in the blurbs), the author (who is a professor of physics at MIT) has twisted some enlightening social commentary between the threads of time. A flight of fancy at it’s best. Provoking. Imaginative. Pure pleasure.
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