The author Alan Lightman is a professor at MIT and has taught both Physics and Writing. This book provides a window into the possible thoughts and ruminations of Einstein in just prior to his first publication on relativity. The work examines the intellectual ground that may have prepared the intellect for a revolutionary change in the way scientists (and all of us) now view time. It is a brief book with short chapters and highly packed with images and brief events that reveal thoughts relating to how our awareness of time and time itself impacts the life we lead.
The book presents Albert Einstein as a young scientist who is troubled by dreams as he works on his theory of relativity. Each of the thirty chapters imagines a dream Einstein may have has during this period. Einstein's fellow Physicist and close friend, Michele Besso, appears and reflects the types of conversations that Einstein himself thought were important to his development of relativity and the time dilation that is proposed in that theory. Depictions of scenarios involve exaggerations of events, imagined phenomenon and fantasies related to how we think about time and how time impacts our lives. The book demonstrates the relationship each human being has to time, and thus spiritually affirms Einstein's theory of relativity.
This short book is packed with plenty of thoughts and images that are sure to raise an awareness of the greatest gift all of us share with everyone: Time.
Interesting Quotes of Interest:
"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 can not be doubted. While people brood, time skips ahead without looking back."
"If a person holds no ambitions in this world, he suffers unknowingly. If a person holds ambitions he suffers knowingly, but very slowly."
"Indeed, what sense is there in continuing the present when one has seen the future?"
"Those who have seen the future do not need to take risks, and those who have not yet seen the future wait for their vision without taking risks."
"Why the fixation on speed? Because in this world time passes more slowly for people in motion. Thus everyone travels at high velocity, to gain time."
"Frustrated and despondent, some people have stopped looking out windows. With the shades drawn, they never know how fast they are moving. how fast their neighbors are moving, They rise in the morning, take baths, eat plaited bread and ham, work at their desks, listen to music, talk to their children, lead lives of satisfaction.
Some argue that only the giant clock tower in the Kramgases keeps true time, that it alone is at rest. Others point out that the giant clock is in motion when viewed from the river Aare, or from a cloud."
"...one woman sitting on the banks of the Aare sees the boats pass by at great speed, as if moving on skates across ice. To another, the baots appear sluggish, barely rounding the bend in the whole afternoon. A man standing on the Aarstese looks at the river to discover that the boats travel first forwards, then backwards."
"Such is the cost of immortality. No person is whole. No person is free. Over time some have determined that the only way to live is to die. In death, a man or a woman is free of the weight of the past, These few souls, with their dear relatives looking on, dive into Lake Constance or hurl themselves from Monte Lema, ending their infinite lives. In this way the finite has conquered the infinite."
"Some people fear traveling far from a comfortable moment. They remain close to one temporal location, barely crawling past a familiar occasion. Others gallop recklessly into the future, without preparation for the rapid sequence of passing events."
"Forty years ago in school, one afternoon in March, he urinated in class. He could not hold it in. Afterwards, he tried to stay in his chair, but other boys saw his puddle and made him walk around the room, round and round. They pointed at the wet spot on his pants and howled...They hooted and called him 'bladder baby, bladder baby, bladder baby'.
That memory has become his life. When he wakes up in the morning he is the boy who urinated in his pants. When he passes people on the street, he knows they see the wet spot on his pants. He glances at his pants and looks away. When his children visit, he stays within his room and talks to them through the door. He is the boy who could not hold it in.
But what is the past? Could it be, the firmness of the past is just an illusion? Could the past be a kaleidoscope, a pattern of images that shift with each disturbance of a sudden breeze, a laugh, a thought? And if the shift is everywhere what would we know?"
"In a world of shifting past, these memories are wheat in wind, fleeting dreams, shapes in clouds. Events, once happened lose reality, alter with a glance, a storm, a night. In time, the past never happened. But who could know? Who could know that the past is not as solid as this instant."