Einstein's Dreams | Study Guide

Alan Lightman

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Course Hero. "Einstein's Dreams Study Guide." March 30, 2017. Accessed December 11, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Einsteins-Dreams/.


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Einstein's Dreams | 26 April 1905 | Summary



In this world everyone lives in the mountains; there are no houses in the valleys or plains. Scientists have discovered time moves more slowly—but only by a few seconds—the farther time is from the center of Earth. Thus people believe moving to the mountains will slow the aging process. Some build their houses on tall stilts; the height of their stilts is a status symbol that reveals how much closer they are to living longer than the people below them. Others stop caring whether they will age a few seconds slower or faster, and they spend more time in the valleys below. Eventually people begin to forget why living at higher altitudes is better, but they continue to live in the mountains anyway, convinced the air is superior. They eat only the lightest, airiest foods as well; this causes them to grow bony and old before their time.


In this dream world Lightman continues investigating the theme of paradoxes and the subjective nature of time. He also connects the way people perceive time to their personal happiness. People's sense of time dictates the way they make decisions and plan for the future. Because they believe living at a higher altitude buys them a few more seconds of time, people arrange their lives to maximize those seconds. This demonstrates time as perhaps humans' most precious commodity. Yet people's obsession with gaining time costs them contentment and even youthfulness. An obsession with gaining time comes at a steep cost.

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