Einstein's Dreams | Study Guide

Alan Lightman

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Einstein's Dreams | 29 May 1905 | Summary



In this world everything is in motion. Houses and buildings are mounted on wheels and race through the streets. People chase after their office buildings in the morning, and move about all day. No one is ever still for long. Things move around quickly because in this world time passes more slowly for people in constant motion. By moving around often one is able to gain time.

People only discovered this strange connection between speed and time after the invention of rapid transportation. Businesses move about constantly in order to gain an advantage over their competitors, and houses are also sold based on how fast they move. But people avoid looking at how fast their neighbors are also moving, since the effect of all their collective motion is relative.


This dream world echoes the dream world of 26 April 1905 and 14 May 1905 where people attempt to manipulate time to take advantage of it. Yet just as in those worlds, the manipulation seems futile, with little being gained by individuals. Because people in this dream world perceive that being in motion "buys" them time, they must constantly be in motion. But this constant motion has the strange effect of isolating people from one another and causes them to grow resentful. Lightman again shows attempts to manipulate time only lead to unhappiness.

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