Einstein's Dreams | Study Guide

Alan Lightman

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "Einstein's Dreams Study Guide." Course Hero. 30 Mar. 2017. Web. 13 Nov. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Einsteins-Dreams/>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2017, March 30). Einstein's Dreams Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 13, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Einsteins-Dreams/

In text

(Course Hero, 2017)



Course Hero. "Einstein's Dreams Study Guide." March 30, 2017. Accessed November 13, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Einsteins-Dreams/.


Course Hero, "Einstein's Dreams Study Guide," March 30, 2017, accessed November 13, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Einsteins-Dreams/.

Einstein's Dreams | 3 May 1905 | Summary



In a world where cause and effect are erratic, cause may come before effect, or the two may be deeply intertwined and impossible to tell apart. A man's friends begin to ignore him, and he can't understand why. A week later he begins acting horribly to everyone. Meanwhile, in the city of Zurich the Council begins approving strict laws, searching visitors and auditing banks. Soon after crime skyrockets. A Dream Figure—a young woman—visits a flower garden and begins to feel overwhelmingly happy and anxious for no reason. A few days later she meets a man and falls in love. In all these situations, what was the cause and what was the effect?

In this world of blurry relationships between cause and effect, scientists become useless since they can no longer make predictions. They can find no logic; either they are irrational or the universe is irrational. On the other hand artists thrive in this world, since they pride themselves on unpredictability in their work. Most people live "in the moment" since dwelling in the past will provide little insight about the present or future. Everyone is judged as they are in the present, not for their past or potential future selves. As a result people behave more impulsively and honestly.


This dream world provides the counterpoint to the previous dream world of 28 April 1905, in which time was reassuring, stable, and constant. In this world cause and effect have no discernable, reliable relationship; time is chaotic and undependable. The relationship between past and present or future is essentially unknowable. Lightman offers another paradox in people's subjective relationship to time: those who thrive in this world are artists, because their work thrives on unpredictability. Scientists, on the other hand, are useless and helpless since they can't make accurate predictions based on hypotheses. This dream world poses the question of how and when events, actions, and outcomes become linked.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Einstein's Dreams? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!