Thursday, October 3, 2013

Book Review: Einstein's Dreams

Book Review 
Einstein’s Dreams
By Alan Lightman

Do you have a student in your physics class who is geared more toward the humanities than the hard sciences? Perhaps a creative writer or a bookworm. How do you help this student become more interested in physics? Or maybe you teach college physics for non-majors, and you are looking for a way to alight interest in physics for these students. I suggest assigning Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman as a reading assignment.

This novel brings physics to life not just as equations or problems to solve, but as a way of looking at the world, a way of reimagining the world. Physicists examine the world in ways unique from other scientists; Einstein’s Dreams is a window into the way physicists imagine the world.

The novel is set in 1905 and follows the mind of Einstein as he dreams of possible worlds while he is formulating his theory of relativity. For example, in one chapter, time is circular, while in another scene, time stands still.

The book is written in short vignettes, making it easy to read. However, each vignette will give readers much to contemplate deeply as they reconsider the world around them and how it works according to the laws of physics. If one law was altered, what would the world be like? In following the stories in this novel, students may learn more about what it means to think and ponder like a physicist.

Author Alan Lightman is a physicist, writer, and professor at MIT. Here you can read descriptions of his other books, both fiction and non-fiction. 

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