Alan Lightman

Alan
Lightman
1948

American Physicist, Writer and Social Entrepreneur, Professor Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Author of Einstein's Dreams

Author Quotes

That has been the great achievement of our age: to so thoroughly flood the planet with megabits that every image and fact has become a digitized disembodied nothingness. With magnificent determination, our species has advanced from Stone Age to Industrial Revolution to Digital Emptiness. We've become weightless, in the bad sense of the word.

Then there are those who think that their bodies don't exist. They live by mechanical time. They rise at seven o'clock in the morning. They eat their lunch at noon and their supper at six. They arrive at their appointments on time, precisely by the clock. They make love between eight and ten at night. They work forty hours a week, read the Sunday paper on Sunday, play chess on Tuesday nights. When their stomach growls, they look at their watch to see if it is time to eat. When they begin to lose themselves in a concert, they look at the clock above the stage to see when it will be time to go home. They know that the body is not a thing of wild magic, but a collection of chemicals, tissues, and nerve impulses.

What sense is there in continuing when one has seen the future?

You've made something grand, but it will be grander if it has feeling and beauty and harmony.

That's the fine balance of a fiction writer... to be able to give your characters enough freedom to surprise you and yet still maintain some kind of artistic control.

There is a place where time stands still ... illuminated by only the most feeble red light, for light is diminished to almost nothing at the center of time, its vibrations slowed to echoes in vast canyons, its intensity reduced to the faint glow of fireflies.

When a traveler from the future must talk, he does not talk but whimpers. He whispers tortured sounds. He is agonized. For if he makes the slightest alteration in anything, he may destroy the future. At the same time, he is forced to witness events without being part of them, without changing them. He envies the people who live in their own time, who can act at will, oblivious of the future, ignorant of the effects of their actions. But he cannot act. He is an inert gas, a ghost, a sheet without soul. He has lost his personhood. He is an exile of time.

The book is finished by the reader. A good novel should invite the reader in and let the reader participate in the creative experience and bring their own life experiences to it, interpret with their own individual life experiences. Every reader gets something different from a book and every reader, in a sense, completes it in a different way.

They do not keep clocks in their houses. Instead, they listen to their heartbeats. They feel the rhythms of their moods and desires.

When her son stands in the night outside her house, she goes to bed early. In the morning, she looks at his photograph, writes adoring letters to a long-defunct address. A spinster sees the face of the young man who loved her in the mirror of her bedroom, on the ceiling of the bakery, on the surface of the lake, in the sky. The

The Book of Telling tells of a woman's journey to uncover the secret life of her father and to find herself in the process, an unusual counterpoint between personal history and the history of a young nation. Haunting, powerful, and beautifully written.

Thoughts are no more than electrical surges in the brain. Sexual arousal is no more than a flow of chemicals to certain nerve endings. Sadness is no more than a bit of acid transfixed in the cerebellum. In short, the body is a machine, subject to the same laws of electricity and mechanics as an electron or clock.

When I used to play golf. It's a terrible miserable game. It's incredibly frustrating. In 18 holes you make 150 horrible shots off in the woods, in the water...You make one good shot and it brings you back the next time. With writing a long book there has to be at least one bit that has some magic in it that you can go back to.

The catchers delight in the moment so frozen but soon discover that the nightingale expires, its clear flutelike song diminishes to silence, the trapped moment grows withered and without life.

Thus, in this world of brief scenes from the future, few risks are taken. Those who have seen the future do not need to take risks, and those who have not yet seen the future wait for their visions without taking risks.

When the first mechanical clocks were invented, marking off time in crisp, regular intervals, it must have surprised people to discover that time flowed outside their own mental and physiological processes. Body time flows at its own variable rate, oblivious to the most precise hydrogen master clocks in the laboratory. In fact, the human body contains its own exquisite time-pieces, all with their separate rhythms. There are the alpha waves in the brain; another clock is the heart. And all the while tick the mysterious, ruthless clocks that regulate aging.

The Diagnosis had ten drafts of very significant changing, where I went through the whole book, wholesale and changed everything. Then the last year or so it was making small changes. I would do something and let it sit for three months... just brood about and decide I needed to slightly change something here or there. Or one character wasn't quite right. But I think everybody goes through this.

Time is a rigid, bonelike structure, extending infinitely ahead and behind, fossilizing the future as well as the past.

Where are the one billion people who lived and breathed in the year 1800, only two short centuries ago?

The Diagnosis is by far my most ambitious book. I such great hopes for it... there was so much I wanted to do with the book. I was extremely insecure about it for several years. Just didn't know whether I would finish the book much less for it to come close to what I intended. I think that for any novel you never know exactly how the book is going to turn out...

Time is the clarity for seeing right and wrong.

Where the two times meet, desperation. Where the two times go their separate ways, contentment. For, miraculously, a barrister, a nurse, a baker can make a world in either time, but not in both times. Each time is true, but the truths are not the same.

Scientists are buffoons, not because they are rational but because the cosmos is irrational. Or perhaps it is not because the cosmos is irrational but because they are rational. Who

The history of science can be viewed as the recasting of phenomena that were once thought to be accidents as phenomena that can be understood in terms of fundamental causes and principles.

Time paces forward with exquisite regularity, at precisely the same velocity in every corner of space. Time is an infinite ruler. Time is absolute.

Author Picture
First Name
Alan
Last Name
Lightman
Birth Date
1948
Bio

American Physicist, Writer and Social Entrepreneur, Professor Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Author of Einstein's Dreams