Alan Lightman, fully Alan Paige Lightman

Lightman, fully Alan Paige Lightman

American Physicist, Writer and Social Entrepreneur, Professor of Humanities at The Massachusetts Institute Of Technology

Author Quotes

One thousand questions, and each gives an answer, which then forms a question. The questions and answers will meld with each other like colors of light, like the light rays that once crossed the space of the cosmos and rest now in the small warmth of a hand.

So much i?ve lost, i have nothing except a fierce hunger to fathom this world. Naked, I knock on the door, wearing only my questions.

This is the world of the ticking of clocks, menses of women and tides of the moon. Orbits of planets, the swing of the pendulum, spin of the earth, cycles of seasons. This is the cosmos of time and of space, and of light rays that travel twelve billion years, and the whale-raptured sprawl of the galaxies. But is this not also the cosmos of life, that rare cluster of atoms and forms, a few grains on the beach of nonlife?

Awake ? what are these quick shots of warmth, fractals of forests that wind through my limbs? Fragrance of olive and salt taste of skin, razz-tazz and clackety sound? Figures and shapes slowly wheel past my view,villas and deserts, distorted faces, children, my children ?

Distant, the pink moons of my feet. What rules do they follow? I think movement, they wondrously move, moons flutter and shake. I probe the hills and the ruts of my face ? Now I grow large, now I grow small, as the waves of sensation break over my shore. There, a gnarled tree I remember, a stone vessel, the curve of a hill. What is the hour? Some silence still sleeps In my small sleeping room ? Is it end or beginning?

Great Newton, you hid in your rooms, outcast like me, careless of meals, stockings untied, drinker of rosewater, olive oil, beeswax ? you found the force between planets and sun, pattern of cosmic attraction, heard clearly the music of spheres. You gauged the distance to stars and the vast rooms of space, which were naught to the space of your mind. You struck the door of the universe. What raging night seized you and screamed that the world must be number and rule?

I knock on the door of the universe, asking: What makes the light of the stars? What makes the heat of my flesh? What makes the tear shape of rain?

I knock on the doors of the universe, asking: what makes the swirl of Ghazali love songs? And the parallel singing of loss? And the choice to live life alone? I surrender my calipers, rules, and clocks, microscopes, diodes, transistors, glass flasks. For how can I measure the stroke of a passion? Or dissect a grief with the digits of pi? Thus, I stand naked, with nothing except a fierce hunger to fathom this world, to embark on this road without length without breadth.

I take up my pen, dry for some years. What should i write? What should I think? ? I knock on the door of the universe. Here, this small villa, this table, this pen. I ask the universe: What? and Why? Now weakened, I must remake the world, one grain at a time.

Life is a vessel of sadness, but it is noble to live life, and without time there is no life. Others disagree. They would rather have an eternity of contentment, even if that eternity were fixed and frozen, like a butterfly mounted in a case.

On one thing most physicists agree. If the amount of dark energy in our universe were only a little bit different than what it actually is, then life could never have emerged. A little larger, and the universe would have accelerated so rapidly that matter in the young universe could never have pulled itself together to form stars and hence complex atoms made in stars. And, going into negative values of dark energy, a little smaller and the universe would have decelerated so rapidly that it would have re-collapsed before there was time to form even the simplest atoms. Out of all the possible amounts of dark energy that our universe might have, the actual amount lies in the tiny sliver of the range that allows life. As before, one is compelled to ask the question: Why does such fine-tuning occur?

Scientists will forever have to live with the fact that their product is, in the end, impersonal.

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...

These fundamental principles, in turn, lead to the laws of nature, which govern... and string theory, now indicate that the same fundamental principles, from which the laws of nature derive, lead to many different self-consistent universes, with many different properties. It is as if you walked into a shoe store, had your feet measured, and found that a size 5 would fit you, a size 8 would also fit, and a size 12 would fit equally well. Such wishy-washy results make theoretical physicists extremely unhappy. Evidently, the fundamental laws of nature do not pin down a single and unique universe. According to the current thinking of many physicists, we are living in one of a vast number of universes. We are living in an accidental universe. We are living in a universe uncalculable by science.

Using technology, we have redefined ourselves in such a way that our immediate surroundings and relationships, our immediate sensory perceptions of the world, are much diminished in relevance. We have trained ourselves not to be present. We have extended our bodies, created enhanced selves that might be called our techno-selves. Our techno-selves are both bigger and smaller than our former selves. Bigger in that we have tremendous powers to communicate with the invisible world. Smaller in that we have sacrificed some of our contact and experience with the visible, immediate world. We have marginalized our direct sensory experience.

With a background in science I am extremely interested in the meeting ground of science, theology, and philosophy, especially the ethical questions at the border of science and theology.

man can do what he wants, said Schopenhauer, but not want what he wants.

One cannot walk down an avenue, converse with a friend, enter a building, browse beneath the sandstone arches of an old arcade without meeting an instrument of time. Time is visible in all places. Clock towers, wristwatches, church bells divide years into months, months into days, days into hours, hours into seconds, each increment of time marching after the other in perfect succession. And beyond any particular clock, a vast scaffold of time, stretching across the universe, lays down the law of time equally for all.

So many little lives, amounting to nothing. I ask you: What is infinity multiplied by zero? It is hardly worth our discussion.

The future is beckoning. She makes up her mind. Without finishing her packing, she rushes out of her house, this point of her life, rushes straight to the future.

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

We live in a highly polarized society. We need to try to understand each other in respectful ways. To that end, I believe that we should make room for both spiritual atheists and thinking believers.

With age, muscles slacken and grow loose, lose mass and strength, can barely support our weight as we toddle across the room. And why must we suffer such indignities? Because our muscles, like all living tissue, must be repaired from time to time due to normal wear and tear. These repairs are made by the mechano growth factor hormone, which in turn is regulated by the IGF1 gene. When that gene inevitably loses some tines ? Muscle to flab. Vigor to decrepitude. Dust to dust.

Memoryless world, the world is now. History books only in documents. Each person brings his own life to identify the book containing the life stories beside himself. Every day, read by the family, that came from the top substrate layer or they are, whether it is at school, he learns that again succeeded to achieve anything in life. A snapshot devoid of human life book, a two-dimensional image, a ghost. Life times each book, which could not be read from beginning to end is thicker at one time. Then elections kicks. For example, youth or seniors can choose to read the latest period. Some are reading the leaves completely. They leave in the past. Today they are not rich, whether they are educated, they decide that there is no more important than the breeze caressing their hair if they are proud. Such people are looking directly into the eyes of the opposite hand and squeezes vehemently. Such is the pace of youth walks. Those who learn to live in a world which no memory work.

One day [Rabbi Spear] talked about his theory of happiness. He proposed that human feelings respond only to contrast and change, not to constancy, just as eyesight responds to contrasts of light and dark and to movement. The rabbi speculated that if emotions are similar to eyesight and other senses, then perhaps emotions were developed by nature as a survival mechanism.

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Lightman, fully Alan Paige Lightman
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American Physicist, Writer and Social Entrepreneur, Professor of Humanities at The Massachusetts Institute Of Technology