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Einstein's Dreams - 30 Characters Of Time

Updated on May 9, 2016

What Did Einstein Dream?

Einstein's Dreams

By Alan Lightman, 1992; Adjunct Professor of Humanities, Creative Writing & Physics at MIT [Massacusetts Institute of Technology].

Human beings may be the only members of the animal kingdom that have been proved to recognize the concept of time and, further, to imagine the multiple levels of space and time that might exist.

Researchers find that animals can dream and that elephants can cry - but do any of these animals consider time?

Time is odd. The passing of time is odder. It reminds me of riding in a car at age seven and asking, upon seeing a county line marker sign, how one could pass from one county to another when the scenery looked the same and no dividing line was drawn across the highway and the fields.

How can one be in one county one second and a foreign county the next? This seemed to anger the adults, one of whom shouted, "You just are!" Perhaps that is the way of time.

Time may be a human construct. Is space?
Time may be a human construct. Is space? | Source

The Tesseract

Since that time, I have been happy to read about time and space and receive a lot of answers to my childhood question, as have others who are interested in Einstein's writings..

This has included the novel Flatland (Edward A. Abbot, 2nd Ed. 1884), which opened the possibilities of dimensions that we may not see until we fall into them or bang our heads on them. Flatland, Sphereland, then what?

The Tesseract (Robert Heinlein, in "And He Built A Crooked House", 1940). In this piece of real estate, a person could enter a door and come out a window in a different year and environment, with stiff difficulties found in returning home.

A Tesseract in Motion

Heinlein's Tesseract Free Online

Read the entire short story, "And He Built A Crooked House" online at Sci-Fi Classics/Heinlein

If you have not already done so, Please also read the Heinlein Classic, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, a libertarian kind of futurist novel from which we derive the modern proverb, There's No Such Thing As A Free Lunch (TNSTAAFL).

Dreams on the Other Side of the Black Hole

Drs. Leonard Susskind and Stephen Hawking maintained an interesting running professional argument for over 20 years on the subject of whether information (a thing of any sort or size) maintains existence after passing into a Black Hole.

By 2008, Dr. Hawking had made a small concession that perhaps information did not completely cease to exist on the other side. By 2015, he was rethinking black hole theory.

Dr. Susskind has written interestingly about his views on the subject throughout his career and most recently in The Black Hole Wars, Making the Universe Safe for Quantum Mechanics, in which he describes his argument with Hawking as well as the personalities among formerly stereotyped dull and boring physicists, along with many other matters. Marvelous diagrams are included.

Dr. Susskind has been a proponent of String Theory, formed after Albert Einstein's "regular" and Special Theories of Relativity. All of this and related theorizing has presented human beings with potential for thoughts about time and space in many dimensions, along with the beginning and the ending of Time, and whether time even exists, among other notions.

Along with the Big Bang Theory of beginnings (disputed in 2015, but maintaining its hold), we have (among others) a Big Implosion Theory of endings. This postulates that the Universe will reach a threshold of expansion at which point it will suddenly and quickly telescope back into or onto itself - perhaps even compacting down to a black hole, according to some minds.

The author of Einstein's Dreams makes a presentation of some subconscious work that might have been developing in Einstein's brain as he originally considered time and space. Better than singular science, the story offers artistic possibilities as adjunct material for thought.


Bowing to the Mountain

Alan Lightman is accomplished in two different fields - Physics and Creative Writing, able to combine them with panache and aplomb. He has written about Albert Einstein at the time he was a young patent clerk, pursuing mathematics and science on his own.

In Einstein's Dreams, young Albert is rather tormented by dreams about the time he is investigating the concept of time and explanation for the phenomenon. In these dreams, time takes on several personas - 30, to be exact. That makes one for each night of a month of 30 days and is thus, probably symbolic.

Interestingly, the story has been translated into 30 languages. It has also been produced as a play - one I think I'd like to see.

The 30 dreams occur from April 14 - June 28, 1905, one every 2-3 days on average and each dream presents an entirely different world for time to inhabit. The story itself begins at 6:10 AM on a June day in 1905 at Albert's place of employment. It ends a few hours later at 8:00 AM, when the patent office typist, who has been helping Albert type his paper on relativity (Special) in order to present it formally, arrives.

An O. Henry Moment

The dreams comprise 30 different universes.

My favorite is Number 5, in which people find that they can slow down time and the aging process by living farther away from the center of the earth. They move to mountains. "Everyone" lives on mountains.

Soon, they begin to place their houses on stilts to be even further away from the center of the earth. They become prejudiced against "flatlanders."

In the end, they age prematurely from the effects of their elevated altitude and their high-handed thinking.This is very like a typical O. Henry story message.

Time Personalities

Click thumbnail to view full-size
WormholeTime and Times.Guardians of Time
Wormhole | Source
Time and Times.
Time and Times. | Source
Guardians of Time
Guardians of Time | Source

Personalities of Time

Others of the dreams suggest that time is a circle in which a person's life is endlessly repeated, each iteration the same as the last, unendingly. Another speaks of alternate timelines with separate dream showing that time has only three possible alternatives.

One dream shows that effect does not always follow cause, and this can be disturbing -- we try to teach children logic with an understadning of cause and effect...

Another states that time passes but nothing of any importance every occurs within it. Another favorite of mine is one in which there is no time at all. Another states that the passage of time itself makes things more orderly. Others state that time is a characteristic or a sense like the five human senses.

One particular dream shows that if one is trapped in time, one is never happy. This reminds my of the first episode of Star TrekĀ® Deep Space Nine in which the Bajoran spirits asked Benjamin Sisco why, if he were truly in the present as he claimed, he was also back in the time (via memory) of the disaster which claimed the life of his wife.

An odd and interesting dream illustrates people that live forever and divided into the Nows and Laters. The remainder of the dreams are interesting as well and good stimuli for the imagination.

Energy | Source

Energy and Dreams of Time

Einstein's Dreams was produced by BurningCoal.Org in its 2006-2007 season, play written by Kipp Cheng and adapted from the work of Alan Lightman; directed by Rebecca Holderness.

The organization operates in the Meymandi Theatre in Raleigh, NC and the Rehearsal Warehouse. Its mission includes affecting societal change through moving, striking types of presentations that generate heat and energy (like a burning coal on one's head). A non-profit 501(c)(3) entity, they have also produced Hamlet, Inherit the Wind, The New War, Juno and the Paycock,and several others.

Michele Besso

Albert Einstein enjoyed a friendship with Besso, who was a Swiss/Jewish engineer he knew during his university years and at the patent office in Berne, Switzerland. The friendship and interaction enters Einstein's Dreamsin the book to create three dividing interludes between series of dreams. In life, Besso discussed mathematics, physics, and Einstein's theories with Albert, likely helping to materialize the eventual Special Theory of Relativity.


Experiences of Time and Space

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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      3 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thanks for your comment! The newest discovery of time crystals has people talking again about inter-dimensional travel. Let's see what develops.

    • rebelogilbert profile image

      Gilbert Arevalo 

      3 years ago from Hacienda Heights, California

      I've read about some of the space-time theories you've mentioned in this article and I think they're fascinating. The concept of Einstein's book under review blows my mind. I'm sure it's a captivating read. Thanks for reviewing the book.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Hi stars439? How are things in your area of the world? Imagination surely comes up with things to wonder. It's a vast Universe to behold.

    • stars439 profile image


      8 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Wonderfull hub about a genius mind. There are so many mysteries , and so much about science we are still learning. Someday maybe we will learn how to travel in the universe with great ease. Time provides such a great opportunity, for anyone, or anything of intellect to accomplish wonderful things . God Bless You.

    • htodd profile image


      9 years ago from United States

      Great post...Thanks

    • profile image

      G. S. Jaan 

      9 years ago

      Time for you is time for me

      space for you is space for me

      one for you is one for me

      one I am in time and space

      one I am in time and race

    • couturepopcafe profile image


      10 years ago

      Loved reading this. The way I understand things, time doesn't exist, it's nothing more than a man-made concept. The idea of parallel planes of existence or coincedence of occurances have nothing to do with time. I guess even those who are instinctively brilliant at this stuff can make errors.

    • WestOcean profile image


      10 years ago from Great Britain

      A fascinating hub. With the latest research indicating that immutable laws of physics may not be constant always and everywhere, immense possibilities are opened up...

    • loua profile image


      11 years ago from Elsewhere, visiting Earth ~ the segregated community planet

      Great compilation on the attributes of time, it says many things this time of multiple character of ours...

      Time being a variable form of the space function so it has many faces as it creates its continuum...

      As time is a form of energy as is thought ~ time maybe what you think it to be, it is our dewtobe as we think it to be...

      Wonderful concepts these black every-things of doubt and uncertainty black energy, back matter and black holes, they seem like a description of the vortex but there is nothing black about a matrix~vortex...

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      12 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thanks, Sally's Trove!

    • Sally's Trove profile image


      12 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      Time fascinates us. Whether it's a consideration of the physics of it, the psychology, the philosophy, or the romance.

      Your readers might like Jack Finney's "Time and Again", an adventure novel that dives into the twists and turns of time, ending and beginning in New York City both today and in the past.

      Einstein and Carl Jung were friends, and shared their theories of dreams and time. It is said that conversations between the two spurred Einstein into developing his theory of relativity.

      This is a great Hub for all who have a curiosity about time's many aspects and a love of exploring the the way minds tick.

    • The Old Firm profile image

      The Old Firm 

      12 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

      Just an aside.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      12 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Sliding sideways sidereal. haha! Fun with time. Thanks for commenting, The Old Firm.

    • The Old Firm profile image

      The Old Firm 

      12 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

      I would suggest that the large black and white photo more correctly depicts sidereal time.

      You've given me more food for thought, Patty. Thank you

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      12 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thank you so much for the quotes and thoughts, bohica.

    • bohica profile image


      12 years ago

      "Time - it is Nature's way of preventing everything happening at once.", attributed to anonymous but in reality implied by Billy Pilgrim - a time tripper from "Slaughter House Five"

      "I am a traveler of both time and space." - Led Zeppelin, "Kashmir"

      While I am speeding toward my own personal entropy.

      Stephen Hawking, a man that proves his own theorems by disappearing into his own private black hole. Kinda Ironic, don't you think.

      "The train won't stopped going, though it cold slow down." - Jethro Tull, "Locomotive Breath"

      Paticles that travel than light - check out tachyon.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      12 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Earth Angel! - It's good to see you again and I am happy to have made something you enjoyed!

    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 

      12 years ago

      GREAT Hub Patty!! As always, you please, entertain and educate!! And make it look effortless!! Thank you for sharing!! Blessings always, Earth Angel!!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      12 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thanks for all the comments, coach, Fours, and Cristoph!

      According to some theorists, the phenomenon of "time passing more quickly as we age" is built into human DNA. However, once I learned concentration techniques and certain other mental exercises, I have no longer experienced that phnomenon. I'm free!

      I have been reading that different collors of light, having different frequencies, also travel at different speeds. I'm not sure about this yet. I have also read that someone speeded up a photon beyond to faster than speed of light, so is there a range to the speed of light? Maybe. I'll keep reading and listening.

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 

      12 years ago from St. Louis

      Interesting!  The simple definition of time is a particular period or part of duration, whether past, present, or future. Anything beyond that becomes rather abstract, to me at least. I am currently reading the classic Clan of the Cave Bear. In an early scene, the child of more advanced [tribe?] has been taken in by the Cave Bear clan. At age six, she demonstrates an ability to comprehend and count time that the wisest of the cave bear clan cannot begin to understand, in fact, is frightened by it and this child's "knowledge". Clearly, the author means to point out that this understanding goes hand in hand not only with increased intellegence and reasoning skills, but with the very evolution that made us what we are today. Time exsists because the seasons, the tides, aging, etc. tells us it does, and we have lots of ways to count it. But beyond that? What is it? I surely do not know.

      Thanks for the great hub.

    • FoursX2 profile image


      12 years ago from Laguna Niguel, CA

      That was great! The concept of time is indeed a fascinating subject especially when you consider Einstein's own mathematics demonstrating that time itself is not a constant and can run faster or slower depending on one's velocity. I'm impressed!

    • qlcoach profile image

      Gary Eby 

      12 years ago from Cave Junction, Oregon

      Einsten was amazing and so is this hub! But I think dreams put us in contact with another dimension that transcends time--the journey to the inner Light. What we dream we can become and much more. Please see how I try to help others in new ways too. Sincerely: Gary Eby, author and therapist.


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