ALAN LIGHTMAN QUOTES

American physicist & author (1948- )

Everyone shares the same fate.

ALAN LIGHTMAN, Einstein's Dreams

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Each person who gets stuck in time gets stuck alone.

ALAN LIGHTMAN, Einstein's Dreams

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Continents of memory had been lost.

ALAN LIGHTMAN, The Diagnosis

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As human beings, don't we need questions without answers as well as questions with answers, questions that we might someday answer and questions that we can never answer?

ALAN LIGHTMAN, "Does God exist?", Salon, October 2, 2011

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As I understand it, a universe is a ... well, a totality. A universe is everything that is, as far as the inside of the thing.

ALAN LIGHTMAN, Mr G: A Novel About the Creation

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Two theories in physics, eternal inflation and string theory, now suggest that the same fundamental principles from which the laws of nature derive may 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.

ALAN LIGHTMAN, "The Accidental Universe: Science's Crisis of Faith", Harper's Magazine, December 2011

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

ALAN LIGHTMAN, Einstein's Dreams

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The relationship between science and the humanities is two-way. Science changes our view of the world and our place in it. In the other direction, the humanities provide the store of ideas and images and language available to us in understanding the world. The exploding star of A.D. 1054, the Crab Nebula, was sighted and documented by the Chinese, but nowhere mentioned in the West, where the Aristotelian notion of the immortality of stars still held sway. We often do not see what we do not expect to see.

ALAN LIGHTMAN, Great Ideas in Physics

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A life is a moment in season. A life is one snowfall. A life is one autumn day. A life is the delicate, rapid edge of a closing door's shadow. A life is a brief movement of arms and of legs.

ALAN LIGHTMAN, Einstein's Dreams

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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.

ALAN LIGHTMAN, Einstein's Dreams

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Human beings consider themselves satisfied only compared to some other condition. A man who has owned nothing but a bicycle all of his life feels suddenly wealthy the moment he buys an automobile ... but this happy sensation wears off. After a while the car becomes just another thing that he owns. Moreover, when his neighbor next door buys two cars, in an instant our man feels wretchedly poor and deprived.

ALAN LIGHTMAN, Reunion

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Order is the law of nature, the universal trend, the cosmic direction. If time is an arrow, that arrow points toward order. The future is pattern, organization, union, intensification; the past, randomness, confusion, disintegration, dissipation.

ALAN LIGHTMAN, Einstein's Dreams

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In a world in which time is a circle, every handshake, every kiss, every birth, every word, will be repeated precisely.

ALAN LIGHTMAN, Einstein's Dreams

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In the 1950s, academics forecast that as a result of new technology, by the year 2000 we could have a twenty-hour workweek. Such a development would be a beautiful example of technology at the service of the human being.... According to the Bureau of Statistics, the goods and services produced per hour of work in the United States has indeed more than doubled since 1950.... However, instead of reducing the workweek, the increased efficiencies and productivities have gone into increasing the salaries of workers.... Workers ... rather have used their increased efficiencies and resulting increased disposable income to purchase more material goods.... Indeed, in a cruel irony, the workweek has actually lengthened.... More work is required to pay for more consumption, fueled by more production, in an endless, vicious circle.

ALAN LIGHTMAN, A Sense of the Mysterious

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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.

ALAN LIGHTMAN, Einstein's Dreams

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A world in which time is absolute is a world of consolation. For while the movements of people are unpredictable, the movement of time is predictable. While people can be doubted, time cannot be doubted. While people brood, time skips ahead without looking back.

ALAN LIGHTMAN, Einstein's Dreams

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People are content to live in contradictory worlds, so long as they know the reason for each.

ALAN LIGHTMAN, Einstein's Dreams

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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.

ALAN LIGHTMAN, Reunion

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In a world without future, each parting of friends is a death. In a world without future, each loneliness is final. In a world without future, each laugh is the last laugh. In a world without future, beyond the present lies nothingness, and people cling to the present as if hanging from a cliff.

ALAN LIGHTMAN, Einstein's Dreams

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If a person holds no ambitions in this world, he suffers unknowingly. If a person holds ambitions, he suffers knowingly, but very slowly.

ALAN LIGHTMAN, Einstein's Dreams

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Tags: ambition