Without knowing anything about the book going in, I enjoyed reading the first few sections of Einstein’s Dreams. It reminded me a lot of Invisible Cities, in using small vignettes to explore a specific idea, or a version of an idea. Although it’s ostensibly about time — and the different possible ways time could work or exist in our universe — it seems to be more of a reflection on humanity and about people. More about philosophy than about physics, which is a little different from what might be expected from a book with “Einstein” in the title.
One of my favorites was “26 April 1905,” which is the one depicted in the illustration above. It describes a world where “time flows more slowly the farther from the center of earth.” As a result, in fear of old age and death, everyone lives at the top of mountains, and rich people build tall stilts for their houses. Only a few adventurous people visit the valleys and swim in the rivers down below. In contrast, those at the top “have become thin like the air, bony, old before their time,” defeating the whole purpose.
This vignette is very proverb-like, maybe even a little too on the nose. But even so, I thought it was an effective story.
My other favorite was “3 May 1905,” describing “a world in which cause and effect are erratic.” I found the examples and questions it raised to be quite interesting:
A man stands there just now, absently emptying his pockets and weeping. Without reason, his friends have abandoned him. No one calls any more, no one meets him for supper or beer at the tavern, no one invites him to their home. For twenty years he has been the ideal friend to his friends, generous, interested, soft-spoken, affectionate. What could have happened? A week from this moment on the terrace, the same man begins acting the goat, insulting everyone, wearing smelly clothes, stingy with money, allowing no one to come to his apartment on Laupenstrasse. Which was cause and which effect, which future and which past?
In this world, artists thrive and scientists have no power. The reason this example is interesting, I think, is because there is some truth to it that already exists in our world.
I worked with Jamie on our two projection mapping projects this week. The first one we made was having snow fall between two squares:
The second was a spinning pizza in a box. This one was particularly hard to capture in a video with my phone camera, so it’s kind of dark, but you get the idea.