From the bestselling author of Einstein's Dreams comes this lyrical and insightful collection of science writing that delves into the mysteries of the scientific process--physics, astronomy, mathamatics--and exposes its beauty and intrigue.In these brilliant essays, Lightman explores the emotional life of science, the power of imagination, the creative moment, and the alternate ways in which scientists and humanists think about the world. Along the way, he provides in-depth portraits of some of the great geniuses of our time, including Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Edward Teller, and astronomer Vera Rubin. Thoughtful, beautifully written, and wonderfully original, A Sense of the Mysterious confirms Alan Lightman's unique position at the crossroads of science and art.
A stunning new novel about an ordinary man's encounter with the extraordinary, from the author of Einstein's Dreams.David Kurzweil, a quiet man with modest ambitions, was taking a break at his new job, when he saw something out of the corner of his eye. Something no science could explain. Suddenly David's life is changed, and he soon finds himself in the middle of a wild public controversy over the existence of the supernatural. As David searches for an explanation, we embark on a provocative exploration of the delicate divide between the physical and the spiritual, between science and religion as only Alan Lightman could provide. Combining a beautiful narrative with provocative ideas, Ghost investigates timeless questions that continue to challenge the truth as we know it.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Charles, a once-promising poet, is a professor at a minor liberal arts college, admiring of passion but without passion himself. Now living a desperately comfortable existence, he decides to return to his thirtieth college reunion. While there, he relives an intense love affair he had with a beautiful ballerina that forever changed his life. At times shocked, admiring, and furious with his younger self, Charles remembers contradictory versions of events, until reality and identity dissolve into a haze of illusion. Reunion explores the pain of self-examination, the clay-like nature of memory, and the fatal power of first love.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
From the author of the best-selling @18@Einstein@12@s Dreams@19@ comes a wonderfully original, deeply moving, and wryly funny novel about the clash between the absolutes of science and the vagaries of human experience.@16@@95@#160;@16@Bennett always knew he would live a life of science. From the homemade rockets and experiments of his childhood to the complex equations he solved as a professor of physics, his vision has transformed the uncertainty and frailty of life into an order and beauty that he inhabits with deep satisfaction. But his vision betrays him, revealing a profound incompleteness, an inadequacy to confront the contradictions his life: the black maid who raises him and loves him but cannot welcome him into her own house, the mentally absent father who wishes he@12@d died a hero in World War II, the self-destructive wife who invites Bennett@12@s cruelty. As Bennett struggles between reason and intuition, he slowly learns to allow the imperfections of daily life@95@mdash;the chaos he has worked so hard to control@95@mdash;to broaden his understanding of the world and his place in it.@16@@95@#160;@16@Written with lyrical sparseness, hilarity mixed with sadness, the story of Bennett@12@s struggle becomes both a beautifully rendered portrait of the emotional life of a scientist and a resonant tale of the disillusionment that haunts us all.@16@@16@@16@@18@From the Hardcover edition.@19@
“As I remember, I had just woken up from a nap when I decided to create the universe.”
So begins Alan Lightman’s playful and profound new novel, Mr g, the story of Creation as told by God. Barraged by the constant advisements and bickerings of Aunt Penelope and Uncle Deva, who live with their nephew in the shimmering Void, Mr g proceeds to create time, space, and matter. Then come stars, planets, animate matter, consciousness, and, finally, intelligent beings with moral dilemmas. Mr g is all powerful but not all knowing and does much of his invention by trial and error.
Even the best-laid plans can go awry, and Mr g discovers that with his creation of space and time come some unforeseen consequences--especially in the form of the mysterious Belhor, a clever and devious rival. An intellectual equal to Mr g, Belhor delights in provoking him: Belhor demands an explanation for the inexplicable, requests that the newly created intelligent creatures not be subject to rational laws, and maintains the necessity of evil. As Mr g watches his favorite universe grow into maturity, he begins to understand how the act of creation can change himself, the Creator.
With echoes of Calvino, Rushdie, and Saramago, combining science, theology, and moral philosophy, Mr g is a stunningly imaginative work that celebrates the tragic and joyous nature of existence on the grandest possible scale.
In this captivating and lucid book, novelist and science writer Alan Lightman chronicles twenty-four great discoveries of twentieth-century science--everything from the theory of relativity to mapping the structure of DNA.These discoveries radically changed our notions of the world and our place in it. Here are Einstein, Fleming, Bohr, McClintock, Paul ing, Watson and Crick, Heisenberg and many others. With remarkable insight, Lightman charts the intellectual and emotional landscape of the time, portrays the human drama of discovery, and explains the significance and impact of the work. Finally he includes a fascinating and unique guided tour through the original papers in which the discoveries were revealed. Here is science writing at its best-beautiful, lyrical and completely accessible. It brings the process of discovery to life before our very eyes.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
The author of Einstein's Dreams now presents a collection of essays, written over the past 20 years, that displays his genius for bringing literary and scientific concerns into ringing harmony. Sometimes provocative, sometimes fanciful, always elegantly conceived and written, these meditations offer readers a fascinating look into the creative compulsions shared by the scientist and the artist. Reading tour.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
A modern classic, Einstein’s Dreams is a fictional collage of stories dreamed by Albert Einstein in 1905, about time, relativity and physics. As the defiant but sensitive young genius is creating his theory of relativity, a new conception of time, he imagines many possible worlds. In one, time is circular, so that people are fated to repeat triumphs and failures over and over. In another, there is a place where time stands still, visited by lovers and parents clinging to their children. In another, time is a nightingale, sometimes trapped by a bell jar.
Now translated into thirty languages, Einstein’s Dreams has inspired playwrights, dancers, musicians, and painters all over the world. In poetic vignettes, it explores the connections between science and art, the process of creativity, and ultimately the fragility of human existence.
From the bestselling author of Einstein's Dreams comes this harrowing tale of one man's struggle to cope in a wired world, even as his own biological wiring short-circuits. As Boston's Red Line shuttles Bill Chalmers to work one summer morning, something extraordinary happens. Suddenly, he can't remember which stop is his, where he works, or even who he is. The only thing he can remember is his corporate motto: the maximum information in the minimum time.
Bill's memory returns, but a strange numbness afflicts him. As he attempts to find a diagnosis for his deteriorating illness, he descends into a nightmarish tangle of inconclusive results, his company's manic frenzy, and his family's disbelief. Ultimately, Bill discovers that he is fighting not just for his body but also for his soul.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
With echoes of Calvino, Rushdie, and Saramago, this is a stunningly imaginative work that celebrates the tragic and joyous nature of existence on the grandest possible scale. "As I remember, I had just woken up from a nap when I decided to create the universe." So begins Alan Lightman's playful and profound new novel, Mr g, the story of Creation as narrated by God. Bored with living in the shimmering Void with his bickering Uncle Deva and Aunt Penelope, Mr g creates time, space, and matter-then moves on to stars, planets, consciousness, and finally intelligent beings with moral dilemmas. But even the best-laid plans can go awry, and Mr g discovers that with his creation of space and time come unforeseen consequences-especially in the form of the mysterious Belhor, a clever and devious rival. An intellectual equal to Mr g, Belhor delights in provocation: he demands an explanation for the inexplicable, requests that intelligent creatures not be subject to rational laws, and maintains the necessity of evil. As Mr g watches his favorite universe grow into maturity, he begins to understand how the act of creation can change the Creator himself.
“Alan Lightman brings a light touch to heavy questions. Here is a book about nesting ospreys, multiple universes, atheism, spiritualism, and the arrow of time. Throughout, Lightman takes us back and forth between ordinary occurrences--old shoes and entropy, sailing far out at sea and the infinite expanse of space.
“In this slight volume, Lightman looks toward the universe and captures aspects of it in a series of beautifully written essays, each offering a glimpse at the whole from a different perspective: here time, there symmetry, not least God. It is a meditation by a remarkable humanist-physicist, a book worth reading by anyone entranced by big ideas grounded in the physical world.”
--Peter L. Galison, Joseph Pellegrino University Professor, Harvard University
From the acclaimed author of the international best seller Einstein’s Dreams, here is a stunning, lyrical memoir of Memphis from the 1930s through the 1960s that includes the early days of the movies and a powerful grandfather whose ghost remains an ever-present force in the lives of his descendants.
Alan Lightman’s grandfather M.A. Lightman was the family’s undisputed patriarch: it was his movie theater empire that catapulted the Lightmans to prominence in the South, his fearless success that both galvanized and paralyzed his children and grandchildren. In this moving, impressionistic memoir, the author chronicles his return to Memphis in an attempt to understand the origins he so eagerly left behind forty years earlier. As aging uncles and aunts begin telling family stories, Lightman rediscovers his southern roots and slowly recognizes the errors in his perceptions of both his grandfather and his father, who was himself crushed by M.A. The result is an unforgettable family saga that extends from 1880 to the present, set against a throbbing century of Memphis--the rhythm and blues, the barbecue and pecan pie, the segregated society--and including personal encounters with Elvis, Martin Luther King Jr., and E. H. “Boss” Crump. At the heart of it all is a family haunted by the memory of its domineering patriarch and the author’s struggle to understand his conflicted loyalties.
(With black-and-white illustrations throughout.)
From the Hardcover edition.
From the acclaimed author of Einstein's Dreams, here is an inspires, lyrical meditation on religion and science that explores the tension between our yearning for permanence and certainty, and the modern scientific discoveries that demonstrate the impermanent and uncertain nature of the world.
As a physicist, Alan Lightman has always held a scientific view of the world. As a teenager experimenting in his own laboratory, he was impressed by the logic and materiality of a universe governed by a small number of disembodied forces and laws that decree all things in the world are material and impermanent. But one summer evening, while looking at the stars from a small boat at sea, Lightman was overcome by the overwhelming sensation that he was merging with something larger than himself--a grand and eternal unity, a hint of something absolute and immaterial. Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine is Lightman's exploration of these seemingly contradictory impulses. He draws on sources ranging from Saint Augustine's conception of absolute truth to Einstein's theory of relativity, from the unity of the once-indivisible atom to the multiplicity of subatomic particles and the recent notion of multiple universes. What he gives us is a profound inquiry into the human desire for truth and meaning, and a journey along the different paths of religion and science that become part of that quest.
As a physicist, Alan Lightman has always held a purely scientific view of the world. Even as a teenager, experimenting in his own laboratory, he was impressed by the logic and materiality of the universe, which is governed by a small number of disembodied forces and laws. Those laws decree that all things in the world are material and impermanent. But one summer evening, while looking at the stars from a small boat at sea, Lightman was overcome by the overwhelming sensation that he was merging with something larger than himself - a grand and eternal unity, a hint of something absolute and immaterial.Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine is the result of these seemingly contradictory impulses, written as an extended meditation on an island in Maine, where Lightman and his wife spend their summers. Framing the dialogue between religion and science as a contrast between absolutes and relatives, Lightman explores our human quest for truth and meaning and the different methods of religion and science in that quest. Along the way, he draws from sources ranging from St. Augustine's conception of absolute truth to Einstein's relativity, from a belief in the divine and eternal nature of stars to their discovered materiality and mortality, from the unity of the once indivisible atom to the multiplicity of subatomic particles and the recent notion of multiple universes. What emerges is not only an understanding of the encounter between science and religion but also a profound exploration of the complexity of human existence.
In The Accidental Universe, physicist and novelist Alan Lightman explores the emotional and philosophical questions raised by discoveries in science, focusing most intently on the human condition and the needs of humankind.Here, in a collection of exhilarating essays, Lightman shows us our own universe from a series of fascinating and diverse perspectives. He takes on the difficult dialogue between science and religion; the conflict between our human desire for permanence and the impermanence of nature; the possibility that our universe is simply an accident; the manner in which modern technology has divorced us from enjoying a direct experience of the world; and our resistance to the view that our bodies and minds can be explained by scientific logic and laws alone.With his customary passion, precision, lyricism and imagination, in The Accidental Universe Alan Lightman leaves us with the suggestion - heady and humbling - that what we see and understand of the world and ourselves is only a tiny piece of the extraordinary, perhaps unfathomable whole.Praise for Alan Lightman:'...a gem of a novel that is strange witty erudite and alive with Lightman's playful genius.' Junot Diaz.'It would not seem possible for Alan Lightman to match his earlier tour de force, Einstein's Dreams, but in Mr g he has done so - with wit, imagination, and transcendent beauty.' Anita Desai.
A modern classic, Einstein's Dreams is a fictional collage of stories dreamed by Albert Einstein in 1905, when he worked in a patent office in Switzerland. As the defiant but sensitive young genius is creating his theory of relativity, a new conception of time, he imagines many possible worlds. In one, time is circular, so that people are fated to repeat triumphs and failures over and over. In another, there is a place where time stands still, visited by lovers and parents clinging to their children. In another, time is a nightingale, sometimes trapped by a bell jar. Now translated into thirty languages, Einstein's Dreams has inspired playwrights, dancers, musicians, and painters all over the world. In poetic vignettes, it explores the connections between science and art, the process of creativity, and ultimately the fragility of human existence.
Radiative Processes in Astrophysics: This clear, straightforward, and fundamental introduction is designed to present-from a physicist's point of view-radiation processes and their applications to astrophysical phenomena and space science. It covers such topics as radiative transfer theory, relativistic covariance and kinematics, bremsstrahlung radiation, synchrotron radiation, Compton scattering, some plasma effects, and radiative transitions in atoms. Discussion begins with first principles, physically motivating and deriving all results rather than merely presenting finished formulae. However, a reasonably good physics background (introductory quantum mechanics, intermediate electromagnetic theory, special relativity, and some statistical mechanics) is required. Much of this prerequisite material is provided by brief reviews, making the book a self-contained reference for workers in the field as well as the ideal text for senior or first-year graduate students of astronomy, astrophysics, and related physics courses. Radiative Processes in Astrophysics also contains about 75 problems, with solutions, illustrating applications of the material and methods for calculating results. This important and integral section emphasizes physical intuition by presenting important results that are used throughout the main text; it is here that most of the practical astrophysical applications become apparent.