Alan Lightman

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We often do not see what we do not expect to see

Alan P. Lightman (born November 28, 1948) is a physicist, novelist and essayist. He is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the author of the international bestseller Einstein's Dreams.


  • 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.
    • Great Ideas in Physics : The Conservation of Energy, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the Theory of Relativity, and Quantum Mechanics (2000), p. 4
  • 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.
    • A Sense of the Mysterious : Science and the Human Spirit (2005), p. 200

Quotes about Alan Lightman[edit]

  • … Dr. Lightman was an astrophysicist, a card-carrying wizard of space and time, with a Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology and subsequent posts at Cornell and Harvard. In 1989, at the peak of his prowess as a physicist, he began to walk away from the world of black holes to enter the world of black ink and the uncertain, lonely life of the writer.

External links[edit]

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