Einstein's Dreams

Before dying, the father of Albert Einstein received a letter in which his son wrote him that he would have preferred to never have been born. At this point of his life, Albert became discouraged by his failures. Life sometimes makes facing difficulties that we despaired, but in the end without these experiences we would never have been so creative. Adversity is annoying, but often positive. Trials help us to remain determined to learn until we reach our goal no matter the difficulties.

How a man so young could have such incredible revelations? Revelations which were so different from the thought of his time. How a student expelled from school, denied admission from Polytechnique School of Zurich, not even friend with renowned physicists, had been able to imagine theories that transformed the way we think the universe?

Imagination is more important than knowledge.
— Albert Einstein

This famous quote from Einstein suits him so well! It's by imagining different time scenario that he could write his Theory of Relativity. If you have not read the bestseller written by the physicist, MIT professor and writer-poet Alan Lightman, Einstein's Dreams, I recommend it strongly. The book is a fictional collage of stories dreamed (as imagined by the author) by Albert Einstein in 1905, while working in a patent office in Switzerland.

When the young rebel and sensitive genius created his theory, a new conception of time, he imagined many possible worlds. In one, time is circular, so that people are condemned to repeat their triumphs and failures repeatedly. In another, it is a place where time stops, visited by people clung to their loved ones, etc.

Einstein's Dreams inspired many playwrights, dancers, musicians, painters worldwide. In these poetic fragments, Alan Lightman explores the connections between science and art, the creative process and the fragility of existence.

It is amusing to read Einstein's Dreams as it illustrates the limitless possibilities of the imagination. This reading encourages awareness of all the issues that can be arisen on a given topic. Throughout his career, a scientist has to be imaginative. He must constantly ask new questions to identify problems and challenges. A scientist should never be satisfied with the first equation or scenario.

For example, Einstein realized, after he wrote his theory, that he made a miscalculation that could have discredited him if the clouds had not prevented the American astrophysicist to photograph the eclipse to prove his theory. The incident earned him time to  correct his mistake before the official pictures of the eclipse could prove that he was right.

The dance between the contingencies of life and our constant quest to find solutions is the best process to develop creativity. Front, back, side... a beautiful dance is not linear. This is a way of thinking that connects astonishment and harmony. This dance that we may observe in Einstein's life and in  many other scientist lives. Everyone of us sail between daydream, dream, reality and fiction. For example, writers imagine characters, but at some point, the characters take the lead of the story. This is in these magical intervals, what we can also call intuition, that creativity explodes in all its glory.

Since the second half of the twentieth century, researchers have begun to look more seriously to the brain during sleep. The discoveries of Aserinsky and Kleitman in their laboratories at the University of Chicago opened a whole new perspective.1 Since then, research in this area have exploded. We now know that lucid dreamers have access to very specific details in their dreams. Who knows, maybe Einstein was a lucid dreamer. It seems he has dreamed that sled down a steep mountain so quickly that came close to the speed of light, it is at this moment that he saw the stars change appearance. He would have awakened and have pondered this idea to make what would become one of the most famous scientific theories in the history of mankind.

1. MOORCROFT William H. Understanding Sleep and Dreaming, Springer, New York, 2005, 2013


Some creative tips inspired by ALBERT EINSTEIN and ALAN LIGHTMAN

Einstein's Dreams
By Alan Lightman

Be attentive to your dreams;
Meditate to understand the meaning of your dreams;
Encourage moments of reverie;
Be an acute observer;
Combining artistic fancy, poetic precision and scientific rigor;
On a given topic, ask a thousand questions;
For each answer, prepare a short script;
Seek simplicity (at the end of the year, the story must take up a title and a few paragraphs).