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>Alan Lightman–A Rare Scientist, Teacher, Author

>To take the maiden voyage, I turn to the words of a physicist, Allan Lightman.

My friend Alan Lightman is talented and many-faceted and I only wished I lived in close proximity–I’m in Orlando and he is a New Englander. Not only a physicist, Lightman is an eminently successful sixty-year-old best-selling novelist and essayist. He is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the author of the international bestseller Einstein’s Dreams.

Alan Lightman is a rare find of an individual. He follows his finest instincts, intuition, and logic and becomes extremely successful, no matter what he is doing. Don White

I rarely write about science, though I wrote a very interesting, yet still unpublished 700-page science-religion book called Science and The Restoration of The Gospel that is filed away for the future and has yet to be sent out to a publisher. I would like a well-known man of Mormon religion to come knocking on my door to co-author it. I received approval from the great Alan Lightman to quote these passages and from many of my Mormon sources.

Alan Lightman knows his physics well enough to teach and write about it. In fact, this talented novelist fascinates by weaving science into his plots, narratives, and essays which requires a rare talent. I would love to visit this professor unexpectedly in his Massachusetts Institute of Technology classroom and see how he does it firsthand. He is author of the international bestseller Einstein’s Dreams which I fell in love with. He is my friend and one of the most engaging, enlightened, intelligent seekers of truth I know of today. I highly recommend anyone purchasing or borrowing at least two of his books: the bestseller “Einstein’s Dreams and his most fascinating work—at least to me—called The Discoveries”, both of which I’ve read and enjoyed greatly. I have not read his latest novel, Ghost, but I understand it’s hardly a disappointment. I really wanted him to co-author a book with me, but he refused–too busy, he said. And now I can understand why. I’ll read and review the “Ghost” book as soon as possible. Meanwhile I recommend reading a review done by Anthony Giardina October 31, 2007 for the San Francisco Chronicle.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/10/31/DDL3SN2VD.DTL

Some of Lightman’s statements and quotations:
1) “In a world of fixed future, there can be no right or wrong. Right and wrong demand freedom of choice, but if each action is already chosen, there can be no freedom of choice. In a world of fixed future, no person is responsible. The rooms are already arranged” (Alan Lightman, Einstein’s Dreams, Warner Books, 1994, 161, 162).

2) Even as Alan Lightman described it: “…with distant galaxies flying away from each other like dots painted on the skin of a swelling balloon” (Alan Lightman, The Discoveries, Random House, Inc., 2005, pp. 230, 231).

3) As Lightman said: “…when the universe returns to its hottest and densest state [under the oscillating universe theory], the temperature must reach at least 10 billion degrees, high enough to destroy all the heavy elements and begin over with nascent hydrogen. And at 10 billion degrees, as we have seen earlier, there will be so many electrons that space will be filled with black-body radiation, that is, the cosmic background radiation.”

4) “…In the late 1960s, biologists found that some bacteria developed immunity to antibiotics by changing the position of their genes on the chromosome. The position of a gene, in fact, partly governs its function, the function of neighboring genes, and the gene’s interaction with the rest of the organism” (Alan Lightman, The Discoveries, Pantheon Books, New York, 2005, p. 343).

5) “Mutations could occur in the standard theory of inheritance, but they were thought to be permanent rather than transient, and they were also thought to be random,” said Lightman (Ibid p. 332)

6) “Something was altering the genes on the maize chromosome in a regular and systematic way,” said Lightman. “That idea, already, was a revolution.”
Lightman summed up these findings: “No longer could one think of genes as fixed links on a chain, or of the chromosome as a static warehouse of instructions. The chromosome and genes on it were a dynamic system, changing during a single lifetime, both controlling and being controlled by the rest of the organism. McClintock fathomed some of these ideas, but not all, at the time. Even today, biologists don’t understand the details of how the information from the developing organism is relayed back to the chromosomes.”

7) As Alan Lightman reported, “In a rare and remarkable comment to Keller [Evelyn Fox Keller, who conducted extensive interviews with her in the late 1970s], McClintock described her creative moments of discovery: ‘When you suddenly see the problem, something happens-—you have the answer before you are able to put it into words. It is all done subconsciously. This has happened too many times to me, and I know when to take it seriously. I’m so absolutely sure. I don’t talk about it, I don’t have to tell anybody about it, I’m just sure this is it’ ” (Ibid).

8) Speaking of the central nervous system whose signals are believed to be transmitted via chemicals, not by electrical transmission, Lightman commented, “Such chemical controls provide a far more elaborate and finely balanced system than would be achieved by electrical transmission of nervous impulses” (Ibid p. 185).

9) According to Lightman, “it occurred about the time Einstein had his ‘thought experiments.’ Rutherford had his wildly intuitive ‘damn fool’ ideas, but very few scientists have reported receiving their great ideas in a dream” (Ibid p. 175).

10) Einstein’s findings led to “a wholesale reshaping of physics, called quantum mechanics, along a radically new conception of reality,” according to Lightman. (Ibid p. 14).

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/10/31/DDL3SN2VD.DTL

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