Close cookie details

This site uses cookies. Learn more about cookies.

OverDrive would like to use cookies to store information on your computer to improve your user experience at our Website. One of the cookies we use is critical for certain aspects of the site to operate and has already been set. You may delete and block all cookies from this site, but this could affect certain features or services of the site. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, click here to see our Privacy Policy.

If you do not wish to continue, please click here to exit this site.

Hide notification

  Main Nav
Dance for Two
Cover of Dance for Two
Dance for Two
Essays
Borrow Borrow
For the last twenty years, Alan Lightman has been writing essays that display his genius for bringing literary and scientific concerns into harmony. Dance for Two gathers the best of Lightman's work. Here are pieces that touch on both the ethereal and the corporeal; the dependence of a ballerina on the laws of physics, the choice of every scientist makes between tinkering and theorizing, the unscientific nature of discovery, the impulse behind an unprompted smile. Dance for Two is an intimate and fascinating look into the creative compulsions shared by the artist and the scientist.
For the last twenty years, Alan Lightman has been writing essays that display his genius for bringing literary and scientific concerns into harmony. Dance for Two gathers the best of Lightman's work. Here are pieces that touch on both the ethereal and the corporeal; the dependence of a ballerina on the laws of physics, the choice of every scientist makes between tinkering and theorizing, the unscientific nature of discovery, the impulse behind an unprompted smile. Dance for Two is an intimate and fascinating look into the creative compulsions shared by the artist and the scientist.
Available formats-
  • OverDrive Read
  • EPUB eBook
Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    1
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
  • Lexile:
  • Interest Level:
  • Text Difficulty:

Recommended for you

Excerpts-
  • From the book Pas de Deux
     
    In the soft blue light, the ballerina glides across the stage and takes to the air, her toes touching Earth imperceptibly. Sauté, batterie, sauté. Legs cross and flutter, arms unfold into an open arch. The ballerina knows that the easiest way to ruin a good performance is to think too much about what her body is doing. Better to trust in the years of daily exercises, the muscles’ own understanding of force and balance.
     
    While she dances, Nature is playing its own part, flawlessly and with absolute reliability. On pointe, the ballerina’s own weight is precisely balanced by the push of floor against shoe, the molecules in contact squeezed just the right amount to counter force with equal force. Gravity balanced with electricity,
     
    An invisible line runs from the center of the Earth through the ballerina’s point of contact and upward. If her own center should drift a centimeter from this line, gravitational torques will topple her. She knows nothing of mechanics, but she can hover on her toes for minutes at a time, and her body is continuously making the tiny corrections that reveal an intimacy with torque and inertia.
     
    Gravity has the elegant property of acceleration everything equally. As a result, astronauts become weightless, orbiting Earth on exactly the same trajectories as their spaceships and thus seeming to float within. Einstein understood this better than anyone and described gravity with a theory more geometry than physics, more curves than forces. The ballerina, leaping upward lightly, hands weightless for a moment amid flowers she has dropped midair, all falling on the same trajectory.
     
    Not she prepares for a pirouette, right leg moving back to fourth position, pushing off one foot, arms coming in to speed the turn. Before losing balance she gets four rotations. Make dancers, on demi-pointe and with greater contact area, can sometimes go six or eight. The ballerina recovers well, giving her spin smoothly back to Earth and remembering to land in fifth position smiling. Briefly her feet come to rest, caught between the passage of spin and the friction of the floor. Friction is important. Every body persists in its state of rest or of uniform motion unless acted upon by outside forces. Every action requires a reaction.
     
    The ballerina depends on the constancy of the laws of physics, even though she herself is slightly unpredictable. In this same performance last night she went only three and a half turns through her first pirouette, and then took the arabesque several feet from where she takes it now. Regardless of these discrepancies, the atoms in the floor, wherever she happens to touch and at one millisecond’s notice, must be prepared to respond with faithful accuracy. Newton’s laws, Coulomb’s force, and the charge of electrons must be identical night after night—otherwise, the ballerina will misjudge the resiliency of the floor or the needed moment of inertia. Her art is more beautiful in its uncertainty. Nature’s art comes in its certainty.
     
    The ballerina assumes one pose after another, each fragile and symmetrical. In the physics of solids, crystal structures can be found that appear identical after rotations by one-half, one-third, one-quarter, and one-sixth of a circle. Crystals with one-fifth and one-seventh symmetries do not exist because space cannot be filled with touch pentagons or septagons. The ballerina reflects a series of natural forms. She is first ethereal, then lyrical. She has struggled for years to develop a personal style, embellished...
About the Author-
  • Alan Lightman is the author of six novels, including Einstein’s Dreams, which was an international bestseller, and The Diagnosis, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. He is also the author of three collections of essays and several books on science. His latest work is the memoir of his family, Screening Room. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, Granta, Harper’s, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, and Nature, among other publications. Since beginning his career as a theoretical physicist, Lightman has taught at Harvard and at MIT, where he was the first person to receive a dual faculty appointment in science and in the humanities. He lives in the Boston area.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 25, 1996
    Physicist and novelist (Good Benito) Lightman brings his characteristic sense of wonder and awe to these concise discussions of the origins of the universe. Previously published in two collections of the 1980s (Time Travel and Papa Joe's Pipe and A Modern Day Yankee in a Connecticut Court), these 21 graceful essays combine examinations of how birds fly, theoretical underpinnings of time travel and the gravitational forces impinging on a ballerina, as well as snippets of scientific history--a profile of atomic physicist Niels Bohr, imaginary encounters with Isaac Newton and Thomas Edison--and autobiographical glimpses of Lightman's own scientific career. Several selections are parables or fables, for instance, his whimsical adventures in Ironland, where everything is made of iron, and an evocation of a Persian city whose denizens are unable to leave--a metaphor for how scientists construct or abandon theories. On a more serious note, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Lightman calls for more funding of pure research and explores how we blind ourselves to the dangers nuclear weapons pose to the Earth's survival.

  • Library Journal

    December 1, 1995
    A physicist with a literary bent, Lightman earned praise for his first novel, Einstein's Dreams, which sold more than 400,000 copies. Here he offers a series of literary and scientific essays.

  • Booklist

    March 1, 1996
    Physicist-novelist Lightman has creamed off two dozen of his better essays of the past 15 years. He describes their common theme as the "lived part of science," where the human character inserts itself into scientific rigor. For example, the workings of eyesight are physically explainable, which Lightman proceeds to illustrate in a boy-meets-girl scenario; but science is helpless in explaining what does or doesn't happen after they see each other. Another conundrum: once he couldn't be sure the earth was round. Was he unscientifically accepting the fact on faith, or could he prove it? Elsewhere, he switches topics from scientific doubt to scientific overconfidence, addressing mistakes made by major physicists. Errors by Landau and Einstein, for example, occurred during their youthful explosions of ingenuity, a tangent Lightman follows in a related essay speculating on why physicists' most productive years are over by their mid-30s. Lightman's meshing and browseable pieces--written in an economical style, confronting the literary and scientific, the ethereal and corporeal--each pique us with an original observation or two. ((Reviewed March 1, 1996))(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 1996, American Library Association.)

Title Information+
  • Publisher
    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • OverDrive Read
    Release date:
  • EPUB eBook
    Release date:
Digital Rights Information+
  • Copyright Protection (DRM) required by the Publisher may be applied to this title to limit or prohibit printing or copying. File sharing or redistribution is prohibited. Your rights to access this material expire at the end of the lending period. Please see Important Notice about Copyrighted Materials for terms applicable to this content.

Status bar:

You've reached your checkout limit.

Visit your Checkouts page to manage your titles.

Close

You already have this title checked out.

Want to go to your Checkouts?

Close

Recommendation Limit Reached.

You've reached the maximum number of titles you can recommend at this time. You can recommend up to 99 titles every 1 day(s).

Close

Sign in to recommend this title.

Recommend your library consider adding this title to the Digital Collection.

Close

Enhanced Details

Close
Close

Limited availability

Availability can change throughout the month based on the library's budget.

is available for days.

Once playback starts, you have hours to view the title.

Close

Permissions

Close

The OverDrive Read format of this eBook has professional narration that plays while you read in your browser. Learn more here.

Close

Holds

Total holds:


Close

Restricted

Some format options have been disabled. You may see additional download options outside of this network.

Close

MP3 audiobooks are only supported on macOS 10.6 (Snow Leopard) through 10.14 (Mojave). Learn more about MP3 audiobook support on Macs.

Close

Please update to the latest version of the OverDrive app to stream videos.

Close

You've reached your library's checkout limit for digital titles.

To make room for more checkouts, you may be able to return titles from your Checkouts page.

Close

Excessive Checkout Limit Reached.

There have been too many titles checked out and returned by your account within a short period of time.

Try again in several days. If you are still not able to check out titles after 7 days, please contact Support.

Close

You have already checked out this title. To access it, return to your Checkouts page.

Close

This title is not available for your card type. If you think this is an error contact support.

Close

An unexpected error has occurred.

If this problem persists, please contact support.

Close

Close

NOTE: Barnes and Noble® may change this list of devices at any time.

Close
Buy it now
and help our library WIN!
Dance for Two
Dance for Two
Essays
Alan Lightman
Choose a retail partner below to buy this title for yourself.
A portion of this purchase goes to support your library.
Close
Close

There are no copies of this issue left to borrow. Please try to borrow this title again when a new issue is released.

Close
Barnes & Noble Sign In |   Sign In

You will be prompted to sign into your library account on the next page.

If this is your first time selecting “Send to NOOK,” you will then be taken to a Barnes & Noble page to sign into (or create) your NOOK account. You should only have to sign into your NOOK account once to link it to your library account. After this one-time step, periodicals will be automatically sent to your NOOK account when you select "Send to NOOK."

The first time you select “Send to NOOK,” you will be taken to a Barnes & Noble page to sign into (or create) your NOOK account. You should only have to sign into your NOOK account once to link it to your library account. After this one-time step, periodicals will be automatically sent to your NOOK account when you select "Send to NOOK."

You can read periodicals on any NOOK tablet or in the free NOOK reading app for iOS, Android or Windows 8.

Accept to ContinueCancel