The Institute Letter Spring 2021

Includes a variety of articles by Faculty and Members exploring the origins of the Second World War and the bias often built into state accounts; the Janus-like nature of mathematical dualities; and the troubling history and misuse of the term “moral hazard” in health insurance. Also features a transcript of Alondra Nelson’s remarks delivered on the occasion of her appointment as Deputy Director for Science and Society in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; and coverage of Avi Wigderson’s 2021 Abel Prize for foundational contributions to the field of the theory of computation.

Covid-19 Updates

Updated May 7, 2021
Vaccinated travelers
or those who have recovered from Covid-19 in the last 3 months no longer need to quarantine upon return to New Jersey.

Unvaccinated travelers and residents entering New Jersey from any U.S. state or territory beyond the immediate region (New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Delaware) should self-quarantine for 10 days. Individuals who test negative on a viral test for Covid-19 obtained 3–5 days after returning, must self-quarantine for 7 full days. For the most up-to-date information on travel restrictions and other questions, view New Jersey Covid FAQs.

All individuals (vaccinated or not) who leave the state of New Jersey for more than 24 hours must complete the IAS Travel Questionnaire upon their return.

The Institute campus remains partially reopened, and Faculty, Members, and a limited number of essential staff may request access to work in their offices. The Health Screening Form must be completed each morning before coming to campus and approved by the IAS Covid-19 Response Team.

To help ensure the safety of our community, we ask that you continue to:

  • Keep indoor gatherings to a limit of 10 people per room
  • Stay 6 feet apart at all times.
  • Wear masks or face coverings in all indoor spaces on campus, including the laundry room and the activities center, and
  • Do not enter any office other than your own.

Please note that at this time the Institute's academic campus is not open to non-essential visitors, members of the public, or family members, including children.

Read more.

Matias Zaldarriaga Receives Gruber Cosmology Prize

Matias Zaldarriaga, Richard Black Professor in the School of Natural Sciences, has received the 2021 Gruber Cosmology Prize. He shares the prize with Marc Kamionkowski, past Member (1991–95) in the School, currently at Johns Hopkins University, and Uroš Seljak of the University of California at Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, for their work on the Cosmic Microwave Background.

Nils Aall Barricelli: The Italian-Norwegian Mathematician was a Genuine Original

"This is Barricelli’s universe," states science historian George Dyson in Cosmos, referring to Nils Barricelli, past IAS Member, who used the IAS computer to experiment with algorithms that simulate evolution.  "This is the universe we live in now. It’s the universe in which these machines are now doing all these things, including changing biology." 

Flares from the Milky Way’s Supermassive Black Hole

"Sgr A*, the 4.6-million-solar-mass black hole that lies at the center of the Milky Way, is normally a fairly quiet beast," but a new study by Lena Murchikova explores how in May 2019 it suddenly became substantially more active than usual, producing an unprecedented bright, near-infrared flare that lasted roughly 2.5 hours.