The Institute Letter Fall 2015

Includes a variety of articles by Faculty and Members exploring Einstein's pacifism, mathematical anomalies, black holes and quasars, and general relativity.

Let us imagine a conversation between a literary scholar from Palestine interested in the reception of Ibn Ruschd’s commentary on Aristotle, an anthropologist from Iraq examining the experience of exiles fleeing the war, an economist from the...

Anyone leafing through the pages of this volume cannot but be struck not only by the pace at which the artist’s production evolved during this early period of his career but also by its diversity—with the exception perhaps...

Black holes are among the strangest predictions of Einstein’s general theory of relativity: regions of spacetime in which gravity is so strong that nothing—not even light—can escape. More precisely, a black hole is a singularity in spacetime...

Eighty-five years ago the founders of the Institute had a very clear vision: to create a place unique in the world, that would attract scholars of the highest quality from all over the world and provide them with the best environment to pursue...

Albert Einstein finished his general theory of relativity in November 1915, and in the hundred years since, its influence has been profound, dramatically influencing the direction of physics, cosmology, and mathematics. The theory upended Isaac...

Christmas Day, 1942, was the three hundredth birthday of Isaac Newton. I was then an undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge. Since Newton was our most famous fellow, the college organized a meeting to celebrate his birthday. Since it was war...

Wolfram Wette is one of Germany’s foremost military historians and Professor at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität in Freiburg. He is the author or editor of over forty books, including The Wehrmacht: History, Myth, Reality (Harvard...

This ethnographic project and I have grown up together. It evolved through repeated returns over the course of forty-two months of fieldwork carried out in Bolivia and Paraguay between 2001 and 2013. Its focus has sharply changed since I began...

Mikhail Gorbachev defied every expectation at home and abroad by permitting the Berlin Wall to be breached in November 1989. He had finally allowed the imbalance of military power in Europe, which had stood provocatively and overwhelmingly to...

I had the privilege of being a Member at the Institute for Advanced Study from January to April 2015, during which my main research project concerned a corpus of Arabic documents from medieval Nubia. I had the opportunity to make a presentation...

What makes a digital Ottoman project different from other digital projects and why isn’t it a straightforward endeavor but rather one that will probably take several years to develop successfully? And why isn’t there one already? Why would twenty...

During a visit to the Institute in the 1970s, the mathematician John Horton Conway, then of Cambridge, spent the ten most interesting minutes of his life. Invited to deliver a talk to the undergraduate math club at Princeton, Conway made his way...

“How big” is almost always an easier question to answer than “how old.” Though we can measure the sizes of animals and plants easily enough, we can often only guess at their ages. The same was long true of the cosmos. The ancient Greeks...

Five years ago, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space ­Telescope saw more gamma rays than expected from the area around the center of our galaxy. Many scientists suggest that the extra gamma rays could be from the annihilation of dark matter particles....

The article by Wally Greenberg in the spring 2015 Institute Letter mentions the anomalous axial current triangle diagram and describes its connection with counting quark degrees of freedom. This derives from a calculation I did when a...

“When Paul Cézanne wants to speak ... he says with his picture what words could only falsify.” In The Voices of Silence (1951), French author and statesman André Malraux expressed his view that the Post-Impressionist painter could only “...

My earliest mathematical memories involve my father. One is of a walk from home to the edge of downtown Metuchen (the tiny central Jersey town where I grew up), to a little luncheonette called The Corner Confectionary. This wasn’t a frequent or...

Does beauty exist in mathematics? The question concerns mathematical objects and their relations, the real subject of verifiable proofs. Mathematicians generally agree that beauty does exist in the structural beauty of theorems and proofs, even...

The Macdonald Equation is the most beautiful thing that I ever discovered. It belongs to the theory of numbers, the most useless and ancient branch of mathematics. My friend Ian Macdonald had the joy of discovering it first, and I had the almost...