The Institute Letter Spring 2016

Includes a variety of articles by Faculty and Members exploring gravitational-wave detection, military coups, the sizes of infinity, and the moral economy of asylum.

Moral economies represent the production, circulation, and appropriation of values and affects regarding a given social issue. Consequently, they characterize for a particular historical moment and a specific social world the manner in which this...

What is a state? Answers to this question vary, depending on whether they are provided by a political philosopher, a political scientist, a legal scholar, or a historian. We propose our own response as sociologists and anthropologists. But rather...

Historical epidemiologists are beginning to explore the documentary record of interventions in tropical Africa to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases and reduce their prevalence. Some interventions against individual diseases began in...

The Institute sometimes spends money on risky ventures, giving sustained support to people who work on unfashionable and dubious projects. One example of a risky venture was Einstein, who worked here for twenty years on unified field theories...

The next time you are enjoying the sun’s warm rays, think of the tremendous voyage those photons have taken to get to you. Traveling, by definition, at the speed of light they left their point of origin about eight minutes previously in a furious...

It should come as no surprise that our planet was nicknamed “the pale blue dot” in the wake of the 1990s iconic photograph taken by Voyager. Approximately 68 percent of Earth’s surface is covered with water—that is, two-thirds of our...

In the beginning of the twentieth century, the University of Göttingen was one of the top research centers for mathematics in the world. The mathematician David Hilbert was a well-established professor there, and during the winter semester of...

“Art” and “science” meant something very different in the Renaissance than they do within the strict disciplinary divides of today’s academy. Beginning in the sixteenth century, inquiry into the workings of the natural world engaged the visual...

In 1948, approximately 750,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes, going both to neighboring countries such as Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon and to the parts of Mandate Palestine that became the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. These refugees...

The number of military coups and coup attempts since 1950 currently stands at around 530, an astonishing number. We tend to have a very specific notion of a military coup: a military coup is something that rarely takes place; is characteristic of...

The status of “women” as interpreted by Shiites in a philosophical and legal context, as well as their social status in Shiite communities, throughout history up until today, can only be considered and studied within a general framework, using an...

Matisse gave two separate accounts of the moment at which he began work on the first version of The Dance, each of them emphasizing the immensity of the surface he had to master, “to possess,” as he put it. In the first version, it is an...

Why do we still prohibit incest? Despite our sense that the incest taboo is universal, beyond question, it is in fact neither consistent nor universal. The prohibition of incest has existed across cultures and epochs, but it has varied in...

Carl P. Feinberg recently endowed a Professorship in the School of Natural Sciences in which Juan Maldacena becomes the first Carl P. Feinberg Professor in the School. Feinberg is founder and Chief Executive Officer of the software products...