Ideas

Explore firsthand accounts of research and questions posed by IAS scientists and scholars. From art history to string theory, from moral anthropology to the long-term fate of the universe, contributions span the last decade to the research of today.

In colloquial speech the word “duality” connotes two contrasting facets of a single entity, often at odds with one another. The concept is anthropomorphized in mythology by deities or monsters with multiple faces, like the two-faced Janus, Roman god of doorways. It is also enshrined in pop culture in the double visages of Jekyll and Hyde, and in the Batman villain Harvey Dent (alias Two-Face). In physics and mathematics, the concept of “duality” takes on a more positive connotation because of its ubiquity, utility, and power. 

Ask yourself this question: Can one hear the shape of a drum?

In this episode of Scholar Spotlight, mathematician and number theorist Terrence Blackman discusses his quest to expand understanding in the realm of spectroscopy. Learn about the strides Terrence is making in both spectral geometry and in surfacing the important work of African American mathematicians through his upcoming book showcasing their contributions to the field.

Join Robbert Dijkgraaf, Director and Leon Levy Professor, as he opens the jewel box of scholarship at the Institute to explore what drives its talented members. Learn why free-floating, open-ended research is more important than ever as the world seeks new solutions and breakthrough ideas.

Knots and Quantum Theory

Much of the theory of knots is best understood in the framework of 20th- and 21st-century developments in quantum physics. In other words, what really fascinates me are not the knots per se but the connections between the knots and quantum physics.

Mathematics in Mesopotamia

During my stay at the Institute, I studied little-known but amazing Old Babylonian tablets. These tablets show that the ancient scribes developed sophisticated tools for writing complex mathematical expressions and thought deeply about the nature of an equation.

Race After Technology

Like everyone who lives in a heavily policed neighborhood, I grew up with a keen sense of being watched. Family, friends, and neighbors—all of us caught up in a carceral web, in which other people’s safety and freedom are predicated on our containment.

The Idea of Wartime

Politicians and other leaders have regularly framed the current global health crisis as a period of “wartime.” In this 2012 article, Mary Dudziak, Member (2007–08) in the School of Social Science, examines the meaning of “wartime,” investigating the temporal element in warfare and the ways war structures our conception of time.

Q&A with Natalie Paquette

Meet Natalie Paquette, a mathematical physicist in the School of Natural Sciences. "I like to think about the many bright spots in my day when I feel that I finally learn or understand something properly, get a satisfying answer to a computation, or become excited about a new idea." 

Antiquities in the Dining Hall

Hanging on the walls of Simons Hall are four late antique mosaics. Their migration from the floors of private houses in a Near Eastern city under Roman rule to a research institute in North America is a story of affluence, oblivion, and rediscovery.