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.

On May 20, 1930, a certificate of incorporation was filed with the State of New Jersey, marking the creation of the Institute for Advanced Study. Neither a university nor a research organization, the Institute fulfilled the dreams of its first Director, Abraham Flexner, and its founders, Louis Bamberger and Caroline Bamberger Fuld, an institute where scholars and scientists could pursue research, free from external pressures. 

By Angelos Chaniotis

Whether one follows the advice of an expert or a short-sighted politician makes the difference between life and death. In the case of climate change this difference will be seen in decades, in the case of the coronavirus in days.

By Abraham Flexner

We make ourselves no promises, but we cherish the hope that the unobstructed pursuit of useless knowledge will prove to have consequences in the future as in the past. Not for a moment, however, do we defend the Institute on that ground. It exists as a paradise for scholars who, like poets and musicians, have won the right to do as they please and who accomplish most when enabled to do so.
Artist's representation of COVID-19

Professor Emeritus Arnold J. Levine spoke with IAS's Joanne Lipman about the novel coronavirus outbreak, how it compares to previous pandemics, and potential therapies in the works that may help stop the spread.

Ideas

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By Barbara M.T.P. Baert

The ancients had a word for the joy and the sorrow of an opportunity that suddenly presents itself but is just as suddenly gone: kairos. This article explores the peculiar representations of Kairos in art history and iconography. 

By Johannes Krause

How ancient human genomes suggest three ancestral populations for present-day Europeans

Ideas

Robbert Dijkgraaf

Robbert Dijkgraaf, Director and Leon Levy Professor of the Institute for Advanced Study, and Joanne Lipman, IAS’s Peretsman Scully Distinguished Journalism Fellow discuss the coronavirus epidemic, its impact on IAS, and the elevated role of science in society.

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By Alondra Nelson

Genetics is today engaged in practices of identity formation, in philanthropy and socioeconomic development projects, as corroborating evidence in civil litigation and historical debates, and elsewhere. Thus, although the therapeutic utility of the genome may be arguable, the social life of DNA is unmistakable: the double helix now lies at the center of some of the most significant issues of our time.

Historical Studies

Gossuin de Metz's "Image du Monde"

By Suzanne Conklin Akbari

At the Institute, while each School certainly has its own character and researchers’ work is highly specialized, we share the experience of bewilderment, and the perpetual yearning for clarity.

By Myles W. Jackson

My work in the history of science probes the porous boundaries between science and culture over the past two centuries. Much of it gestures toward the role of history in public policy.... We historians are rather good at illustrating that controversies have histories: how we arrived at where we are today is very informative. There have always been, and always will be, alternatives. 

Historical Studies

By Francesca Trivellato

The Promise and Peril of Credit examines key episodes in the West’s millennium-long struggle to delineate the place that finance ought to occupy in the social and political order. It does so by introducing readers to modes of thinking about the morality of credit that have become increasingly alien to us even as the questions that animated those early modern discussions remain as vital now as they were then.

Social Science

On February 13, 1960, students line the counter of a dime store in Greensboro, North Carolina, in protest of the store’s refusal to serve them.

By Michael Walzer

Every political activist who has fought for a good cause dreams of a chance to fight again. We live, right now, in a bad time; American politics has not been this ugly since the Joe McCarthy years or the Red Scare and anti-immigrant frenzy of the early 1920s. We need movements of resistance, and we need citizen activists who remember the old labor union imperative: Organize!

Natural Sciences

By Freeman J. Dyson

I do not take the Prisoner’s Dilemma seriously as a model of evolution of cooperation. I consider it likely that groups lacking cooperation are like dodoes, losing the battle for survival collectively rather than individually.

By Joan Wallach Scott

Some of the reasons usually offered to explain the persistence of gender inequality include large abstractions: patriarchy, capitalism, male self-interest, misogyny, religion. These are, of course, useful categories to work with, but none of them can account for how deep-rooted these inequalities are in our psyches, our cultures, and our politics. 

By Didier Fassin

One theme underlies this reflection: inequality. As I hope to show, this theme binds together the biological and the biographical, the material and social dimensions of life […]What I propose, then, is not an anthropology of life, which I deem an impossible project, but rather an anthropological composition formed of three elements which when assembled, like a jigsaw puzzle, reveal an image: the inequality of human lives.

 

Natural Sciences

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By Edward Witten

When I was a student, a physics graduate student would not be exposed—I was not, and I think others would not have been either—to any ideas at all in contemporary mathematics or really even in twentieth-century mathematics, practically. Now, clearly, things have changed a lot since then.

Natural Sciences

By Juan Maldacena

What if black holes behave like ordinary quantum mechanical objects—and information about them is not lost, as previously thought, but retained on their horizons?

Watch videos by experts on topics ranging from virology, cancer, and immunology to machine learning and neural networks. 

By Richard Taylor

One of the oldest subjects in mathematics is the study of Diophantine equations, i.e., the study of whole number (or fractional) solutions to polynomial equations. 

By Edward Witten

Much of the theory of knots is best understood in the framework of twentieth- and twenty-first-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.