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.
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Cyclical movement of nature and worldly events, biology and biography: these are the two series that make life an entity at once overdetermined in its material dimension and indeterminate in its course . . . Can this binarism be resolved? Is it possible to think of life as biology and life as biography together?
Without attention to what might be called “the lessons of history” the flurry of revelations about longstanding and long-tolerated exercises of men’s power, however horrifying in their details, will not suffice to achieve what is required to permanently change the gendered power dynamics of our culture.
There is no such thing as a homogeneous European culture, with which the Bosnian Muslims, the third-generation Turks in Germany, the Greeks, the Roma, the French Jews, the Basques, and the Laps––not to mention the Indians and Pakistanis living in London––can identify themselves.
Seen in the light of the antiquarian precedent, there is reason to believe that the contribution of the sciences of the past to historical research can help produce new histories. Yet, a word of caution is required.
T. S. Eliot arrived at the Institute in October 1948, observing in a letter to his secretary in London, “My ship was a day late on account of head winds, but the voyage was otherwise comfortable, and I am very sumptuously installed here in Princeton.”
On July 14, 2015, the P5+1 group of world powers and Iran signed a comprehensive nuclear agreement. This talk presents an analysis of the underlying logic of the agreement, its content, and its effectiveness.
What is wrong with terrorism? How is terrorism chosen— picked out of all the possible political strategies? How ought we to fight against terrorism? Or better, what are the moral limits that anti-terrorists ought to recognize?
“True scholars often work in loneliness, compelled to find rewards in the awareness that they have made valuable, even beautiful contributions to the cumulative structure of human knowledge, whether anyone knows it at the time or not.” —George F. Kennan
As I toured the National Ignition Facility, I noticed a big banner that said “stockpile stewardship is working!” But how do we know? Maybe what really matters is not whether a nuclear weapon really works but whether we believe it does.
It is difficult to convey the enormous impact of his revolutionary idea. Langlands showed how the same formula can originate from two entirely different worlds of thought. To employ another metaphor: it is as if two chefs cooking with two entirely different recipes, ingredients, and methods of preparation, produce exactly the same dish.
In 2012, Ahmed Almheiri, current Member in the School of Natural Sciences, coauthored a paper that confounded theoretical physicists, sparked attention from the New York Times to Scientific American, and prompted the organization of workshops and the publication of dozens of papers around the world.
An IAS teatime conversation in 1935 between Nathan Rosen, Boris Podolsky, and Albert Einstein, about a fundamental issue of interpretation related to entangled wave-functions, introduced an ongoing debate over quantum physics.
The outbreak of the war transformed them––independently of their personal story, feelings, ideas, and sense of belonging––into enemy aliens, accused of posing a threat to national security. As the war went on, the campaign against enemy aliens extended well beyond individuals who had originated from an enemy country. The loyalty of groups of citizens was questioned based on ethnic origin, religious belief, or former nationality.
In France, the expansion of the prison population with its socioracial component occurred at the very moment when socioeconomic inequalities started to deepen after a long period of contraction and when ethnoracial minorities became the target of stigmatization campaigns from right-wing parties. The penal state has definitely been a way of governing the poor.
Great scientists start new fields of science by making leaps in the dark. Nature decides which of the leaps is right and which is wrong. The Institute can be proud that we supported both Einstein and Joseph Weber, great scientists with their risky ventures, more than half a century before Nature proved them right and wrong.
After seizing power on his own behalf in December 1949, Army Colonel Adib al-Shishakli effectively ruled Syria for much of the next five years, during which he wrought long-term changes in Syria’s political culture and initiated a host of policies and practices subsequently adopted by Egypt’s Gamal Abdul Nasser, Syria’s Hafez al-Assad, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, and other authoritarian rulers.
I sometimes like to think about what it might be like inside a black hole. What does that even mean? Is it really “like” anything inside a black hole? Nature keeps us from ever knowing. But mathematics and physics make some predictions.
Geometry and physics have long gone hand in hand. All around us, physical processes play out in geometric terms, such as straight lines (rays of light), ellipses (planetary motion), or parallelograms (the combined effect of two forces).
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.
I think there is no better introduction to Kelly’s work than his earlier years in Paris, especially when it comes to understanding why things that look apparently very simple are in fact much more complex than they seem. This is something that we easily accept from science—no one doubts that the hyper-simple equation E=mc2 is the tip of an immensely complicated iceberg—but we usually have a harder time accepting it from art.
The world is emergent and always unfolding in time. Painting has difficulty representing this kind of time. The portrait tries to do that, paradoxically, by representing the individual fixed in historical time.
Shortly before he started using the concept of the unconscious in his statements, Matisse had made reference to “reflex” . . . akin to what Henri Bergson, the only philosopher he is known to have read with some constancy, called the “memory of the body,” and to what Marcel Proust called the “involuntary memory of limbs.”
There is an obvious playfulness in the way Picasso constantly shifted his artistic identity when least expected. Like Harlequin, a character with whom he identified all his life and of whom he drew and painted many versions in various, often incompatible styles, he could become anything he wanted, put on any mask, take out any card from his sleeve.