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.

Nicola Di Cosmo, Luce Foundation Professor in East Asian Studies in the School of Historical Studies, has co-edited Empires and Exchanges in Eurasian Late Antiquity (Cambridge University Press, 2018), which offers an integrated picture...

Sabine Schmidtke, Professor in the School of Historical Studies, has edited Studying the Near and Middle East at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, 1935–2018 (Gorgias Press, 2018). The volume ...

This essay was first presented in Italian in a dialogue with the physicist Tullio Regge, former Professor in the School of Natural Sciences, as the fifth episode in a television series “Dietro lo Specchio,” broadcast...

Most scholarship on Ottoman art takes the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries as their focus, the glorious periods of the building of the Topkapı Palace in Istanbul, the well-known domed mosques of the architect Sinan, the Iznik pottery, the floral...

Harvard University Press has published Age of Conquests: The Greek World from Alexander to Hadrian by Angelos Chaniotis, Professor in the School of Historical Studies, which provides a compelling...

In this video, Kathleen Coleman, Elinor Lunder Founders' Circle Member in the School of Historical Studies, examines gladiatorial combat, beast displays, and staged executions in order to understand...

Half a century ago a French historian of rural Languedoc published a history of climate and people: climate changes, is subject to fluctuations, and (since history is about change) climate is the object of history.2 Le Roy...

Sabine Schmidtke, Professor in the School of Historical Studies, and Hassan Ansari, Member in the School, have coauthored Studies in Medieval Islamic Intellectual...

As recent events have demonstrated, one of the most significant phenomena of the Arab World’s modern history is the persistence and resilience of undemocratic government. Syria has enjoyed the dubious distinction of leadership in this respect,...

Social Science

By Joan Wallach Scott

Whether taken as God's word or Nature's mandate, gender—the historically and culturally variable attempt to insist on the duality of sex difference—becomes the basis for imagining social, political, and economic orders.

Mathematics

"It's kind of like physics in its formative stages—Newton asking what makes the apple fall down," says Sanjeev Arora, Visiting Professor in the School of Mathematics, explaining the current scientific excitement about machine learning.

Natural Sciences

In the last six months, Juan Maldacena, Carl P. Feinberg Professor in the School of Natural Sciences, has received three major awards: the Lorentz Medal of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences; the 2018 Einstein Medal from the Albert Einstein Society in Bern; and most recently the Richard E. Prange Prize and Lectureship in Condensed Matter Theory and Related Areas. The following is an edited Q&A with the Institute Letter.

Historical Studies

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. I am interested in having the historian at the table while a scientific controversy is ongoing. 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. 

Natural Sciences

By John J. Hopfield

Tornadoes are a high-level description of the motions of enormous numbers of interacting molecules. We want to understand how mind emerges from brain, just as we understand how tornadoes emerge from molecules.

Historical Studies

By Patrick J. Geary

Using next-generation sequencing, it is possible to examine past populations in their complex genetic heterogeneity.

By Didier Fassin

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?

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?

By Nicola Di Cosmo

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.

By Akshay Venkatesh

Locally symmetric spaces are the home of the Langlands program—a set of overarching and interconnected conjectures connecting representation theory to number theory, first proposed in 1967 by Robert Langlands, now Professor Emeritus in the School of Mathematics. These spaces have become a crossroads for many different strands of mathematical thought.

Natural Sciences

By Kelly Devine Thomas

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.

Natural Sciences

By Kelly Devine Thomas

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.

Mathematics

By Ana Pires

During the winter of 1924–25 at the University of Göttingen, David Hilbert gave a series of lectures about the infinite in mathematics, physics, and astronomy.

Mathematics

By Robbert Dijkgraaf

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.

By Daniela Luigia Caglioti

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.

Social Science

By Didier Fassin

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.

Historical Studies

By Patrick J. Geary

The imagined unity of a people could derive from shared customs, language, a common law, and a belief in a common origin, whether or not this origin was factual.

Historical Studies

By Sabine Schmidtke

The Yemeni manuscript collections constitute a unique treasure trove for large segments of the Islamic intellectual tradition—Sunni as well as Shii.

Historical Studies

By Konrad Schmid

In light of more than two hundred years of scholarship, the most precise answer to this question still is: We don’t know. The tradition claims it was Moses, but the Torah itself says otherwise.

Historical Studies

By Yve-Alain Bois

There is an obvious playfulness in the way Picasso constantly shifted his artistic identity when least ­expected. 

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 Kevin W Martin

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.

Historical Studies

By Christopher S. Wood

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. 

Historical Studies

By Yve-Alain Bois

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.