# 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.

The “Paths to Math” series comes to a close with this special edition video, featuring one of our most beloved veteran mathematicians: Distinguished Visiting Professor Karen Uhlenbeck. Watch to see Karen describe the introduction to calculus course that awakened her love for math and her spirited female colleagues in Chicago, who helped to dispel any lingering doubts about being a woman mathematician.

"Imagine that you are blowing a soap bubble using a simple wand. Why does the bubble that you create take the form of a sphere? Why not an ovoid? Or a cylindrical shape? Or something totally random?" Explore the minimization principles that govern such systems with geometric measure theorist Paul Minter, who serves as a Veblen Fellow in the School of Mathematics.

The largest live autonomous vehicle traffic experiment ever conducted began the week of November 18, 2022, in Nashville, Tennessee. While this experiment used 4 miles of highway, 288 cameras, and an impressive command center, one of its most vital resources was equations on a blackboard. In front of one of these blackboards was Benedetto Piccoli, Visitor in the School of Mathematics.

This installment of the “Paths to Math” series features Paul Minter, Veblen Research Instructor (2022–23) and Veblen Fellow (2023–27) in the Institute’s School of Mathematics. Watch to see Paul describe how, despite being discouraged from applying to an elite school, his passion for mathematics brought him from a small U.K. seaside town, to Cambridge University, and then to IAS.

This installment of our “Paths to Math” video series features Kalyani Kansal, Member (2023–24) in the Institute’s School of Mathematics. Watch to hear Kalyani describe her fascination with the “patterns” of the Langlands Program, outline the interesting commonalities between mathematics and detective stories, and discuss the importance of diversity and representation in the field.

Shiyue Li, Member in the School of Mathematics, is interested in algebraic geometry and combinatorics. As a researcher she enjoys, in her words, “the freedom to wonder about fascinating things in nature, and the connections with other minds from around the world.”

This installment of our "Paths to Math" video series features Julian Chaidez, Visitor (2021–23) in the Institute’s School of Mathematics. Watch to learn how a formative teacher at Julian’s high school fostered his enthusiasm for math, and how he has himself helped to support a new generation of diverse mathematicians through mentoring undergraduates at a summer research program.

Shira’s work explores symplectic geometry, combining the study of geometry and Hamiltonian dynamics. Watch to learn how her interest in math was fostered by reading books by Paul Hoffman and Donal O’Shea, and how the creativity required to solve mathematical problems inspires her to this day.

This installment of our "Paths to Math" video series features Patrick Shafto, Member in the Institute’s School of Mathematics and Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Rutgers University. Learn how Patrick’s unexpected start studying physical therapy at Northeastern eventually led to his current research, which explores the intersections of human and machine learning.

Introducing D. Dominique Kemp, the first Black student to receive a PhD in Mathematics from Indiana University-Bloomington. He joins the IAS School of Mathematics in 2022–2023 to continue his exploration of problems that connect harmonic analysis with geometry.

## Black Holes as Laboratories

The unparalleled resolution of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) images of the black holes at the center of the M87 galaxy and at the center of our galaxy, called Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), allows us to test assumptions, predictions, and alternatives to Einstein’s theory of gravity.

## Using Gravity to Find Grounding in Medieval Studies

Sierra Lomuto, Member in the School of Historical Studies, describes taking inspiration from Albert Einstein's notion of spacetime as a way of thinking about a truly global history of the medieval period.

## Dreaming up the Good Life

While some people were baking sourdough bread during the pandemic, Kristen Ghodsee, Member (2006–07) in the School of Social Science, studied utopian communities. In this interview, she discusses the resulting book, *Everyday Utopia: What 2,000 Years of Wild Experiments Can Teach Us About the Good Life*, and her efforts to engage a non-academic audience through her writing and even TikTok!

## Taking Theory to Traffic

The largest live autonomous vehicle traffic experiment ever conducted began the week of November 18, 2022, in Nashville, Tennessee. While this experiment used 4 miles of highway, 288 cameras, and an impressive command center, one of its most vital resources was equations on a blackboard. In front of one of these blackboards was Benedetto Piccoli, Visitor in the School of Mathematics.

## From Beads to Bubbles

"Imagine that you are blowing a soap bubble using a simple wand. Why does the bubble that you create take the form of a sphere? Why not an ovoid? Or a cylindrical shape? Or something totally random?" Explore the minimization principles that govern such systems with geometric measure theorist Paul Minter, who serves as a Veblen Fellow in the School of Mathematics.

## Paths to Math: Karen Uhlenbeck

The “Paths to Math” series comes to a close with this special edition video, featuring one of our most beloved veteran mathematicians: Distinguished Visiting Professor Karen Uhlenbeck. Watch to see Karen describe the introduction to calculus course that awakened her love for math and her spirited female colleagues in Chicago, who helped to dispel any lingering doubts about being a woman mathematician.

## Intimacy, Illumination, and Understanding…But First Drinks

"From our cherished teatime tradition to celebratory dinners, the Institute fosters its unique network of intimacy, illumination, and understanding by gathering its community around the table," writes archivist Caitlin Rizzo. "The Shelby White and Leon Levy Archives Center is home to a range of documents which speak to dining at IAS, from dinner menus to seating charts."

## The Curriculum of the Woods

Predicting thousands of years of forest growth with just an afternoon of fieldwork and a simple calculator might seem like an impossible task, but Jonathan Levine, Chair of Princeton’s Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, who runs annual classes in “Forest Succession” in the Institute Woods, enables his students to achieve precisely this.

## Forging a Closed Loop

Based on her firsthand experience of shadowing workers on construction sites in Qatar, Natasha Iskander, Member (2022–23) in the School of Social Science, reveals how climate change and climate migration were exploited for profit at the 2022 World Cup. She highlights that climate change has a face, and that its consequences are made through specific economic and organizational practices.

## Scholar Spotlight: Reflections on IAS

In this Scholar Spotlight we feature three former scholars: Michael Hanchard (Social Science), Jo Nelson (Mathematics), and Tracy Slatyer (Natural Sciences). They explain how and why the environment at IAS nourishes independent thinkers and prompts scholars to ask questions that push the boundaries of knowledge.

## Meet a Hacker Turned Scholar: Q&A with Lindsey D. Cameron

Lindsey D. Cameron, Member in the School of Social Science, studies Uber. "Well, I don’t study strictly Uber per se," she says, "but it’s easier to digest than saying I study the rise of the platform economy and algorithmic management, and its implications on labor."

## “Well, Doc, You’re In”: Freeman Dyson’s Journey through the Universe

In this excerpt*, *Freeman Dyson, Faculty (1952–2020) in the School of Natural Sciences, ascends the New Court clock tower at St. John’s College, Cambridge during a wartime blackout.

## Collaborating on Co-production

Director's Visitor Katharina Heyden discusses her ongoing project with Director and Leon Levy Professor David Nirenberg, which seeks to think collaboratively about the religions of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism using the concept of co-production as a methodology.

## Dynamics in Translation

The work of plasma fusion physicists may seem completely divorced from the realm of theoretical astrophysics, but, as Chris Hamilton, John N. Bahcall Fellow in the School of Natural Sciences, explains, the mathematical methods developed to exploit the power of the electrons, ions, and magnetic fields in fusion plasmas are precisely the same as those needed to describe the dynamics of stars, spiral arms, and dark matter in galaxies like the Milky Way.

## Labor & Leisure in the Music of the Theremin

Clara Latham, Martin L. and Sarah F. Leibowitz Member and Edward T. Cone Member in Music Studies in the School of Historical Studies, describes the contradictions that inspire her work, which surround the perceptions of musical labor with particular reference to music technology.