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 a beautiful overlook near the university, a middle-aged man is enjoying the view of the majestic Fjord. Judging from his clothing, he is a stonemason from the quarry just below him. But actually, he is a professor at the university who often...

In November, out of the blue, I received a letter from the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Nothing about the envelope suggested that the letter inside would be important. It was an ordinary white office envelope with Institute for...

One of the key scientific contributions of the 20th century, Claude Shannon's "A Mathematical Theory of Communication” created the field of information theory in 1948. In addition to the impact of information theory on communications technology,...

Differential privacy disentangles learning about a dataset as a whole from learning about an individual data contributor. Just now entering practice on a global scale, the demand for advanced differential privacy techniques and knowledge of basic...

In 2016, Avi Wigderson, Herbert H. Maass Professor in the School of Mathematics, celebrates his sixtieth birthday. The Institute for Advanced Study hosted a conference in honor of this occasion from October 5 through October 8, 2016, with...

The Institute hosted the Beyond Endoscopy conference, led by Professor Emeritus Robert P. Langlands, on September 30 and October 1, 2016. View talks from the conference below. 

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Explore a collection of Robert Langlands’s papers, as well as some of his lectures and correspondence, on topics ranging from functoriality, representation theory, and base change to endoscopy, Shimura varieties, percolation, and geometric theory...

During the 2015-16 academic year, the School of Mathematics hosted a program on the topic of geometric structures in three dimensions. This article is an adaptation of a talk I gave in fall 2015, as part of the School's biweekly "Mathematical...

This therefore, is mathematics: she reminds you of the invisible forms of the soul; she gives light to her own discoveries; she awakens the mind and purifies the intellect; she brings light to our intrinsic ideas; she abolishes oblivion and...

Edward Nelson, Member in the Schools of Mathematics (1956–59, 79–80) and Natural Sciences (1963–64, 67–68, 73–74) and Professor of Mathematics at Princeton University until his death in 2014, was an original thinker best known...

My Search for Ramanujan

By Ken Ono

My decision to search for Ramanujan the mathematician would mean going a bit more distance out of my way. I wanted to increase my knowledge, and that would slow down my publication rate, something that anyone trying to land a permanent job must take into account. The Institute’s offer was therefore a godsend. I could concentrate on my mathematics in an environment free of other distractions and responsibilities, and I would be able to learn from some of the world’s most brilliant and talented mathematicians.

The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge

By Robbert Dijkgraaf

Abraham Flexner’s perspective on the “usefulness of useless knowledge” has only gained in substance and breadth since his time. Fundamental inquiry moves exploration as far up to the headwaters as possible, producing ideas that slowly and steadily turn into concrete applications and further studies. 

IAS Founders on America and Higher Learning

We feel strongly that the spirit characteristic of America at its noblest, above all the pursuit of higher learning, cannot admit of any conditions as to personnel other than those designed to promote the objects for which this institution is established, and particularly with no regard whatever to accidents of race, creed, or sex.

IAS’s Founding Ethos in Our Precarious Present

By History Working Group

Global political forces in power from Turkey to the United States are posing serious threats to the autonomy of scientific research and the mobility of researchers, undercutting two cardinal conditions for scientific progress. Walls, fences, bans, blocks, restrictions, cuts, and expulsions are slowly becoming run-of-the-mill terms for us to navigate in an increasingly precarious political landscape.

Emmy Noether’s Paradise

By History Working Group

To Albert Einstein, she was “the most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began.” More straightforward in his praise, Einstein’s fellow Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, Hermann Weyl, called her a “great woman mathematician […indeed] the greatest that history has known.” Her name was Emmy Noether, and her short but remarkable life left an indelible mark not only on the history of mathematics, but also on that of IAS in its critical first years.

Einstein, Plumbers, and McCarthyism

By History Working Group

Einstein’s actions did not by themselves cause McCarthy’s downfall. But they certainly facilitated it, by reaffirming essential principles that date back to the Enlightenment, and by empowering many others to keep up the continuing fight to protect democracy.

Glen Bowersock on Intolerance

We are a nation shaped by immigrants, as the Statue of Liberty reminds us, but now, horrifyingly, immigrants are increasingly subjected to prejudice for both their ethnic identity and their religion. 

The Zaydi Manuscript Tradition

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—much of which has not survived anywhere else in the Islamic world.

The Chief Eunuch of the Ottoman Imperial Harem

By Jane Hathaway

The Chief Harem Eunuch’s influence extended beyond palace politics and the holy cities. 

Muʿtazilism in Islam and Judaism

By Sabine Schmidtke

The scholarly investigation of the Jewish Muʿtazila, its historical connection to Muslim counterparts, and a systematic exploitation of the Islamic primary materials preserved in Jewish collections, are still in their infancy. 

A World of Emotions: The Making of an Exhibition

By Angelos Chaniotis

What are the means through which ancient artists represented the emotions of gods, mythical heroes, and “real” people? How were images and texts exploited to arouse emotions in an ancient (and modern) audience?

Kristen Ghodsee on Democratic Ideals and Global Rhetoric

Reducing all leftist ideals to Stalinism and calling anyone who questions the long-term sustainability or desirability of global capitalism a communist, I believe, is an intentional rhetorical strategy of the political and economic elite who have the most to lose from any challenge to the current status quo.

The Advent and Fallout of EPR

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.

In Search of an Identity

By Angelos Chaniotis

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.

Claude Shannon: Father of the Information Age

By Sergio Verdú

Former Member Claude Shannon's "A Mathematical Theory of Communication” created the field of information theory in 1948. Beyond its impact on communications technology, Shannon’s work has had tremendous impact on computer science and engineering, artificial intelligence, and probability and statistics.

Fall at the Institute

By Erika Michael

In the ambient flow of Fuld Hall Commons at Tea —the gathered minds’ ruminations on lapsed and present time glowed like past light striking one flame

Imposter Syndrome

By Dan Burt

An hour south of Wall Street,  past tulips, toddlers on swings, cyclists, runners, Frisbees tossed by girls in shimmering orange shorts, I walk to the Institute library to borrow the Shorter O.E.D.

How to Handle a Mummy

Jacco Dieleman

When I was still a graduate student, I came across a remarkable manuscript: two sheets of papyrus inscribed with careless cursive Egyptian, in narrow, wobbly columns, in black ink. It was inscribed in two forms of Egyptian cursive: hieratic and demotic. In Ancient Egypt, these script varieties were usually kept apart.

Jonathan Haslam on Global Political Change

Such an unanticipated change in government in the United States for all its undoubted strength cannot, of course, alter overnight the entire course of international relations. 

Women in French Politics

By Anne-Claire Defossez

It is indeed the case that, after centuries of political ostracism, women have recently become more present in French political life . . . but the presence of a few prominent female figures and seemingly favorable statistics do not tell the whole story. 

The Work of Robert Langlands

Explore a collection of Robert Langlands’s papers, as well as some of his lectures and correspondence, on topics ranging from functoriality, representation theory, and Shimura varieties to endoscopy, percolation, and geometric theory. 

Robert Langlands: Far-Reaching Mathematics

By Kelly Devine Thomas

Robert Langlands grew up in a small town in British Columbia where his father owned a building supply store. “When I was a child I liked to add and subtract,” says Langlands. “In our store, my mother worked. And I remember competing with her. We would tally lumber; she would do it on the adding machine and I would do it in my head.”

Mathematics

Analysis and Beyond

Talks celebrating Jean Bourgain and the exceptional range, depth, and power of his mathematical work

Mathematics

A Celebration of Mathematics and Computer Science

Videos of talks by mathematicians celebrating Professor Avi Wigderson's work, impact, and collaborations

Randomness and Pseudorandomness

By Avi Wigderson

The notion of randomness has intrigued people for millennia. Concepts like “chance,” “luck,” etc., play a major role in everyday life and in popular culture. In this article, I try to be precise about the meaning and utility of randomness and pseudorandomness.