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.

Robbert Dijkgraaf, Director and Leon Levy Professor, explores the magic of light and color in this Science Talk for Families event. 

When Fang Lizhi, one of China’s most distinguished scientists, began in 1986 to talk to his students about the “universal rights” of human beings, he knew the risks. In those days, the use of the term “rights” in China was highly sensitive,...

In 2016, Professor Nathan Seiberg celebrates his sixtieth birthday and reaches his twentieth year as a Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study. The conference celebrating these occasions was...

Prospects in Theoretical Physics is an intensive two-week summer program typically designed for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars considering a career in theoretical physics. First held by the School of Natural Sciences at the Institute...

On September 14, 2015, the two detectors of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) observed a gravitational-wave signal from the merger of a pair of black holes. While this impressive technological triumph was celebrated...

The Institute sometimes spends money on risky ventures, giving sustained support to people who work on unfashionable and dubious projects. One example of a risky venture was Einstein, who worked here for twenty years on unified field theories...

The next time you are enjoying the sun’s warm rays, think of the tremendous voyage those photons have taken to get to you. Traveling, by definition, at the speed of light they left their point of origin about eight minutes previously in a furious...

On July 14, 2015, the P5+1 group of world powers and Iran signed a comprehensive nuclear agreement, aiming to limit Iran’s ability to advance its nuclear program towards achieving nuclear weapons. Eli Waxman, Professor at the Weizmann Institute...

Matias Zaldarriaga, Professor in the School of Natural Sciences, Scott Tremaine, Richard Black Professor in the School, Member Doron Kushnir, and Junior Visiting Professor Nadia Zakamska discuss LIGO's recent detection of gravitational waves,...

Black holes are among the strangest predictions of Einstein’s general theory of relativity: regions of spacetime in which gravity is so strong that nothing—not even light—can escape. More precisely, a black hole is a singularity in spacetime...

100 Years of General Relativity

By Robbert Dijkgraaf

After a century of calculations and observations, the full power of Einstein's theory extends from black holes to the practical use of GPS devices.

A New Era of Gravitational-Wave Astronomy

The first detection of gravitational waves brought with it spacetime ripples, black-hole collisions, and surprising systems.

The Odd Couple: Quasars and Black Holes

By Scott Tremaine

Laboratory study of a macroscopic black hole is impossible with current or foreseeable technology, so the only way to test these predictions of Einstein’s theory is to find black holes in the heavens. Not surprisingly, isolated black holes are difficult to see. Not only are they black, they are also very small: a black hole with the mass of the Sun is only a few kilometers in diameter.

Sercurity vs. Civil Liberties and Human Rights

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.

The Veil and French Republicanism

By Joan Wallach Scott

From its first usage in 1871 by anti-clerical campaigners, the word laïcité has been a polemical term; then it was aimed at ending the public power of the Catholic Church, now it is used to define a Frenchness that excludes Muslims. 

Neurophilosophy and Its Discontents

By Gabrielle Benette Jackson

How do we understand consciousness without becoming complicit in that understanding?

The Utility of Literary Study

By Nigel Scott Smith

Might the arts of numbers and of words interact in a relationship of mutual inspiration? Truly great literary scholarship is, like physics, an art of measurement, beginning with the proportions of words and the study of matters like poetic meter, building into more complex patterns of apprehension.

Do We Understand Putin’s Russia?

By Jonathan Haslam

We should not assume that making sense of post-Soviet Russia was ever going to be easy. Great Powers that lose empires bear grudges, and the speed with which an empire is lost can exacerbate the problem. No one can expect that a powerful country run by a former secret policeman is going to operate by the same rules of the game to which we are accustomed. Quite simply, what may seem sensible or rational to ourselves is irrelevant.

Factoids, Dishonesty, and Propaganda in the Middle Ages

By Paul Antony Hayward

A natural starting point for any attempt to know a past society is its histories—the texts with which its members recorded what had happened and was happening in their world. Many precious witnesses of this kind have survived from medieval Europe, but they are not easily used to answer the questions that modern historians would like to ask.

The Left Side of History

By Kristen Rogheh Ghodsee

Since the global financial crisis in 2008, countries once locked behind the Iron Curtain have increasingly drifted to the far right. . . . Politicians and scholars strategically deploy historical knowledge as a tool to quash growing domestic opposition to the economic upheavals and insecurities of the post-socialist era.

World Disorder Lecture Series: Lawless Economy?

By Bill Browder

I got the telephone call at 7:45 a.m. the next morning that Sergei Magnitsky had been murdered. . . . Putin circled the wagons, exonerated every single person involved, and gave state honors and promotions to the people most complicit. It became obvious we wouldn’t get justice in Russia, so we decided to get justice outside of Russia. 

Are Military Coups Going Out of Style?

By Duncan McCargo

Anocracy––a politics that mixes elements of authoritarianism and democracy––is fast becoming the “new normal” and could account for a growing proportion of military coups.

The Most Wanted Man in China

By Li-Zhi Fang

As of 1985 it was still not entirely safe to write about cosmology. In May of that year, I published an article in the Chinese journal Science in which I introduced quantum cosmology and referred in passing to the view that “the universe arose from nothing.” 

Volumes of Hyperbolic Link Complements

By Ian Agol

To visualize what is meant by three-dimensional hyperbolic geometry, a rich area of interest for mathematicians and physicists, consider a chunk of glass sitting on a table, such that the speed of light n is proportional to the height above the table. 

What Can We Do with a Quantum Computer?

By Andris Ambainis

The story of quantum computers begins in 1981 with Richard Feynman, probably the most famous physicist of his time. At a conference on physics and computation at the Massachusetts Institute of Tech­nology, Feynman asked the question: Can we simulate physics on a computer?

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. 

Mathematics

Analysis and Beyond

Talks by Faculty, Members, and colleagues honoring Professor 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

NatiFest: Celebrating the Science of Nathan Seiberg

View talks from the conference celebrating Professor Nathan Seiberg’s sixtieth birthday and his twentieth year as a Professor at IAS.

Entanglement and the Geometry of Spacetime

By Juan Maldacena

When one considers black holes as quantum mechanical objects, an important feature arises: "entangled" microstates. Can entanglement give rise to wormholes connecting far away regions in space?

The Advent and Fallout of EPR

By Kelly Devine Thomas

How 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