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.

"Life is a term, none more familiar. And one almost would take it for an affront, to be asked what he meant by it," writes John Locke. But he immediately adds: "And yet, if it comes in question, whether a plant, that lies ready formed in the seed...

#MeToo has been such a big catalyst for what looks every day more like the emergence of a new feminist movement, because it speaks to women across the class, race, and sexuality divides. The movement points to the fact that sexual harassment and...

If American citizens are good democrats, they will always be suspicious of government officials, and that will make them receptive to the information that whistleblowers provide. But they ought to be suspicious of whistleblowers, too. Citizens...

We can respect the right of free speech without having to respect the ideas being uttered. Critical thinking is precisely not a program of neutrality, not tolerance of all opinion, not an endorsement of the idea that anything goes. It is about...

Didier Fassin, James D. Wolfensohn Professor in the School of Social Science, has authored Ragione umanitaria. Una storia morale del presente (DeriveApprodi, 2018), an analysis of the premises, tensions,...

In Por una repolitización del mundo. Las vidas descartables como desafío del siglo xxi (Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 2018), Didier Fassin, James D. Wolfensohn Professor in the School of Social Science,...

Didier Fassin, James D. Wolfensohn Professor in the School of Social Science, has authored The Will to Punish (Oxford University Press, 2018), which presents a critical dialogue with moral philosophy and...

Why should we write the history and sociology of the social sciences? Some have suggested that putting science under the sociological microscope is self-indulgent and dangerously relativist. Others murmur that only...

On April 6, 1960, Institute for Advanced Study Director Robert Oppenheimer received a letter from psychologist John E. Drevdahl, requesting his support in setting up a study among IAS Members to assess the factors that...

Didier Fassin, James D. Wolfensohn Professor in the School of Social Science, has authored Life: A Critical User’s Manual (Polity Press, 2018), which asks "How can we think of life in its dual expression—...

Social Science

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?

Social Science

#MeToo has been such a big catalyst for what looks every day more like the emergence of a new feminist movement, because it speaks to women across the class, race, and sexuality divides.

Social Science

By Joan Wallach Scott

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.

Historical Studies

By Patrick J. Geary

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

Historical Studies

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.

Historical Studies

By Bill Browder

A firsthand critical analysis of the Russian economy with insights derived from personal experience

By Kelly Devine Thomas

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.”

Natural Sciences

By Eli Waxman

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?

Historical Studies

By Frank Costigliola

“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

Ideas

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

By Robbert Dijkgraaf

A striking example of the magic of quantum theory is mirror symmetry—a truly astonishing equivalence of spaces that has revolutionized geometry.

By Christopher Manning

In many fields, including computational linguistics, deep learning approaches have largely displaced earlier machine learning approaches, due to the superior performance they provide.

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.

By Freeman J. Dyson

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.

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.

By Matthew Kahle

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.

By Paul Seidel

When going about the mind-bending business of revisiting our concept of space, how can the imagination keep a foothold? A long-standing tradition is to imagine oneself a traveler in a faraway place. At various times, this kind of fiction has enabled us to conceive of the moon and planets as earthlike bodies; to live in more or less than two dimensions; or to run alongside a beam of light. It will hopefully also help us here.

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 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.

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.

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 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. 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.

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

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.”

By Yve-Alain Bois

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.