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.

#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—...

How might a politics centered on spectacular black death marginalize the concerns of black women? Member Shatema Threadcraft, Ralph E. and Doris M. Hansmann Member in the School of Social Science, explored this question during ...

An Inside View of IAS

A short film about the Institute for Advanced Study that bridges its history with the present day, conveying the timelessness and necessity of supporting curiosity-driven research in the sciences and humanities 

Putin’s Russia and the Imperfect Market

By Bill Browder

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

A Physicist’s Perspective on the Iran Deal

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.

George F. Kennan and the Institute

By Frank Costigliola

Kennan spent much of his life, as page after page of his newly opened diary testify, in “loneliness.” In the 1930s–50s, he felt cut off from close association with Russians and with Russian culture because the Kremlin’s secret police restricted contact with foreigners. His yearning had the insistence of a physical need. He wrote of his returning to Russia “like a thirsting man on a stream of clear water.”

Michael Walzer on Terrorism and Just War

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?

A Mathematical Rosetta Stone

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.

History, Climate, and the New Past

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.

Ahmed Almheiri: From the UAE to Firewalls

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.

Security 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.

A World of Prisons: An Ethnography of the Carceral Condition

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.

We Have to Go Beyond Identifying and Punishing Individual Men

By Joan Wallach Scott

There seems to be a persistent belief—deeply rooted in our psyches—that men achieve recognition of their masculinity, and so of their political and social power, by exercising domination over women.

What Do Judges Do?

By William Bentley MacLeod

The enormous power of the Supreme Court raises questions about what judges do, and how they reach such momentous decisions. 

Authoritarian Culture in the Arab World

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.

On Deep Learning and Cognition

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.

Unfashionable Pursuits, Leaps in the Dark, and Detecting Gravitational Waves

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.

The Cool Alter-Ego of a Black Hole

By Juan Maldacena and Douglas Stanford

If entangled codebooks are a resource, what type of resource is a pair of entangled black holes? And can these be used to power quantum teleportation? How does spacetime accomplish that?

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.

Black Holes and the Information Paradox in String Theory

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?

The Power of Mirror Symmetry

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.

The Geometry of Random Spaces

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.

Charting One’s Course Through Mirror Symmetry

By Paul Seidel

Geometry and physics have long gone hand in hand. All around us, physical processes play out in geometric terms, such as straight lines (rays of light), ellipses (planetary motion), or parallelograms (the combined effect of two forces).

Historical Studies

Genetics and Identity

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

Who Wrote the Torah?

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.

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.

Physics, Poetry, and Partying with Dylan Thomas

My friend Specker, who could not speak English too well, he told him, “Well, we liked your reading, but I think you spoke down to the audience a bit, didn’t you?” and Dylan Thomas let loose swear words of an order that we didn’t use, that were no-nos.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma

By Freeman J. Dyson

I do not take the Prisoner’s Dilemma seriously as a model of evolution of cooperation, because I consider it likely that groups lacking cooperation are like dodoes, losing the battle for survival collectively rather than individually.

Ellsworth Kelly’s Dream of Impersonality

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

Embedded Portraits: Appending a New Myth to an Old Myth

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

Matisse’s Hand-to-Hand Combat

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.”

Picasso Harlequin

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.