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.

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Like many Americans, my family and I were riveted by the Roots miniseries when it first aired in January 1977. I vividly recall sitting in front of the television with my mother, father, sister, and two brothers, watching the story of Alex...

On February 13, 1960, students line the counter of a dime store in Greensboro, North Carolina, in protest of the store’s refusal to serve them.

Originally published in 1971, Political Action: A Practical Guide to Movement Politics by Michael Walzer, Professor Emeritus in the Institute’s School of Social Science, was republished by New York Review of Books in...

I spent part of my childhood living with my grandma just off Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles. My school was on the same street as our house, but I still spent many a day trying to coax kids on my block to “play school” with me on my grandma’s...

Michael G. Hanchard during a 2014 Social Science seminar on "Sociology’s Promise"

As sociologists have reminded us, race, like power, is a relational concept. A so-called race is invariably defined in distinction to other presumed races. Where racial reasoning and the practice of comparison have combined in modern politics is...

Book cover for "Knowledge, Power, and Academic Freedom" by Joan Wallach Scott

In my lifetime, academic freedom has been repeatedly under threat. In the 1950s, in the McCarthy era, hundreds of teachers were interrogated about their political beliefs and summarily fired, whether or not those beliefs had anything to do with...

In 2019–20, Julia Ott, Member in the School of Social Science and Associate Professor at the New School for Social Research, is examining the origins of venture capital as an...

Book cover for "A Time for Critique"

Didier Fassin, James D. Wolfensohn Professor in the School of Social Science, and Bernard E. Harcourt, Visiting Professor (2016–17) in the School, have edited A Time...

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Conventional wisdom today says that the sciences—natural, physical, and even the quantitative social sciences like economics—are especially good for teaching effective truth practices. That is surely right to a degree. But just as much, we might...

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On November 22, five days into the gilets jaunes protests, with some 2,000 roads and roundabouts barricaded across the country and 280,000 demonstrators having taken to the streets in the major cities, Emmanuel Macron welcomed journalists...

Ideas

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By Barbara M.T.P. Baert

The ancients had a word for the joy and the sorrow of an opportunity that suddenly presents itself but is just as suddenly gone: kairos. This article explores the peculiar representations of Kairos in art history and iconography. 

Ideas

Robbert Dijkgraaf with France A. Córdova in front of Fuld Hall at the Institute for Advanced Study

“The future of knowledge relies on the cultivation of aspiring scholars and scientists from around the world,” says Robbert Dijkgraaf, IAS Director and Leon Levy Professor. As the National Science Foundation celebrates its 70th anniversary, the IAS presents #NSFStories from the next generation that attest to a long and fruitful institutional alliance that continues to empower scholars. 

Gossuin de Metz's "Image du Monde"

By Suzanne Conklin Akbari

At the Institute, while each School certainly has its own character and researchers’ work is highly specialized, we share the experience of bewilderment, and the perpetual yearning for clarity.

Natural Sciences

Arnold Levine converses with several students in a circle

By Arnold J. Levine

The tools of biology will blend with computer sciences, physics, and mathematics, and the practitioners of biology will undergo another paradigm shift. 

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?

Natural Sciences

View talks by experts on topics ranging from virology, cancer, and immunology to machine learning and neural networks. 

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By Angelos Chaniotis

The developments that Alexander’s campaigns set in motion ultimately led to the creation of a complex network of political, administrative, economic, and cultural connections that came close to the modern phenomenon of globalization. 

On February 13, 1960, students line the counter of a dime store in Greensboro, North Carolina, in protest of the store’s refusal to serve them.

By Michael Walzer

Every political activist who has fought for a good cause dreams of a chance to fight again. We live, right now, in a bad time; American politics has not been this ugly since the Joe McCarthy years or the Red Scare and anti-immigrant frenzy of the early 1920s. We need movements of resistance, and we need citizen activists who remember the old labor union imperative: Organize!

“Imagine you knew nothing about baking, but someone gave you a million different muffins. Could you figure out how to bake a muffin? That's the problem of machine learning,” says Chris Maddison, Member in the School of Mathematics. At IAS, he is developing methods for machine learning and exploring foundational questions about how learning from data is possible.

By Francesca Trivellato

The Promise and Peril of Credit examines key episodes in the West’s millennium-long struggle to delineate the place that finance ought to occupy in the social and political order. It does so by introducing readers to modes of thinking about the morality of credit that have become increasingly alien to us even as the questions that animated those early modern discussions remain as vital now as they were then.

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By Graham Farmelo

One of the biggest leaps forward in our understanding of these scattering amplitudes took place at the Institute for Advanced Study in the fall of 2003, when Edward Witten discovered a new approach to the subject, based on Roger Penrose’s twistors. They had yet to become part of mainstream physics, and most theorists regarded them as merely a mathematical curiosity. Witten’s work propelled them into the mainstream of theoretical physics, generated new lines of research, and opened up new ways of thinking about scattering in the subnuclear domain. 

“Myths about venture capital stand in the way of democratic deliberation about how our society might direct the socially generated surplus of today's economy towards building a better economy for the future.” 

Social Science

By Joan Wallach Scott

Some of the reasons usually offered to explain the persistence of gender inequality include large abstractions: patriarchy, capitalism, male self-interest, misogyny, religion. These are, of course, useful categories to work with, but none of them can account for how deep-rooted these inequalities are in our psyches, our cultures, and our politics. 

Natural Sciences

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 Myles W. Jackson

My work in the history of science probes the porous boundaries between science and culture over the past two centuries. Much of it gestures toward the role of history in public policy.... We historians are rather good at illustrating that controversies have histories: how we arrived at where we are today is very informative. There have always been, and always will be, alternatives. 

By Didier Fassin

One theme underlies this reflection: inequality. As I hope to show, this theme binds together the biological and the biographical, the material and social dimensions of life—that is, the naturalist and the humanist approaches. What I propose, then, is not an anthropology of life, which I deem an impossible project, but rather an anthropological composition formed of three elements which when assembled, like a jigsaw puzzle, reveal an image: the inequality of human lives.