Activities in 2001-2002

From the Report for Academic Year 2001-2002
of the Institute for Advanced Study

PIET HUT's main research interests lie in the field of stellar dynamics. In order to stimulate the development of hardware, software, and dynamics applications to protect the earth from natural disasters, he co-chaired a meeting on each of those three topics.

He organized Symposium 208 of the International Astronomical Union on Astrophysical Supercomputing Using Particle Simulations, at Tokyo in July 2001, together with Jun Makino from Tokyo University. At this time they unveiled the last product in our project to construct special-purpose computers for stellar dynamics: the GRAPE-6 which won the world speed record in November 2001, at more than 11 Teraflops.

Prof. Hut organized a workshop on Integrating Stellar Evolution and Stellar Dynamics, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York in June 2002, together with Michael Shara, chair of the astrophysics department of the Museum. This was the first meeting dedicated to the development of software for large-scale simulations of star clusters, incorporating stellar evolution codes embedded in a stellar dynamics environment. The interdisciplinary character of the workshop was reflected in the range of participants, from specialists in stellar evolution and dynamics to experts in visualization and artificial intelligence.

Together with astronaut and astrophysicist Ed Lu, Prof. Hut organized a workshop on Deflecting Asteroids, at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. They explored the possibility of sending a plasma engine, powered by a nuclear reactor, to an asteroid in order to test the ability to alter the orbit of that asteroid. Following this workshop, they started a follow-up project called B612, after the name of the small asteroid on which the Little Prince lived (from the novel 'Le Petit Prince' by Antoine de St. Exupery).

In addition, Prof. Hut continued his activities in interdisciplinary studies. He organized a summer school, titled `Ways of Knowing,' at Amherst College as the fourth public offering of the Kira Institute, of which he is one of the founders. He gave the inaugural lecture for a colloquium on Science and Philosophy, organized under the joint sponsorship of the Philosophy and Physics departments at Seattle University. The title of his lecture was: six ways to view the world: looking through windows from science, phenomenology, and non-duality. He is currently working on a book, tentatively called Degrees of Freedom, in which he plans to develop these ideas further. Prof. Hut was elected as a member of the advisory board of the Danish National Research Foundation's new Centre for Subjectivity Research.