Activities in 1999-2000

From the Report for Academic Year 1999-2000
of the Institute for Advanced Study

PIET HUT explored a novel way to visualize the results of simulations of star cluster evolution, at the newly completed Hayden Planetarium of the American Museum for Natural History, in New York City. Using the planetarium dome, the world's largest virtual reality environment, he applied their interactive visualization capabilities to explore various forms of data mining. Combining the dual functions of a virtual telescope and an active laboratory device, the planetarium equipment allowed him and his collaborators to analyze the local interactions of multiple star systems within the full global setting of a whole star cluster. The simulations formed part of a collaborative project with Jun Makino from Tokyo University, Steve McMillan from Drexel, and Simon Portegies Zwart from MIT.

Currently, Hut is involved in the ongoing project to develop the GRAPE-6, which at a speed of more than 100 Teraflops will become once again the world's fastest computer in the Fall of the year 2000, regaining the title that it's predecessor, the GRAPE-4, had held in 1995 and 1996. One of the first GRAPE-6 boards, at a speed of 500 Gigaflops, was presented to the American Museum for Natural History as part of a three-way collaboration between Hut's team at IAS, Makino's team at Tokyo, and Michael Shara's team at the Museum. This occurred during a conference on Stellar Collisions at the Museum, for which Hut was one of the organizers.

Hut organized a summer school, titled `Values in a World of Fact', in August 1999, together with cognitive psychologist Roger Shepard from Stanford, philosopher of science Bas van Fraassen from Princeton University, physicist Arthur Zajonc from Amherst College, and writer Steven Tainer from Berkeley. This was the second public offering of the Kira Institute (web site:

Among several other interdisciplinary activities, Hut was invited to debate E. O. Wilson at the World Economic Forum in Davos, in January 2000. At IAS, Hut organized a series of lunch meetings on intentionality, co-chaired with David Waltz, president of the NEC research laboratory at Princeton, in which they discussed Brian Smith's notion of `the origin of objects'. Hut took part in a panel on Science and Art at the College Art Association Conference in New York, in February. In Hayama, Japan, Hut gave an invited talk at the `Mind and Brain' conference, organized by the Japan Association for the Advancement of Research Corporation.