Illustrating Scales of Knowledge about the Natural World

“The Russian nesting dolls try to capture the different scales of knowledge about the natural world. The largest matryoshka doll depicts our universe through the cosmic microwave background, the “first light” emitted soon after the Big Bang. It is followed by the Milky Way; the solar system; planet Earth; our Institute for Advanced Study, of course; a typical human being; a biological cell; DNA, as an example of an important molecule; an atom; a nucleus, built of protons and neutrons; the three “colored” quarks that make up a proton; and, finally, a single quark, as an example of the Standard Model of elementary particles. The subsequent dolls are yet to be discovered, perhaps at the Large Hadron Collider. But we know one thing. It all ends with the smallest doll, the Planck scale, where spacetime becomes a quantum phenomenon.”

—2019 Holiday Card Artwork by Robbert Dijkgraaf, Director and Leon Levy Professor

Please note that the Institute for Advanced Study will close on the evening of December 23, reopening on January 2 in the new year.

Wishing you the best this holiday season and a happy new year!
Institute for Advanced Study


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