The Institute Letter Spring 2018

From dark matter and authoritarian culture in the Arab world to the intertwining of power and gender in our culture and psyches, the Spring 2018 Institute Letter includes articles by Faculty and Members that span research underway at the Institute.

Phenomena with different levels of complexity are understood in terms of different irreducible concepts—turbulence, survival, alertness, and so forth. The brain is an assemblage of cells; a painting is an assemblage of chemical pigment. But what’...

#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...

By investing in basic science, many other societal issues are addressed. Think about the money spent on defense, health care, and education. These days we are able to deal with diseases at the molecular level, only because fifty years ago we...

Inevitably the Qur’an is rooted in its time, just as the brutal parts of the Hebrew Bible are. Even so, much of what the Qur’an proclaims is more benevolent and less barbarous than many of the fundamentalist doctrines that emerged in later...

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...

How do we fit into our mathematical descriptions? Well, one thing I’ll tell you is that in general, when you have dualities, things that are easy to see in one description can be hard to see in the other description. So you and I, for example,...

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...

This essay was first presented in Italian in a dialogue with the physicist Tullio Regge, former Professor in the School of Natural Sciences, as the fifth episode in a television series “Dietro lo Specchio,” broadcast...

The field of cosmology has come a long way toward understanding the universe as a physical system: we’ve mapped its history and structure in great detail, we know what it went through since a few seconds after its birth until today, we understand...

Two pairs of earrings, four bracelets, and a mixtape inspired me to write this book. I was in the Stadtmuseum in the German city of Jena, peering into the various display cases of an exhibit called Freundschaft! Mythos und Realität im Alltag...

Half a century ago a French historian of rural Languedoc published a history of climate and people: climate changes, is subject to fluctuations, and (since history is about change) climate is the object of history.2 Le Roy...

As controversy swirls in the wake of the revelations about the abuses of women by powerful men in the arts, politics, media, academia, restaurants, and elsewhere come to light, it is important to remember that we are dealing not with exceptional...

As recent events have demonstrated, one of the most significant phenomena of the Arab World’s modern history is the persistence and resilience of undemocratic government. Syria has enjoyed the dubious distinction of leadership in this respect,...