Activities in 2000-2001

From the Report for Academic Year 2000-2001
of the Institute for Advanced Study

PIET HUT has led the starlab team, a group of astrophysicists and computer scientists, into a new phase of exploration of dense stellar systems such as globular clusters and galactic nuclei. Given the increase of a factor of 100 in computer speed, delivered by the GRAPE-6 computers specially designed for stellar dynamics, data handling and analysis has now become the bottleneck in starlab's large-scale simulations. Hut and his colleagues are currently exploring three avenues to manage this data flood: 1) the design of a publicly accessible archive, allowing `guest observers' to view and analyze the results of the largest simulations; 2) the development of visualization tools, in collaboration with the Hayden Planetarium of the American Museum for Natural History, in New York City; 3) the exploration of connections with the National Virtual Observatory, a new initiative aimed at creating a seamless digital sky in all wavelengths based on data sets available from various telescopes and surveys. The starlab work has been supported by a grant to Hut from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Prof. Hut organized a summer school, titled `Ways of Knowing,' in August 2000, 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 third public offering of the Kira Institute. Together with David De Young, from the National Optical Astronomy Observatories in Tucson, Hut has organized two two-day workshops to study theoretical aspects of virtual observatories, one in March in Tucson and one in June in Aspen. Together with David Waltz, president of the NEC Research Institute in Princeton, Hut has organized a series of lunch meetings at IAS, leading up to a one-day workshop in March with Brian Smith, from the University of Indiana at Bloomington and Robert Sokolowski, from the Catholic University at Washington, DC, to discuss their books "On the Origin of Objects" and "Introduction to Phenomenology", respectively. In February, Hut was elected Member of the Husserl Circle.