Activities in 2003-2004

From the Report for Academic Year 2003-2004
of the Institute for Advanced Study

PIET HUT brought the new interdisciplinary program into its second year. His visitors came from a variety of fields, including physics and astrophysics, computer science, cognitive science, psychology, political science, and philosophy.

Prof. Hut's main focus of research was astrophysics. He published several papers on various aspects of stellar dynamics. He was co-author on two papers in Nature, on the formation of binaries in the outskirts of our planetary system, and on simulations of star clusters in M82.

Currently, his main research project in astrophysics is the development of the Kali code, a new software tool for simulations of dense stellar systems, which he is developing in collaboration with Jun Makino, from Tokyo University. This project is based on the philosophy that complete documentation is central for any large-scale software development to succeed. As a side product, Hut and Makino are writing a series of text books titled the Art of Computational Science. They have published the first few volumes in this series on their web site "ArtCompSci.org".

Prof. Hut co-organized three workshops in the MODEST series (for MOdeling DEnse STellar systems), which he had started two years before, when he organized MODEST-1 in New York City. MODEST-3 was held in Melbourne, Australia, in July 2003. MODEST-4 was held in Geneva, Switzerland, in January 2004. MODEST-4a, held in Strasbourg, France in March 2004, was the first satellite meeting, in the form of a Spring School for graduate students interested in working with N-body simulations. The School featured four days of hands-on computer modeling under the guidance of Prof. Hut and four colleagues.

Together with planetary scientist Clark Chapman, Apollo astronaut Russell Schweickart, and shuttle astronaut and half-year-long inhabitant of the International Space Station Ed Lu, Prof. Hut organized various activities to promote a space mission to practice asteroid deflection, with the aim of making the Earth a safer place. They published an article about their approach in Scientific American in November 2003, and organized a one-day meeting back-to-back with the AIAA Planetary Defense Conference: Protecting Earth from Asteroids, in February 2003.