Activities in 2005-2006

From the Report for Academic Year 2005-2006
of the Institute for Advanced Study

PIET HUT continued to lead the interdisciplinary program. His visitors came from a variety of fields, including physics, astrophysics and astrobiology, mathematics, various areas in computational science as well as computer science and artificial intelligence, cognitive science, medicine, psychology, political science, history of science, and philosophy.

Prof. Hut's main project in astrophysics is the Art of Computational Science, an initiative that he started a few years ago with Jun Makino, from Tokyo University. It is centered around a combination of research and education aimed at encouraging collaborations of computational scientists in the development of virtual laboratories. This project extends the notion of `open source' to that of `open knowledge', in which not only the software is freely shared, but also the background knowledge, represented in the form of dialogues between the researchers developing the software. Hut and Makino have published several volumes of the ACS series on their web site "www.artcompsci.org".

Together with Prof. Caroline Bynum, from the School of Historical Studies, Prof. Hut organized a weekly lunchon with the title `Time and Silence', spanning two semesters. As a continuation of the Interdisciplinary Conversations from the previous year, the same format was used: at the start of each luncheon, someone introduced a topic in five minutes, and the remaining time was spent in a freely flowing discussion. Many participants commented on the unusually large breadth of the conversations, with inputs from typically a score or more researchers from areas spanning many fields in science and the humanities.

As another widely interdisciplinary activity, Prof. Hut started a new web site, Ways of Knowing, or WoK for short, at http://www.waysofknowing.net, in collaboration with Steven Tainer, a logician, philosopher and teacher of Eastern contemplative traditions, at the Institute for World Religions in Berkeley, California.

Prof. Hut organized a workshop, MODEST-6d, at the Institute for Advanced Study, with the title `Black Magic & White Elephants: Performance and Transparency in Computational Stellar Dynamics.' The two main topics of this workshop were the ways to implement performance enhancement of existing and future codes, and ways to increase understandability and hence extendibility of these codes. Participants ranged from astrophysicists and computational scientists in other areas to computer scientists.

In the summer of 2005, Prof. Hut also co-organized a summer school in Amsterdam, Holland, on gravitational dynamics, with an emphasis on stellar dynamics, stellar evolution, and hydrodynamics. With seven teachers and fifty students, it was possible to let all students work in pairs on realistic computational research projects, through intensive consultation with the teachers.