The Future of the World — in Fuld Hall

For today’s Princeton Chamber breakfast with Netherlands native Robbert Dijkgraaf, director of the Institute for Advanced Study, I brought three guests, including two who spoke Dutch. (See below for why)

If you didn’t get to read Michele Alperin’s excellent cover story on Dijkgraaf in U.S. 1, here’s a link. At the breakfast, he reiterated the Institute’s focus on basic research, but I picked up these extra tidbits.

  • The Bamberger family sold their stores to Macy’s just two weeks before The Crash, so they had cash in hand when nobody else did. Their consultant was Abraham Flexner, who had spent time in Europe and steered them to setting up a basic research institution that — in a time of anti-Semitism — would be friendly to all religions
  • What is basic research? The IAS focuses on the research that is at the bottom of the food chain and takes no ownership in the intellectual property discovered there. It can take a very long time to come to fruition. For instance, 50 years ago the young Peter Higgs, working at the IAS, wrote a short paper on the possibility of a particular particle. By the time the tools were developed, and the particle was found, Higgs was 82. Djikgraaf hosted a pre-dawn champagne party  at IAS to celebrate
  •  The 1939 New York World’s Fair, purporting to show the world of tomorrow, had neither computers nor nuclear energy. But at that moment John Von Neumann was using old military parts to build the first computer in the basement of Fuld Hall. On another floor, Oppenheimer was working on nuclear energy for the first atomic bomb, and on the third floor, Einstein was advocating for peace and containment of nuclear energy. The future of the world — was in Fuld Hall. 

Speaking of Oppenheimer we will all have a chance to hear a Nobel prize winner who worked with Oppenheimer at the Albert Einstein Memorial lecture today. Roy Glauber, who was the youngest mathemetician at Los Alamos and is now 82 year old, speaks at the Woodrow Wilson School, Wednesday, March 20, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Register to be sure there is a seat for you. It is FREE. Parking is available in university lots after 5 p.m. See you there! 

Why do the Dutch have a special place in my heart? When I was 14 years old, I made a pen pal friend from Utrecht who — by a wonderful confluence of circumstances — lives just an hour away. So I love to hear folks speak English with a Dutch accent. Captions: 
At the top on the left, Karen Brouwer-Franck is a member of my church who teaches a Moving On after Moving In workshop for women in transition, I’m on the right. Second photo, far left, my neighbor Kate Newell has Dutch ancestry. She is the new “ghost tour” guide at Princeton Tour Company  Next to her is Karen L. Johnson, an independent CPA who also goes to my church, and Elizabeth Mayer Muoio, director of the Mercer County Office of Economic Development and Sustainability, and — of course — Peter Crowley, CEO of the chamber. Third photo: Catherine Judd Hirsch (Music Together), Rick Ober (Isles Inc.), and Johnson. 

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