The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge
Robbert Dijkgraaf, Institute for Advanced Study Director and Leon Levy Professor, will discuss the re-publication of “The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge” (Princeton University Press), which features IAS Founding Director Abraham Flexner’s classic essay of the same title, first published in Harper’s magazine in 1939. Flexner describes a great paradox of scientific research, that the search for answers to deep questions, motivated solely by curiosity and without concern for applications, often leads not only to the greatest scientific discoveries but also to the most revolutionary technological breakthroughs. In the book’s companion essay, Dijkgraaf emphasizes how essential curiosity-driven research is to our world of tomorrow. A book signing and reception will follow the event. This event is free and open to the public.
Robbert Dijkgraaf, Director of the Institute for Advanced Study and Leon Levy Professor since July 2012, is a mathematical physicist who has made significant contributions to string theory and the advancement of science education. His research focuses on the interface between mathematics and particle physics. In addition to finding surprising and deep connections between matrix models, topological string theory, and supersymmetric quantum field theory, Dijkgraaf has developed precise formulas for the counting of bound states that explain the entropy of certain black holes. For his contributions to science, Dijkgraaf was awarded the Spinoza Prize, the highest scientific award in the Netherlands, in 2003. He was named a Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion in 2012 and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.
Past President (2008–12) of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and Co-Chair (since 2009) of the InterAcademy Council, Dijkgraaf is a distinguished public policy adviser and passionate advocate for science and the arts. Many of his activities––which have included frequent appearances on television, a monthly newspaper column in NRC Handelsblad, several books for general audiences, and the launch of the science education website Proefjes.nl––are at the interface between science and society.