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Piet Hut
codirector of the B612 Foundation, cofounder of Ways of Knowing, and professor of interdisciplinary studies at the Institute for Advanced Study


My first aspirations all had to do with transportation. Aged two or three, I was fascinated by the garbage truck, and driving such a wonderful machine seemed like a dream. Soon after that, I scaled up my aspirations – I wanted to become a train driver, and aged around nine, an astronaut.

Then, aged 12, I switched from transportation to observation and experimentation. I decided that astrophysics was my real calling, and it has remained so ever since, even though aged 17 I extended my interest to philosophy. In fact, I had a hard time choosing between astrophysics and philosophy when entering college. If there had been a department of ‘reality studies’, I would have gladly entered that one.

With everything I encounter, I naturally ask myself what the context is in which something like that can appear. In that sense, travelling to the edge of the known has remained a connection to my early fascination with transportation. In the material world, the universe is the largest context, and that led me to astrophysics.

In the world of the mind, there is the question of what contains what. Does the world contain a body, that contains a brain, that somehow seems to produce a mind? Or is it equally accurate to say that the whole world is given, within the context of experience that is given in the mind? I suspect that mind and world in turn are given in a larger context, to be discovered by a future science.

Piet Hut is coauthor of The Gravitational Million-Body Problem: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Star Cluster Dynamics (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)), and a series of books on The Art of Computational Science. See his website.