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Professor of interdisciplinary studies at the Institute for Advanced Study

Astronomy is the oldest science, yet for centuries it was the one science without a laboratory.  It was only with the introduction of computers, half a century ago, that numerical simulations could be performed in astrophysics.  The possibility of creating a virtual lab in which to let stars and galaxies interact with each other is the greatest qualitative innovation in astrophysics. Even the most advanced telescope can be seen as an extension of the human eye.  But a virtual laboratory is an extension of the human hand.  While human eyes have watched the stars as long as there have been human cultures and civilisations, humans have not laid their (virtual) hands on stars until some 50 years ago.