The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton is a “scholar’s dream,” offering its researchers an idyllic setting, a private apartment, and a number of seminars, lectures, and parties to attend. By contrast, the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University, near Washing Square Park, is a newer, smaller institute, though it has begun to attract a number of brilliant students, mostly New York City Jews who have been shut out of Harvard and Princeton for reasons of antisemitism. Nash begins to spend time at the Courant Institute, though he is meant to be conducting research at the Institute for Advanced Study. Nash finds the atmosphere at Courant stimulating, though he is received controversially: one academic later recalled that he was prone to make racist comments.
As Nash takes up positions at different universities, his actions remain unchanged: he continues to alienate his colleagues with his difficult and often controversial behavior, despite the problems this behavior has caused in the past.
Nash has become interested in the problem of “turbulence,” referring to the flow of gas or liquid over any uneven surface—a kind of applied math problem in which the scientists at Courant specialize. After solving the turbulence problem (in “an ingeniously roundabout manner”), Nash is offered a job at Courant, though he isn’t sure whether to accept the offer or go back to MIT. Later, Nash learns that another problem he had solved had already been solved a few months before by an obscure Italian mathematician. Nash leaves the Institute for Advanced Study at the end of the summer with a new project in mind: he hopes to resolve certain contradictions in quantum theory, though this project will eventually prove “psychologically destabilizing.”
Nash is deeply troubled by the fact that one of his supposedly novel solutions is not original: a problem that he thought he was the first to solve was in fact already solved by another mathematician. As a result, Nash’s competitive nature kicks into overdrive, and he recommits himself to his academic work, more determined than ever to come up with new and unique solutions to math’s most difficult problems.