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Still more on the Maiani querelle: Enzo Boschi’s envious tirade February 23, 2008

Posted by dorigo in news, physics, politics, science.

Enzo Boschi, a geophysicist in Bologna,  wrote about the issue of the appointment of Maiani as President of CNR. The themes of his letter funnily resemble those of on.Carlucci. I translated the letter below, but since it is quite long, let me first offer my executive summary in ten lines.

I wanted Maiani’s seat, and am pissed off he got it instead. I owe my career to Zichichi, who is a great, but really unlucky, physicist. I think Maiani, Cabibbo, Parisi, and the other physicists in Rome are overestimated, and I am a bit envious of their recognition, where Zichichi should instead be credited. I moved on to geophysics because of an earthquake in 1980, but I can’t explain what I did before then. I owe my career to Zichichi, and he is my teacher. I think writing a private letter to the rector of “La Sapienza” to disagree with the invitation of the pope equates to being delirious. Maybe my teacher Zichichi should have gotten Maiani’s seat instead. 

 Ok. Here is his text, in a very quick-and-dirty translation. I took the liberty to highlight a few passages which, in my opinion, reveal quite a bit about the motives behind the text. Oh, another important input. The text is titled “A note of purely scientific evaluation on the search for a president of CNR”.

It is my duty to explain, to those that have esteem of me, the reasons for which I hold that an act of selection not based on scientific merit was made. It was in fact said that the choice of prof. Luciano Maiani was a forced one being the scientific career of Maiani above that of any other candidate. Maiani has been presented as one of the greatest physicists, if not the greatest italian physicist and perhaps even in Europe. And even the greatest leader of national research institutes (INFN) and european ones (the CERN of Geneva).

I will first deal with the scientific value and then with that of extraordinary “manager”. Few know that my scientific activity has started just in the field of research where Maiani worked. I obtained a degree in 1968 and I was the first student in Bologna University to graduate with professor Antonino Zichichi, who gave me as a research topic the problem of “neutral currents” when nobody spoke about them. It was 1968 and in the lessons of prof. Zichichi I learned to know the works of Weinberg (1967) and Salam (1968) on the unification of electromagnetic and weak currents. After the degree I continued to work with Prof. Zichichi and I remember the enthusiasm that he instilled in us when in 1971 the work of Gerardus ‘t Hooft came out, solving the great difficulty of making renormalizable the electroweak theory of Salam, Weinberg and Glashow. I had the privilege of coming to know personally prof. Salam, since Zichichi and Salam were close friends. The experimental discovery of weak neutral currents at CERN was for me a reason of great satisfaction, since that was the topic on which five years before I had written my thesis.

This long introduction explains that the field where Maiani has worked with Glashow and Iliopoulos was to me well-known. In fact in the lessons of prof. Zichichi there were hours spent discussing the frontiers of physics of those days, and the universality of weak forces was one of the central themes. I thus learned the existence of the Cabibbo angle and the difficulty connected to the fact that they predicted the existence of decays never observed (the so-called neutral currents with strangeness change, the quantum number introduced by Gell-Mann to describe the property of “strange” particles realized in the laboratory of prof. Blackett from which my teacher prof. Zichichi was coming). In the lessons of prof. Zichichi I learned that that was the reason why Gell-Mann and Levy only wrote a footnote in their famous theoretical model published in 1960. That brief note however precedes the introduction by Cabibbo of his “angle”, and in fact that angle should be called after Gell-Mann, Levy, and Cabibbo, and not Cabibbo angle. An angle that however did not allow to explain for what reason nobody had ever seen the processes generated by “weak neutral currents with strangeness variations”. That explanation was found by Glashow with his collaborators Iliopoulos and Maiani. Maiani in fact had the luck to be working that year with Glashow. It was Glashow to have the idea that a new quark had to exist and be endowed with a new charge of subnuclear flavour, to which Glashow gave the name of charm. Glashow did anything he could to convince the scientific community to try to find experimentally this new type of quark. It was necessary to find particles endowed with charm in order for what we now call GIM mechanism (from the initials of Glashow, Iliopoulos and Maiani) could have the blessing of experimental proof. On these themes professor Glashow held during those years several lessons in the most prestigious school of subnuclear physics in the world, founded and directed by my teacher prof. Zichichi. While physicists were busy with these formidable themes the totally unexpected (in Zichichi’s words) discovery of a narrow resonance arrives, at the mass of 3.1 GeV. This discovery was obtained almost simultaneously at the BNL laboratory (in New York) by Samuel Ting and at SLAC (Stanford) by Burt Richter. We are in the fall of 1974. Note that in 1967 prof. Zichichi had presented a research project in Frascati for the new machine colliding electrons and positrons (named ADONE) to study “narrow resonances” and the so-called third lepton. As he wrote in a memorable work of review prof. Claudio Villi (president of INFN during those years), the two biggest discoveries of the second half of the XXth century could have been realized in Frascati if the project of Zichichi could have been approved. These researches had however been labeled by Carlo Bernardini, the supervisor of the searches in Frascati, comrade of Maiani in the signature of the delirious letter against pope Benedict XVI to the Sapienza University. with the sentence “Zichichi is looking for butterflies”. Facts however showed that those butterflies could have produced two nobel prizes not to Ting and Richter (for the narrow resonance) and Perl (for the third lepton) but to Antonino Zichichi that on these searches had concocted a project in which were included some technological inventions he had made in Geneva to prove their perfect realizability.

What I syntetically discussed here is proven in the scientific literature with all the necessary detail. Let us go back to Frascati in the fall of 1974. Zichichi had left the Laboratories since his project for a search of narrow resonances and the third lepton had been dubbed “butterflies” by Bernardini. And just on the first of these butterflies Maiani, Cabibbo, Petronzio, Parisi (another signer of the letter against Benedict XVI) and Salvini, lose their scientific credibility. The works published by the Frascati physicists on the discovery of the narrow resonance are in fact all wrong. Maiani, author with Glashow of the work predicting the existence of a new quark, should have thought at once to the correct interpretation in terms of a new meson made with a quark-antiquark pair endowed with charm, as predicted by Glashow. Instead, the great physicists in Frascati, Cabibbo, Parisi, Petronzio, Altarelli, they all launch in the incredible mistake of explaining it as if it was the weak boson, forgetting that this boson should have been at least thirty times more massive. The Salvini group instead publishes a work where the new particle decays into two photons of high energy. Thus the narrow resonance could be explainable as due to electromagnetic forces. The results of other experiments realized at SLAC have demonstrated that the experimental results of Salvini on two-photon decays were (and are) wrong.

To summarize, the physicists of Frascati (friends of the famous 67 scientists with whom Bernardini, Cini, Frova, all signers of the delirious letter against Benedict XVI) have taken a series of blatant blunders, with the aggravating clause that some of them (Cabibbo,Maiani, and Parisi) should have had the right knowledge to interpret correctly the narrow resonance discovered in America. That resonance in fact has nothing to do either with weak forces (as Cabibbo, Maiani, Petronzio and others claimed to have understood) nor with the electromagnetic forces (Salvini group). And let’s not forget that that narrow resonance would have been discovered in Frascati by Zichichi if the theory of “butterflies” impoesd by Carlo Bernardini and his comrades against Zichichi had not prevailed. The conclusion emerging from this short review is that neither Maiani nor his colleagues author of the ridiculous interpretation of the narrow resonance can be considered great physicists. In physics to make a reputation one needs a lifetime, to lose it a single mistaken work on a problem of fundamental importance is sufficient (words that my master Zichichi was used to repeat to us young researchers).

Let us move on to the great scientific manager that Maiani allegedly is, since he directed INFN and CERN. He who made INFN flourish is not Maiani but prof. Antonino Zichichi who in 1977 opened INFN to new projects, Gran Sasso (in the Abruzzi), CS (superconducting cyclotron at Milano and Catania), LEP (CERN, Geneva) and HERA (DESY, Hamburg). For what concerns the CERN suffices to read what was written on Nature and other foreign newspapers to know what mistakes have characterized the guidance of CERN by Maiani. Two concluding words: if it had not been for the earth-quake in Irpinia my scientific career would have been conducted in the same field of physics where Maiani has worked. And in fact it was from that earthquark that my career was subjected to a turn, thanks to Zichichi and Pertini. But this is another scientific adventure.



1. Guess Who - February 23, 2008

This reads like Star Wars, Italian style. If Zichichi is the evil Sith master and Boschi his disciple, Maiani must be… Yoda?

But in fairness, I believe “maestro” should be properly translated as the less ominous “teacher”…


2. Stefan Scherer - February 23, 2008

Thanks for the translation!

Wow, I wasn’t aware at all that there is so much bad blood among some Italian physicists, and that 40 years old unsettled scores still haunt them today. Truely Machiavellian ;-). Given the traditional local ways to deal with such issues, we can be glad that everyone involved is still in good health ;-).

Sorry, Tommaso, this letter, and the whole story, sounds so incredible and absurd to me, it can’t but provoke this kind of mockery!

3. dorigo - February 24, 2008

Hi GW, you are right. I changed the text. Fair is fair.


Stefan, that’s right. Incredible stuff. These are all adult, accomplished, elderly physicists. They do not set a good example. But you know what really disturbs me ? The fact that those speaking against Parisi, Bernardini, Maiani act as if they think they are right by definition – because they are good christians: on the other side, the delirious forces of chaos, who prevent the pope from speaking.


4. Andrea Giammanco - February 24, 2008

There is something worse.
MUCH worse.
It turns out that On.Carlucci was initially referring to an article published on Libero (for non-italian readers: a right wing newspaper):
This article was crediting a webpage allegedly signed by David Cline, defaming Maiani.
Of course David Cline was not the real author, and he asked and obtained that the webpage was deleted, and that Libero published a denial:

Luckily somebody saved the webpage in a pdf document, that you can download from here:

Really, you MUST read it. It’s incredibly ridiculous: it’s written in two columns, italian first and english second. The english is clearly a high-school level english, with some mistakes (that even I am able to spot…), but apart from that, how could one seriously believe that a person of the reputation of David Cline would do something like that?!?!
I mean, if you were David Cline and wanted to warn the world that a colleague is overrated, would you open a free account on some free hosting service, writing a text in italian and english, instead of – let’s say – writing an open letter to some newspaper or journal, or at the very least use an official webpage in your institute, since you are already signing with name, surname, affiliation and e-mail?
(Although it turned out that the fake Cline used the wrong e-mail address: he assumed that he is still working for Wisconsin U., while this is not anymore the case since many years.)

I found all this by following the links of this very good blog by another colleague:

Uh, and by the way: I have not understood Boschi’s reference to the Irpinia earthquake and its role on his career path: he says that he became a geophysicist in 1972, but the Irpinia earthquake was in 1980…

5. Jess - February 24, 2008

As an experimentalist, I enjoy the occasional joke about theoreticians, depicting them as “catty” in their ways and interactions with each other. But this is too much… this guy should bang his head against the wall repeatedly, maybe the tantrum will pass.
Why is it that experimentalists do not generally have the time for such BS? I have always suspected that we are on the hard-working end of the physicist spectrum…
I knew first-hand the leadership of Maiani while at CERN, and I have the utmost respect for the man. Congratulations to him, WELL DESERVED position. To the writer of this tirade… let’s start from the beginning, who the hell are you? Does anyone outside the Zichichi maffia know you?
And on top of everything, taking the side of the pope. Sickening.
Can’t say I miss Europe, reading stuff like this.

6. Anonymous - February 24, 2008

Will it ever be possible for Italians to avoid religious wars, even when fighting wars with the religious?

7. John - February 24, 2008

I want just to emphasize that Maiani and all that are near a communist area as Dorigo is while Zichichi and his friends are carrying on a battle against this widespread political view, proper to most italian physicists, that is poisoning italian academia and has shown itself badly with the letter against the pope. What you are seeing here is an effect of politics invading every field of life in our country, and we are still stuck at a kind of guelfi and ghibellini battle of the middle age. Since 1948 we are fighting a communist-anticommunist war and we were lucky enough that Togliatti lose election in that year otherwise we had experienced something that other countries properly fired with a kick in the ass. The curious thing about this battle is that people belonging to this kind of left party is obtaining relevant positions in important institutions in our country. So, the real question is not if Maiani is a greatest scientist (indeed he is) but what kind of party he belongs to.


8. dorigo - February 24, 2008

Andrea, thank you for the first-hand information. I am coming to CERN today and I owe you a beer.

Jess, I did not know Enzo Boschi before I read the text I translated above. I can say, though, that the letter above was typeset in Erice (Zichichi’s feud), allegedly with a copy of Microsoft Word registered to the Forza Italia party, Berlusconi’s own.

Good question Anon. I guess not, because the religious have this attitude of throwing stones and hiding under the tunic of their cardinal…

John, I do not know where you got the impression that I am a communist, but I can assure you that it is not true. Check here for my participation to the building of the democratic party. Unless your definition of “communist” embraces all democrats in Italy, of course.
In any case you are clearly biased, as shown by your lament that ” people belonging to this kind of left party is obtaining relevant positions in important institutions in our country”… You can’t be serious.You should ask yourself who put Fabio Pistella (right-wing, three publications in his life) as president of CNR a few years ago, and whether he is even nearly comparable as a scientist to Maiani.
Also, you might learn something here..

Cheers all,

9. Andrea Giammanco - February 24, 2008

> Why is it that experimentalists do not generally have the time for such BS?

Well, Zichichi is an experimentalist 😉


> So, the real question is not if Maiani is a greatest scientist (indeed he is) but what kind of party he belongs to.

Congratulations, Senator McCarthy would be proud of you 🙂

Tommaso: when dealing with people whose comments are way above some bullshit threshold, like John, remember the rule “don’t feed the trolls”.

10. Andrea Giammanco - February 24, 2008

More seriously, it’s funny how many people, including Johnny, are able to see correctly the grand picture (in this case the guelfi-ghibellini struggle in almost any aspect of italian society) but then fall in the same perverted logic they blame.
Johnny notices the advantages that being on one side can give, and justifies the attacks of the other part. What strikes me is that one has to be incredibly blind not to notice that also the other part took advantages, and played very dirty.
This is a normal manifestation of the polarization effect, very well explained here:

11. Mondrian - February 24, 2008

I was once in Erice, and I must say that it is one of the nicest places I have
ever been for a conference. The only disturbing thing was the fact that the
whole conference center is paved with photos of this Zucch…. err, Zichichi
guy. There is a series of photos from a visit of the old pope which does not
contain a single photo showing the pope without Zichichi. And most of
these photos seem to be purposefully (my impression) selected such that
they emphasize Zichichi’s appearance. I was told an anecdote, where
somebody got his car stolen in Erice (I don’t remember whether this was
a participant of some conference or somebody else). He complained to
Zichichi and – voila – the next day the car showed up again. Washed.
But probably this kind of anecdote can be told of anybody in Sicily who
has some ties to local politics…

12. John - February 24, 2008


First of all thanks for comparing me to a troll. Maybe I should consider like that without my real name but I am not offending anybody and I am saying something that is quite well known to us born and grown in Italy but could be not so well acquired by foreigners.

The question a sane Italian citizen should ask is how to break such an insane situation. I am not polarized at all, I am just disgusted by the political class we have. But I have not any solution at hand anyway.

The effects you see go from difficulties with dump in Campania to the Carlucci’s letter. I think these are just different aspects of a sad and intractable situation.

And I do not believe that changing one’s facade as Veltroni is doing (I live in Rome and I know what he did here and I hope the same should not happen to Italy) or accepting Yaspica and other soubrettes as Berlusconi does could save the day to these guys.

We are all aware that Mastella’s wife went to prison for the choice of a doctor in a hospital. So, why should I think that Maiani is chosen because is a stellar physicist in our country?


13. Stefan Scherer - February 24, 2008

Thanks, guelfi-ghibellini was, actually, the category I had in mind. But this is safely a 13th century classification? The only thing that has changed since is that they don’t use poison and daggers anymore? This really shakes quite a bit my perception of Italy – which I’ve got to know only as a tourist so far.

14. giorgio parisi - February 24, 2008

Dear John

I would like to comment on your sentence
“I want just to emphasize that Maiani and all that are near a communist area”.
and answer to your question
“So, the real question is not if Maiani is a greatest scientist (indeed he is) but what kind of party he belongs to.”

I think that all questions should be answered if possible.

I can assure you that Maiani does not belong to any political party and although I know him by 40 years I can only guess his vote at the next election.

You are write in spotting me as left wing. However Cabibbo is the president of the Pontificial Academy, which does not seem to be the place where comunists usually hide.

Salvini has been Minister of the Dini government in 1995, and DIni was 1994 (in the same way as now) on the side of Berlusconi.

There was a search committee of ten people (one of them was very near to the right wing party AN, an other one was a vicepresident of Confindustria). I was elected president of that committee and we looked very carefully to about 30 nominations or applications. We had 7 interviews At the final meeting everybody agreed to suggest to the minister the name of Maiani (plus Cortese and Profumo).

The Minister decided for Maiani. If we had suggested other names Maiani could not be president.

I hope that you can find this information useful.

Giorgio Parisi

15. dorigo - February 24, 2008

Andrea…. You are right about trolls, but I am used to give people a second chance here.

Mondrian, I also heard the anecdote about the car theft. I think it might very well be true – or a fiction version of a true fact. I think Zichichi is very powerful there. Not everybody can get a car back in Sicily just because he or she holds a seat somewhere…

Stefan, luckily italian physicists are not represented by a Zichichi. The vast majority are people I have in fact the highest esteem of – an example being Giorgio Parisi, who was kind enough to take part in the discussion here.

Prof. Parisi, thank you for your input. I do strongly agree that all meaningful questions should be addressed quietly. While on the one hand we both know that the name of Maiani should not raise suspects, we also know that in Italy suspicion is a necessary practice – so I appreciate your comment.

Cheers all,

16. Andrea Giammanco - February 25, 2008

The communist newspaper Liberazione about the Maiani querelle:
(linked from Carlucci’s blog.)

Please notice the details (in page 2) about the file Word of Boschi’s letter. If I understand correctly, this means that the file retained the info of the computer where it was written. And this info leads directly to a Zichichi’s assistant in Erice, whose Word copy is licensed to Forza Italia!

17. dorigo - February 25, 2008

Hi Andrea,

yes, I had read that article – INFN provides access to all newspaper clips on physics at their site.


18. Jester - February 25, 2008

It’s not really surprising that Zichichi is the real author of that article. From outsider’s perspective that’s all ridiculous and laughable….yet there’s something that worries me. Every year, truely great and important scientists lecture at the Erice summer school. I know that Erice is a cool place and the wine tastes so good but, maybe, giving credit to clowns like Zichichi ultimately does too much damage to physics? Wouldn’t it be appropriate and just to boycott Erice instead? So that, next time, it’s Enzo Boschi who lectures on particle physics there 🙂

19. stringph - February 25, 2008

Actually, you get some unique perspective going to Erice… how it happens that someone can once have been a good experimentalist but then go the route of developing a separate private empire, and making impossible, incredible plans for a particle accelerator in a tunnel under the sea in an area of strong seismic / volcanic activity … So indeed, Erice is an education.

20. Luboš Motl - February 25, 2008

Putting the silly anti-Maiani recent tirades aside, Zichichi seems to be a rather influential and inspiring physicist, given the fact that he is our comrade global warming skeptic.

21. dorigo - February 25, 2008

Yeah yeah Lubos… “It does not matter if it stinks, as long as it helps my cause”… 😉

Influential he sure is, given his close ties with shady personalities in Sicily and politicians below suspicion in Rome. Inspiring, well. He did inspire a comedian or two recently.


22. dorigo - February 25, 2008

Hi Jester,

I think Zichichi “inspired” the article by Boschi.. Yes, it could be all dismissed with a hearty laugh, if it wasn’t for the fact that he is a powerful baron and he has strong political support from the right.
And it is hard to boycott Erice, since there will always be physicists of quality with those same political roots….


23. dorigo - February 25, 2008

Hi Stringph,
I have never been to Erice… You mean I should really go ? 🙂

24. Fred - February 25, 2008


Very revealing for those of us who are not familiar with the history and dynamics involved in this current topic. I was interested in Giorgio Parisi’s first-hand account and insight and would like to hear more from him but not knowing anything about him, could you give a brief bio? After a number of times having taken the title of this post for granted as I automatically jumped to the body and comments, the word ‘querelle’ finally dawned on me. Did you mean quarrel? The only “Querelle” I am familiar with is a book written by Jean Genet and later turned into a movie by Fassbinder. The story is unabashedly erotic, as are most of Genet’s works.

25. dorigo - February 25, 2008

Hi Fred,

Giorgio Parisi is a leading particle theorist in Italy. He is most known for the equation that bears his and Altarelli’s name, the formula describing the dynamics of gluon emission (DGLAP, for Dokshitzer-Gribov-Lipatov-Altarelli-Parisi).

As for “Querelle”, it is a controversy, a polemics, a long debate…


26. Amara - February 26, 2008

Dear Fred: You’re right: Tommasso means “quarrel” when he uses “querelle”, I made that mental substitution in his posts starting some months ago. I kind of like his French twist. 😉

27. Andrea Giammanco - February 26, 2008

I’ve seen several times “querelle” used instead of “quarrel” by anglophones (maybe to show they are cultured, or maybe because with time the two words assumed slightly different connotations).
I also use “querelle”, since much before starting learning french (so you can exclude a direct french influence in my case), and my english is almost entirely built over what I have read in english or american texts over the years.

28. Amara - February 26, 2008

Dear Andrea, I do like this spelling because of the French implication, but your post made me wonder if I missed this British-ism; I’m usually pretty good at moving between the two Englishes. This word isn’t in my Oxford Thesaurus or my Cambridge International Dictionary of English, but there is a closely related word: querulous, an adjective, which means petish, complaining, irritable, cross, cantankerous, therefore, it’s easy to understand the meaning of querelle or where it might have come from. And anyway, I screwed up the spelling of Tommaso’s name, so I’m never error-free either, although I should have learned by now to never post something late at night when I’m tired. Ciao!

29. A normal country, a normal electoral campaign « A Quantum Diaries Survivor - February 29, 2008

[…] funny, this time making the “umbrella” with his arms in reposte [italics needed by established reader sensitivity to fancy terms, :o) ] to some offer he did not subscribe to. One is led to remember when he […]

30. Roberto - February 29, 2008

For your information, the campaign of Libero and Carlucci (and whoever is really behind all this) continues. Have a look here:
Maybe somebody would like to comment on this. Personally, I can’t find any really appropriate word right now. And I can tell you I know some pretty awful ones …

31. Matteo - March 3, 2008

Interestingly enough, if you google “Enzo Boschi”, the very first hit is this blog. Will this letter be passed on to posterity as Boschi’s enduring mark in science? Only time will tell. In any event, it would be a shame if such beautiful prose and display of scientific acumen remained within the confines of particle physics. I suggest that the letter is forwarded to Boschi’s geophysics colleagues worldwide, so they too can appreciate this marvel.

32. Russell - April 6, 2009

Can someone help this American reader (a naturalized US-Citizen) who “Enzo Boschi” is and his relation to “National Geophysics Institute” of Italy? What is his relation to “Gioacchino Giuliani” of the Radon gas alerter? Who is the major of the “L’Aquila” and the major’s political affiliation? Was Boschi a political appointee or selected person based on merits and depth of one’s experience?

Thank you.

33. dorigo - April 6, 2009

Hi Russell,

Boschi is the director of that institute. He has been put in charge by his very powerful mentor, Antonino Zichichi, who recently tried to help him get the presidency of CNR, Italy’s national research council. I do not value too much Boschi’s scientific merits, but who am I to judge. The present government who wanted Boschi as head of CNR, however, is the same that a few years ago placed Pistella there. Pistella has three scientific publications to his merit. Draw your own conclusions.

I do not think Boschi is related to Giuliani. Giuliani works for INFN (the italian national institute for nuclear physics which also pays my salary), as a technician-researcher.

As for L’Aquila, try searching on the internet… I cannot answer your question right now.


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