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A beautiful photograph February 5, 2009

Posted by dorigo in Art, personal, travel.
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A friend of mine recently took the photo shown below, in a long traboule in vieux Lyon. I was mesmerized by the beauty of this shot, which looks rather like a painting, and felt compelled to share it with you here.

Kudos to Federica Scalabrin, whose qualities as a photographer were otherwise unknown to me – this is definitely a picture worth a poster. Note the delicate interplay of light and darkness, and the suggestive geometry they make with the architecture of the vaults.

White to move and win February 3, 2009

Posted by dorigo in Art, books, chess, games, internet, personal.
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Minutes ago I logged on the Internet Chess Club for some evening fun, after an evening spent playing with my kids, feeding them, and reading them a chapter of the first book of the Harry Potter saga (which, I hate to say, is excellently written). And here is the position I worked out with a similarly rated player (I am white):

White to move. Can you spot the move I played ? Mind you, I did not analyze with a chess engine the position yet, and I just spent a minute looking at it post-mortem, so I do not claim that my move is the best one in this position. It might even be flawed. But I am darn proud of it… The game ended two moves later. I will leave this little riddle on for tonight, and will give the solution tomorrow. In the meantime, do write below what you’d have played. But beware: this was a 5′ blitz game, and I had less than two minutes left for all my moves – investing more than 30 seconds of thought on the position would cost you the game in most situations.

A nice miniature December 14, 2008

Posted by dorigo in Art, chess, games, internet, personal.
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Just played a quick 5′ game on the Internet Chess Club. I was rather pleased to play a nice miniature (a game lasting very few moves, and usually concluding with a fine mating combination). The game tactics centers around the theme of the pin. On a diagonal, on a file, and even on a rank!

Here is the transcript, with very few comments. My handle is Tonno, and I am black. I feel compelled to say that I did not check the moves on a computer, since my Fritz 8 has stopped running until I show it the original CD again… Oh well. A 5′ game is not too meaningful to analyze with a computer anyway!

Nyudrev (1929) – Tonno (1931)

1.g3 d5 2.Bg2 Bf5 3.d3 Nf6 4.Nd2 e5 aggressive. Black should be ok in this system already now.

5.e4 dxe4 6.dxe4 Bg4 7.Ne2 Nc6 sort of threatening Nd4…

8.c3 Qd3! A very ambitious move, showing that black is in a fighting mood. Move 8 by white was a weakening of the d3 square, and black exploits it at once. Now white cannot castle, and the pin of the Ne2 is very unpleasant, so…

9.f3 trying to get rid of the assault, but I feel inspired…

9…. 0-0-0!

A piece sacrifice that grants black a continuing initiative against the exposed white king.

10.fxg4 Nxg4 Now if white castles, black can either check on e3 with the queen, and then on f2 with the knight; or even better, play Ne3 forcing the white queen away, after which the Ne2 is lost.

11. Bh3 pinning the knight and preventing its use for a while.

11… h5 12.0-0 white has managed to castle, but his troubles are by no means over.

12….Bc5+ 13.Kg2 Be3 Suddenly, white is in danger of losing the Nd2, which is pinned on the d file.

14.Rf3 appears to save it, since the Be3 is now pinned on the black queen on the third rank, but

14….f5!! frees the activity of the Ng4, at the same time threatening fxe4 which would force the Rf3 to move away. If now Rxf5 the Nd2 is lost, and if instead exf5 e4! the rook has to move with the same effect.

15.Bxg4 hxg4 opening a deadly file aiming at the white king.

16.Rxe3 Qxe3 17.Ng1 if white can now play 18.Qe2, he will soon untangle, and a draw might be fought for. But black has a winning move:

17…. Rxh2+! a final sacrifice decides the game. White resigns.

Wladimiro Dorigo donates his library and scientific archive to the University of Venice July 29, 2008

Posted by dorigo in Art, books, history, news, personal.
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This morning I attended a very important meeting in the offices of a notary in Venice, together with my two brothers and the rector of the University of Venice. After two years of complicated negotiations, funding proposals to participating institutions, reviews of draft documents, walk-throughs, and miscellaneous diplomacy, we finally agreed to a document with which the University “Ca’ Foscari” of Venice accepts the donation of the personal library and archive of my father, consisting in about 10,000 volumes, thousands of periodicals, and a sixty-year-long scientific archive of his research activities. Wladimiro Dorigo passed away on July 1st, 2006, after having spent the last months of his life attempting to organize his vast material in the prospect of a donation to the University, which was his workplace for the last thirty years of his career.

I am very happy of finally fulfilling that desire of my father, but the hard part has not started yet. After the move of the material, which in Venice is not a trivial thing to do, a very detailed inventory and cataloging are estimated to take two more years. Then, the books and the scientific archive will finally be made available to researchers and students in the BAUM, the library of the University, which already arranged the area where the donation will be kept.

The BAUM already collects the volumes which were originally dispersed in the various departments, for a total of about 250,000 books. Today’s addition is a fairly small one, but the symbolic meaning is not negligible: Wladimiro Dorigo worked for all his life for Venice: for its history, its culture, and its future. He was an administrator in the fifties, a journalist in the sixties, a director of the archive of the Biennale di Venezia in the seventies, and a professor of medioeval art history and a researcher for the rest of his life. With his library, the University accepts his legacy of a lifetime spent desperately loving Venice.

Two old concerts of mine May 8, 2008

Posted by dorigo in Art, humor, music, personal.
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I stumbled today into two old booklets advertising a concert. One in Conegliano, on Friday, March 13th 1981; the other in Udine on Wednesday, May 28th, 1980. These were times when I toured north-eastern Italy with the orchestra of the Venice Conservatory, directed by m. Fabio Pirona. I was a teenager, but I could already play the recorder (straight flute) rather well.

I remember that already back then I did not really think that a career in music would suit my taste nor my talents -my interest was not focused on Physics yet but I had a pretty good idea I liked science already- but I nevertheless enjoyed playing the part of the musician. Probably this has been some sort of constant in my life: I have been an amateur musician, an amateur astronomer, an amateur chessplayer, an amateur reporter and photographer, but then I decided to become a professional physicist. In other words I seem to have applied to arts, sports, and intellectual activities what is commonplace to do with sentimental relationships: women and men flirt with the most attractive counterparts, but end up marrying the one which promises more stability.

So what were we playing back then, in Conegliano and Udine (but also in Venice, Mirano, and other places I can’t even recall) ? The offer was a trio of concerts by Johann Sebastian Bach: the Brandemburg Concerts number V, IV, and III. I was the second flutist in the fourth concert, as you can see in the scans I paste below.

Above, the front page of the booklet of Concert season in Conegliano, 1981

…and the page with the three concerts, and a few signatures from my colleagues.

The one above is instead the leaflet advertising the concert in Udine…

…and the back, with the program of the afternoon.

I have warm memories of those concerts. In the one in Conegliano, we performed excellently the fourth concert (I remember I was really pleased of the outcome and by my own performance) until -at the very end of the third movement- my instrument had become soaked with condensed breath, and it literally dripped. The condensed moisture flowed down the hole at the end and, what’s worse, down the hole on the back, which is closed by the left thumb to play bass tones and only closed halfways -by using the fingernail- to play high pitches. And one of those high pitches was needed towards the end of the Presto, when in the culmination of a forte I had to play a high mi. The thumb was unable to close the hole the way it should have, and my instrument let out a broken note which was probably heard even by the ticket seller outside the hall. That evening was spent on a pleasant restaurant on the hills of Conegliano, with the whole orchestra having fun of me -but it was cheerful and I did not resent it.

In the concert in Udine another incident happened. I was rather tense (I think it was the first time we performed the concert outside the walls of our Conservatory) and when the fifth concert was over, the solists came backstage, and I went on stage with my buddy Francesco and the first violin Andrea. As we were about to sit down, I realized I had left my scoresheet backstage! A better player would have acted nonchalantly and played by heart, but I was too nervous -so I rushed back and grabbed it, re-entering on stage with the eyes of the public on me but, what’s worse, those of my director following me like a missile approaches a plane to be taken down.

Ah, memories… I wish I had a recording of those concerts! I remember the one in Conegliano was indeed recorded, and I was promised a copy of the tape which never came.

Scarlett and Natalie February 17, 2008

Posted by dorigo in Art, Blogroll, humor, internet, personal.
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Peter, over at Not Even Wrong, facetiously directs people willing to discuss the physical appearance of Lisa Randall to my blog. [A long thread and a followup discussion developed six months ago here after I included a description of Lisa in a writeup of a very interesting seminar she gave on black holes at the LHC].

He does it in a discreet manner, without a direct link – and I appreciate the subtlety. Funny how with the internet you directly experience how knowledge is power: from the stats page of my blog I get a “signal” of people looking for “Tommaso Dorigo Lisa Randall”, and with some investigation I am able to figure out it is coming from people reading the comment thread in Peter’s blog.

Anyway, Scarlett and Natalie. As I retorted in the thread at NEW, I am not good at gossip. My wife says I am not interested in the people who surround me: I loathe discussing their life – I find it a rather vacuous way to spend one’s time. But I have my own weaknesses – I am interested in young, attractive girls. I feel no shame in admitting it: at 42, I have not lost interest in young female bodies yet. Got sex in my mind. How’s that for a coming out, JoAnne ?

So, really, Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman. They are walking the walks of the Berlin festival, where is presented among others the movie they  acted in, “The Other Boleyn girl“. They are enemies in the movie, but close friends in real life. A rare instance in the world of acting, where beautiful women are accustomed to be prima donnas and the presence of a competitor wreaks havoc. Anyway, a picture with both smiling and looking gorgeous is too beautiful to resist the temptation of pasting it here…

Goodbye Bobby January 18, 2008

Posted by dorigo in Art, chess, news.
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Bobby Fischer died today. A deranged but brilliant, brilliant mind. Chess players around the world cannot but be sad for this loss. Many had continued to hope for a further comeback from Fischer, the chess giant, and a few continued to claim to have observed him playing blitz on the internet chess club under anonymous handles, nonchalantly defeating the strongest grandmasters with weird moves. We will never know.

The Say of the Week December 18, 2007

Posted by dorigo in Art, music.
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“Mozart is free to create things others cannot imagine,
because he is bound by principles others cannot see.”

Margaret Boden

(and thanks to Tony for mentioning it.)

Teaching the SM in rhyme: an opening bid December 1, 2007

Posted by dorigo in Art, Blogroll, games, humor, language, personal, physics, science.
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Somebody suggested I should write particle physics lessons in rhyme, and I do love a challenge, if it stimulates my highly nonlinear mind (somebody else suggested to do a video thereafter, but I’ll pass on that one; a third somebody commented in rhyme). Well, today is a Saturday, and since I did not feel too well, I felt entitled to some pastimes… Below you can find my production: a summary of the Higgs mechanism in five lines, for starters. 

[The usual Limerick’s AABBA scheme applies, while the division in syllables is much sketchier… Syllables in English are a real nightmare, at least for non-natives. I recollect learning a long time ago from Martin Gardner’s Mathematical Games column on SciAm that the language owns a 10-letter syllable: scraunched, but later found out that there are even 11-letter ones actually: broughammed, squirrelled.]

Anyway, here’s my bid at a concise, to the point SM lesson in rhyme:

Boson masses break L-gauge invariance,
And the model just can not keep its stance.
So just pawn the four Goldstones,
Open three W-mass loans,
While a fourth, called the Higgs, keeps the balance.

Of course, you are welcome to contribute to the project by explaining your favourite piece of physics likewise, if you feel in the right vein. Just follow the AABBA quintuplet template, with (if possible) the usual rythm: da-da-dum da-da-dum da-da-dum for the 1st, 2nd, and 5th verse, and da-da-dum da-da-dum for the 3rd and 4th.

Just a limerick December 1, 2007

Posted by dorigo in Art, games, humor, internet, language, personal.
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Minutes after writing a limerick in a comment to a post on Bee’s and Stefan’s blog, I got envious. “What the hell, I have my own blog… That creation of mine, although not anything to be proud of, should live in mine, not theirs”. Yes, the misery of a blogger’s soul. Anyway, I decided to steal it from there and paste it in my own. The rationale being that if blogspot fries their data bank, I’ll still have this post backed up. And copying it also allows to fix the last verse, which was missing one syllable (added “please”). Oh well. Here it is.

If you think you’ve got something to say,
Just open your own blog today.
Your voice will be heard,
And you will get referred,
But please don’t let that bring you astray.

Not much, but considering I am not an English native and I spent finding rhymes 90% of the fifteen minutes it took me to write it, I am reasonably satisfied.