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Still more on Maiani: Parisi, De Rujula… March 4, 2008

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, humor, internet, italian blogs, news, physics, politics, science.
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No, I am not going to comment further on this internet bubble, which will one day blow but which is still continuing to grow. I just wish to direct those of you who want to get a more complete picture to a few sites where the matter is still attended to. In particular, a few sites have published, in original or translated form, a comment left by Alvaro de Rujula to Carlucci’s blog, and another left by Giorgio Parisi. In the meantime, italian newspapers have continued to cover the matter with their usual biased perspective (Libero discussing the many errors of Maiani in his career, others concentrating on the gaffes of Carlucci).

  • Carlucci’s blog has the original comment by Parisi (apparently unaccessible now) and still accessible  answers by Parisi and de Rujula to her further attacks. I bet she will soon close that thread too, because she has not collected a single positive comment in a thread now counting more than 130 contributions.
  • A very complete account can be found in English in Gravitas free zone. There, you will find linked newspaper clips in pdf format among other interesting documentation on the matter.
  • For other sites, just google around – posting on the matter has become an instant pastime among blogging physicists in Italy. If you can read italian, Dr Psycho’s live journal is certainly worth a visit.

Glashow humiliates Carlucci on Maiani’s appointment February 22, 2008

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, humor, italian blogs, news, physics, politics, science.
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Yesterday I wrote about on. Gabriella Carlucci, an ex-showgirl and now a politician for Forza Italia, Silvio Berlusconi’s party-company, and mentioned her failed occasion of shutting up when she insulted Luciano Maiani’s career in the Senate commission where the latter’s appointment was being discussed.

I have to thank Andrea Giammanco who pointed me to the blog of Pietro Folena (in italian), where the whole text of the infamous allegations by on.Carlucci is reported, along with an answer by none less than Nobel laureate Sheldon Glashow, who sent a indignant letter to italian premier Romano Prodi, expressing his disgust for the allegations of incompetence moved to a stellar scientist (his adjective) such as Maiani.

In the interest of disclosing just how far these dwarfs and dancers of the italian right will go to please their master, I paste below a translation of Carlucci’s statement, followed by the original text of Sheldon Glashow’s letter (more…)

Relieved to hear that… November 29, 2007

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, humor, internet, italian blogs, news, physics, politics, science.
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  1. The United States does not torture. That is stuff for fascist sudamerican countries, and of course the US are above that.
  2. It is in principle possible to store large amounts of greenhouse gases underground, and possibly fight successfully the global warming threats our world is facing.
  3. Forza Italia, Silvio Berlusconi’s party, will not be terminated, as he had previously announced, but will constitute the basis of a new movement. Repubblica reports that Silvio appears still unsure on the name of the new political entity which will gradually substitute FI.  The man is for sure a bit more lazy with restyling than with liftings, but he is catching up. This weekend he announces a poll in all italian cities, where the name of the party will be chosen. Here the three choices he mentioned:
    1. “Popolo delle libertà”.
    2. “Partito del popolo delle libertà”.
    3. “Partito del popolo italiano delle libertà”. No kidding. I wonder if one can instead chose something more descriptive, like the bold “Partito italiano libero del libero popolo partitico italiano della libertà”, or something similarly easy and catchy. Should be fun to see people amassing at the poll booths for such a crucial step in the final crowning of italian democracy.
  4. Homeopathy is losing ground, and will soon be confined to its place in the shelves of pseudosciences. New evidence and a critical review of past results (also published on the prestigious The Lancet)  shows that the vast majority of double blind tests with placebos confirm what many had known for decades: it is a scam! Nyaah nyaah!

The slides for Lecture 1 and 2 November 28, 2007

Posted by dorigo in internet, italian blogs, mathematics, personal, physics, science.
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After overwhelming requests, I hereby make available the slides of yesterday’s lecture on the web. Beware: they are in italian, they are probably inaccurate here and there, they have not been proofread, and finally, they are nothing special… But here you go: they are viewable online here.

Actually, since it is a single file, you also get to see -in world premiere- the slides of the second lecture, which I will give tomorrow. In case you should find some blatant mistake or nagging inaccuracy, please let me know today before 10PM UT. Thank you.

UPDATE: I was asked to provide a file readily downloadable. Get it here.

What’s going on around October 25, 2007

Posted by dorigo in astronomy, Blogroll, games, internet, italian blogs, news, physics, politics, science.
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A short list of interesting things I have read around the web recently:

1000 posts: do you want yours to be the next one ? October 2, 2007

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, internet, italian blogs, news, personal, physics, science.
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Today this blog passed the respectable mark of 1,000 posts. Time for a small summary of traffic here.

  • 1000 posts
  • almost exactly 300,000 visits
  • on for 630 days
  • about 700 incoming links from around the web
  • more than 4,000 honest comments (there’s a few from spam that I was unable to remove)
  • on average weekdays, about 900 visits/day
  • on weekends, more like 600
  • about 200 spam comments a day – if you ever commented and did not see your comment appear: it’s gone, baby.

A warm thank you all for your interest in what is discussed here, and for your valuable contribution. You know it counts in making this site more useful and more entertaining!

I use this occasion to invite any of you who wish to discuss a topic in physics or astrophysics – but other sciences might be welcome – in a manner accessible to laypersons to let me know if you are willing to write a guest post. Guest posts get a link from the reserved tab (see above), and are a nice addition to this blog.

Ah, and: certified crackpots are encouraged to apply, provided they keep things simple, clear, and they declare their availability to stand by their post by answering any incoming comment or criticism on their pet theory. 

Meccablog September 29, 2007

Posted by dorigo in computers, internet, italian blogs, news, physics, science.
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Just two lines to mention a new entry in my blogroll, Meccablog: the blog of the Mechatronic group in Trento. They discuss automated systems for driving assistence, mechanical studies for LISA, and other research topics about projects their group is involved in. Among the contributors is Mauro Da Lio, a fellow amateur astronomer and the head of the department of mechanical engineering in Trento.

We receive and gladly publish… September 23, 2007

Posted by dorigo in humor, italian blogs, language, personal, politics.
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My recent account of Beppe Grillo’s “V-day” spurred an inspired reader and a friend – Jeff – to leave a comment that is too good to be left in the comments section there. So I gladly elect it to a post. The fact that Jeff and I have different political views, and that nonetheless I agree almost totally with what he writes below, speaks volumes on how italian society can’t be changed by just changing our government…

Dear Massimiliano! [Jeff is answering another comment – TD]

When I say “target” the italian I fear you do not know what I mean. I think Grillo should say “va fan culo” to italians:
– to italians that keep their own homes clean but throw trash everywhere else, VA FAN CULO;
– for italians that abuse their god damn cell phones, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that drive and speak on their god damn call phones, VA FAN CULO;
– to italian parents that buy god damn cell phone to their small children, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that go dancing only way after midnight and stay up for many hours wasting health, money and frequently their lives and the lives of others, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that make needless noise and confusion, that speak too loud at bars and restaurants, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that drive needlessly fast, pass you on tight streets only to be found a couple hundred meters stopped ahead at a red street light, VA FAN CULO;
– to italian motorcyclists that think they are entitled to break all driving laws and actually feel they are good drivers and are unjustly misunderstood, VA FAN CULO;
– to italian mothers that dress their small daughters like hookers, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that never sit in their assigned places on Eurostar trains, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that speak just to show off their rheotoric but really don’t have anything to say, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that speak, read, think too much about soccer, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that pretend to be more that what they are, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that know how to say many smart quotes in latin or greek, but don’t know how to say anything original, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that suck up to the powerful and stab in the back everyone else, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that spend enormous amounts of money for their looks, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that think they are “hot”, VA FAN CULO;
– to young and not so young italian women that have tatoos on their lower backs, VA FAN CULO;
– to italian women that only wear very low waist pants, VA FAN CULO;
– to young and not so young italian narcisistic men that are worse than than their female counter parts, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that still don’t know a second language, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that read stupid magazines but have never read a novel, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that think they are special because they come from a country that contributed many times to world heritage but in fact the only thing that is special about them is that they shame Italy, VA FAN CULO!

Beppe Grillo attacks September 21, 2007

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, internet, italian blogs, news, politics.
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Since everybody seems to have an opinion about Beppe Grillo these days, I cannot subtract myself from joining the crowd.  So here are some thoughts, which I put together after seeing on public italian TV a talk-show,  “Annozero”. Annozero is anchored by Michele Santoro (see picture below), formerly one of those journalists and comedians who Berlusconi fired from public television with his famous “bulgarian edict”, and who has now returned to his original job after winning a lawsuit against his employer. Yesterday Santoro broadcast parts of the show Grillo organized in Piazza Maggiore, in the heart of Bologna, on September 8th – the “Vaffa-day” -, and discussed the event and the ensuing reactions in the italian political arena.

If you do not have an idea of what I am talking about, let me set the stage by telling you who Beppe Grillo is. Beppe is an italian comedian who once used to base many of his comical jokes on italian politicians and their misdemeanors. He was banned from television a long time ago, after his satire bit the flesh of the Socialist party led by the late Bettino Craxi (on the right in the picture below with his longtime friend Silvio Berlusconi), then Prime Minister, in one of his television shows. The pun was something like this:

Craxi and Martelli – his protege’ – are in China for a visit. Martelli asks his master in disbelief: “So here everybody’s a socialist? But then whom can they steal money from?“.

Despite the ban by Craxi and his socialist longa manus, Grillo continued to work as a comedian, adding to the focus on corrupt politicians other themes like civil battles against pollution, exploitation of the workforce, the corrupt financiary system and its frauds, and similar issues.

Then, a few years ago Beppe opened a blog. It was at once a huge success, and the site is now visited more than a million times per month (according to www.technorati.com the site is the 12th blog worldwide). 

One of the battles Grillo has been fighting most ardently is directed against politicians and the system of parties in Italy – which after 1992 and the resulting scandals dubbed “Tangentopoli” (bribery town) have not really changed for better. He spotted 25 members of the italian parliament who have been sentenced for misdemeanors or crimes, and still sit there and collect a hefty paycheck at the end of the month. Grillo proposes a law which would

  1. prevent any citizen found guilty by a court of law to sit in the parliament;
  2. prevent members of the parliament from being elected more than twice;
  3. enforce that candidates to the parliament are chosen directly by the citizens with their vote, as opposed to today’s practice of being determined by party leaders.

Beppe proceeded to organize a “V-day” on September 8th, when events were scheduled in gatherings throughout Italy to collect signatures (50,000 are needed to propose a law to the parliament). He held a show in Bologna, and 300,000 signatures were actually collected – not more, for lack of forms.

By the way, the meaning of “V-day” is “vaffanculo-day”, where vaffanculo is a quite common vulgar exclamation one directs to anybody who pisses one off. Literally, “vaffanculo” is an invitation to sodomy: “go f*** in the ***”, sometimes followed by a suggestion on who should be the recipient of the courtesy. Quite insulting, but Italy is a country where the widespread use of trivialities has strongly reduced their effect: as an example, you can easily hear that very word spelled out from a driver to a police agent who stops the car in the traffic, without the offender being dragged to jail in handcuffs. And recently, in fact, a court of law has determined that the word “vaffanculo” is usable without fear of being sued.

The aftermath of the V-day in these past two weeks has been a huge debate. Most politicians and party leaders were wary of directly attacking the comedian, fearing that their declarations would backfire negatively in their public image, and they responded by claiming Grillo’s attacks were mostly directed against their opponents. Instead, a large troop of journalists was sent forward to engage battle. Grillo was accused by the press of preparing a descent in the arena with a political movement, despite his repeated confirmation of his loathe for the current system and the will to stay where he is. He was also accused of insulting the memory of Marco Biagi, an economist who helped write a controversial law on job regulations, who was killed by red brigatists in 2002 – but Grillo had never actually attacked directly Biagi, although he had strongly criticized the outcome of the law.  Grillo answered the accusation with several resounding “vaffanculo”, and was not deterred.

Nothing too upsetting. Lately, however, the debate has turned bad. Mauro Mazza, the director of the public TV channel “RAI 2”, went on air during lunchtime news with the following message:

“We heard him even now, he proceeds with insults, heavy accusations, bad words. It is the Beppe Grillo phenomenon, started not by accident with a colossal ‘f*** ***’ sent to several recipients. Many have talked of neo-qualunquism, maybe even to exorcise the danger. But what would happen if one day, out of the blue, a madman, a deranged person, heard those accusations against Jack or Jane and suddenly, on a bad day, pulled the trigger ? Once in Italy there were those so-called “bad masters” who pointed as an enemy to a Police inspector, a reporter, a judge, and it happened, unfortunately, that somebody, crazy or not, went and pulled the trigger, and sometimes killed. Nowadays we do not have any more, fortunately, good or bad masters. We have evidently some sorcerer’s apprentice, though. History -it is said- is once tragic, but when it repeats itself it becomes a farce. But what would happen if there was a reversed path, from farce to tragedy? What would happen if one morning, a bad morning, somebody heard these insults, these bad words against Jack or Jane, suddenly pulled the trigger ?”

Original version:

“Lo abbiamo sentito anche adesso, va avanti a colpi di insulti, di accuse pesantissime, di male parole. E’ il fenomeno Beppe Grillo, non a caso nato con un colossale ‘vaffa’ indirizzato con più destinazioni, con più destinatari. Molti hanno parlato di neoqualunquismo, forse anche per provare a esorcizzare il pericolo.
Ma cosa accadrebbe se un giorno all’improvviso, un pazzo, uno squilibrato, ascoltate quelle accuse contro Tizio o Caio all’improvviso, un brutto mattino premesse il grilletto? Una volta in Italia c’erano i cosiddetti ‘cattivi maestri’ che additavano come nemico un commissario di Polizia, un giornalista, un magistrato e accadeva, purtroppo, che qualcuno pazzo o meno andasse, premesse il grilletto e qualche volta uccidesse. Oggi non abbiamo più, per fortuna, maestri cattivi né buoni.
Abbiamo qualche apprendista stregone, evidentemente. La Storia – si dice – una volta tragica quando concede repliche diventa una farsa. Ma cosa accadrebbe se ci fosse un percorso inverso, dalla farsa alla tragedia?
Cosa accadrebbe se un mattino, un brutto mattino, qualcuno, ascoltati quegli insulti, quelle male parole contro Tizio o contro Caio, premesse un grilletto all’improvviso?”

I think this is way over the top. The director of a public network using prime time on the daily news to accuse a comedian of prodding criminal acts is covering himself of ridicule, in my humble opinion. I am not denying that he might, in some universe, turn out one day to have actually been a prophet: but unless Grillo says “that person should be shot in the butt”, you cannot denounce him of instigating a terrorist act. 

The funniest thing, to me, is the reaction of Grillo to the intervention of Mazza. He reacted by saying “maybe one day somebody will, in fact, shoot Mazza in the butt”. It takes some sang froid, but I guess Mazza got what he aimed for.   

Where was I ? September 11, 2007

Posted by dorigo in italian blogs, news, personal.
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I know some of you are wondering what the heck is going on with me. Now, five days without posting is really uncommon for this site… On the other hand, it does happen to just have nothing accidental to report, and to be stuck in the middle of a long post which needs to be refined before publication. That is what is going on right now.

More in detail, I spent the weekend chasing galaxies and planetary nebulas! In fact, last Sunday was a very clear night in the alps, and I had a very rich observing session. I will have something more to say about that later. Other than that, I have been busy with the mounting wave of work left behind during the summer break. And I am not nearly through it yet!

As a matter of fact, I saw and let slip away quite a few interesting posting topics. The pope making really awkward declarations on how our civilized world should think in terms of freedom of research, the connected news about the way british scientists have circumvented research on human embryos, the new declarations of the Bush administration on how the Iraq situation is improving… Boy, one can’t take a break from this world, there just is so much going on out there!

One thing to single out: the vaffa-day Beppe Grillo, one of the most well-known bloggers on the planet (I think his is the twelfth most read blog overall) has organized a series of events in Italy to collect signatures for a law that would prevent politicians convicted of misdemeanor or crimes to sit in our parliament (there’s 25 of them there!). He needed 50,000 signatures, he collected 300,000. Bravo Beppe!