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Neutrino Telescopes XIII March 8, 2009

Posted by dorigo in astronomy, cosmology, news, personal, physics, science, travel.
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The conference “Neutrino Telescopes” has arrived at its XIII edition. It is a very nicely organized workshop, held in Venice every year towards the end of the winter or the start of the spring. For me it is especially pleasing to attend, since the venue, Palazzo Franchetti (see picture below) is located at a ten minute walk from my home: a nice change from my usual hour-long commute with Padova by train.

This year the conference will start on Tuesday, March 10th, and will last until Friday. I will be blogging from there, hopefully describing some new results heard in the several interesting talks that have been scheduled. Let me mention only a few of the talks, pasted from the program:

  • D. Meloni (University of Roma Tre)
    CP Violation in Neutrino Physics and New Physics
  • K. Hoffman (University of Maryland)
    AMANDA and IceCube Results
  • S. Enomoto (Tohoku University)
    Using Neutrinos to study the Earth
  • D.F. Cowen (Penn State University)
    The Physics Potential of IceCube’s Deep Core Sub-Detector
  • S. Katsanevas (Université de Paris 7)
    Toward a European Megaton Neutrino Observatory
  • E. Lisi (INFN, Bari)
    Core-Collapse Supernovae: When Neutrinos get to know Each
  • G. Altarelli (University of Roma Tre & CERN)
    Recent Developments of Models of Neutrino Mixing
  • M. Mezzetto (INFN, Padova)
    Next Challenge in Neutrino Physics: the θ13 Angle
  • M. Cirelli (IPhT-CEA, Saclay)
    PAMELA, ATIC and Dark Matter

The conference will close with a round table: here are the participants:

Chair: N. Cabibbo (University of Roma “La Sapienza”)
B. Barish (CALTECH)
L. Maiani (CNR)
V.A. Matveev (INR of RAS, Moscow)
H. Minakata (Tokyo Metropolitan University)
P.J. Oddone (FNAL)
R. Petronzio (INFN, Roma)
C. Rubbia (CERN)
M. Spiro (CEA, Saclay)
A. Suzuki (KEK)

Needless to say, I look forward to a very interesting week!

Davide for President! December 18, 2008

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, italian blogs, news, personal, politics.
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I know, most of my readers come here for the physics, and most of them are not interested in italian politics. Why, I myself am rather disgusted by it -mostly because of the laws that our government is passing, which are coherently going in the direction of creating a classist society.

But politics is not bad by itself. Rather, it is a noble occupation, which unfortunately often corrupts itself, becoming malpractice. But I do believe that there are good and bad politicians: not all are corrupt, not all are there to do their private interests.

Next spring italians will be called to renew the local administration in many cities and provinces. And I salute with enthusiasm the candidacy of Davide Zoggia (see picture, right) for President of the Province of Venice. Davide is a friend, but he most of all is one of those rare politicians who are moved solely by the will to improve our society for the benefit of all. He has led the Province of Venice excellently in the last four years, obtaining the respect of his enemies and managing well the difficult reality of Venice and its hinterland.

So, this blog supports Davide Zoggia. Please visit his blog if you want to know more about him and his projects.

Exceptional acqua alta foreseen in Venice again December 10, 2008

Posted by dorigo in astronomy, news, science.
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Nine days ago Venice withstood the assault of an exceptional surge of sea water, the fourth highest in recent history. Water reached the level of +1.56 meters above average sea level at 11.15AM, flooding most of Venice’s streets with two feet of water. I reported about the event in real time here.

Now, conditions are again favourable for another flooding. Below you can see the forecast of the water level for the next few days.

The red line is the astronomical tide (which does not consider weather conditions such as atmospheric pressure, rain, winds, and coherent oscillation of the water of the Adriatic sea basin), while the blue line is the actual forecast. As you can see, there are two distinct floodings predicted to surge above 1.30 m above sea level. 1.30 m is not too rare, but 1.40 m is (fortunately) something that only happens every four or five years. Or at least, that is what used to happen in the past.

I again point to a couple of web cams from where you will be able to follow the events in real time, if you are that nosy:

Update: if you look at the first webcam above right now (early morning of 12/10), you can see S.Marco square flooded by a minor peak in the tide.

Update -12/10, 7PM: the forecast for 12/12 now says +1.55m above sea level, which would just be 1cm below the fourth highest tide ever experienced in recent history (the one of December 1st 2008). Check it below:

Watch the acqua alta in Venice today! December 1, 2008

Posted by dorigo in news, personal, science, travel.
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Oh, I love the feeling.

I was woken up this morning at 6.30AM by the sirens, but then forgot about it and tried to concentrate on a last half hour of sleep. Then I got up, showered, checked my mailbox, had a quick coffee, and got ready to go to work. Then, upon getting down the stairs into the flooded atrium, I remembered. Acqua alta!

Venice is constantly under siege, particularly between September and December. Low barometric pressure, heavy rainfalls, a south-eastern wind, or the phenomenon of “Sesse” -a coherent oscillation of the waters of the Adriatic Sea basin- these are all possible sources of the phenomenon called “acqua alta”, a sea tide which surpasses +80cm above average sea level. That is enough to flood part of the streets, in their lowest points. When the tide is predicted to get above 110cm over average sea level, Venice inhabitants get an early warning with high-pitch sirens which they cannot ignore -and which usually wake them up, since the highest tides usually occur in the morning hours. And when the water is predicted to get to 130cm above sea level, as this morning, or above that level, well -things get ugly.

130cm above sea level, as will happen in about three hours in the Venice lagoon (see graph above), is enough to flood 80% of the town, and make unusable some of the highways created for pedestrians with wooden gangways (see picture below). A few commercial business will get in trouble because water will soar above their protective bulkheads. Some places will be basically unreachable unless you wear thigh-high protections -or swim.

It should be fun for an outsider to visit Venice today. The city will appear under siege. People wandering around, trying to figure out how to go from A to B; public transportation making detours to avoid low bridges; water a bit everywhere; and a general feeling of disconcert. If you want to have a peek, there are webcams around. Try this one, looking down to Piazza San Marco (a place which is only 75cm above sea level, so it is already flooded right now):

S.Marco square in real time

UPDATE:Another webcam showing a canal in Cannaregio, with the water almost closing in on the passage under a bridge.

You can find many others around… Have fun.

UPDATE: the water is now predicted to get to 140cm above sea level, which configures itself as a real flood, one of the twenty or thirty highest in Venice’s history. For a comparison, the highest ever measured was 194cm on November 4th, 1966 -but that was a real catastrophe. Check the updated graph below:

UPDATE: the tide should be peaking right now (at noon, so a bit later than expected), and the level it has reached is the fourth highest, ever: 156 centimeters above average sea level. That means about two feet of water over most of the streets of the city.

The new bridge by Calatrava in Venice October 1, 2008

Posted by dorigo in news, travel.
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Two weeks ago, after several years of straggling with respect to the original due date, the “Constitution Bridge” designed by Santiago Calatrava, and built on the Grand Canal between Piazzale Roma and the train Station, was finally opened to the public. The construction was ridden by many problems, and the initial cost almost increased by a factor of four, to a respectable 16 million euros. However, I have to say it is a really, really beautiful bridge! Below, some pictures I stole from an italian newspaper.

The tormented story is not over, apparently. First of all, the project includes a means of transportation for the walking-impaired, which has not been installed yet. This caused a protest which prevented the inauguration ceremony from taking place as planned upon opening the bridge to the public: Italy’s president Giorgio Napolitano had originally been invited, but the ceremony was waived after being threatened by a demonstrative action by a group supporting the rights of people with disabilities. So the bridge was opened without any ceremony, an oddity which is after all not so bad news: Napolitano deserves everybody’s respect, and his presence had a symbolic meaning (he has always been and still is a strong defender of the italian Constitution, which is more and more threatened by the present government); but the usual depressing show of politicians cutting ribbons and smiling on TV, and then proceeding with praising themselves, has for once been avoided.

Second, the bridge appears unsecure. Many citizens have reported missing a step and falling, in the places where the pace of the steps halves (a few points along the arch): they expected a step, found none, and fell down. The direction of construction work has assured they will quickly solve the problem, although from what I understand this will mean that some of the very nice glass steps will be replaced by ones made of stone.

Third, blind men might risk running into the large blocks of marble set at the feet of the stairs, on each side. These have a protruding, sharp edge (it is the only part of the bridge I do not like, indeed). Again, this will be solved soon, by applying some suitable floor markings around the obstacles.

Despite all these troubles, I must say that the area has been greatly improved both in functionality and in the aesthetics. First of all, the bridge allows for a quick commute from the train station to the buses: what was once a 12′ detour takes now less than five minutes. This also eases the congestion of boats carrying people across the grand canal. The bridge provides also a revitalization to an area next to the train station which had been left in disuse -rumors have it that a big building just across the bridge, next to the train station, will become a large mall. Finally, the bridge itself becomes a meeting point. The very architecture of the construction, with a center wider than the entrances, creates room for people who desire to linger around or have a look from a vantage point at the most beautiful town in the world.