Reflections on a black mirror


If I ever write a novel “Reflections on a black mirror” would be a tempting title. In the meantime it is the typical title of an entry in the “gr-qc” bulletin, which comes out Monday to Friday, holidays permitting, and lets you find out what’s up in the world of “General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology” research.

You would think it is too much of an arcane world to be interesting to the uninitiated and you wouldn’t be wrong. However this research is done by men and women that live in the same world as we do. It just so happens then that sometimes researchers express esoteric concepts by appealing to common language and expressions from the pop culture.  Here you are a few peculiar entries in this sense for your own surprise and amusement: I’d like them to serve as an entry door for you to this branch of physics. Pick the most tempting title and go read the relative abstract; then feel free to ask me to expand on your favorite one.

To conclude, I’d like to show you an example that best encapsulates the take-away message from this post: science is an open business, where even gravity is still up for a deeper explanation! The example I chose is among the plainest I could find. It relates on the nature of gravity, and uses many topical expressions of the research world, such as: perspective, concordance, implications, evidence, approach, attempts, problem, solution, (mis)understanding, alternative. This is how the research community let the Universe speak through gravitational waves, this is how humanity will get to the conquests of tomorrow, both scientific and technological: with such brainstorming as the one daily hosted on the “gr-qc” bulletin.

Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When a new virus appears … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When Einstein wants to be vindicated … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When climate seems to go crazy … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When a new planet seems to be lurking in the Solar System … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you need robots to enter nuclear plants … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When antibiotics are not effective anymore … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you want to know how red the Red Planet is … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you need a machine that cracks numbers quicker than you can … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you want to optimize traffic … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you need safer cars … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you want energy for the future … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you need clean water for the poor … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you want to reinforce the bones of the elderly … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you need to communicate faster … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you want light rays to scan your body … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you need particle beams to cure your tumors … Who you gonna call? Researchers!



Review paper on the physics of proton therapy:

The Atlantic highlights some cool health-based spinoffs:

High Speed Camera Used In Space Adapted To Scan Skin Cells

wi-fi and astronomy:

Eye-tracking technology developed for ISS research now being used in laser eye surgery

This is how the camera in your phone came to be.  The invention and early history of the CCD

To teachers

A few days separate us from The Global Teacher Prize 2016 Winner Announcement and I’ve discovered this personal endorsement from Stephen Hawking:

His words are very passionate and the account personal; these two excerpts have touched me in a particularly deep way:

“ … for each mind to achieve its full potential, it needs a spark. The spark of enquiry, excitement, and passion. Often that spark comes from a teacher. [ … ]

I wasn’t the easiest person to teach: I was slow to learn to read and my handwriting was untidy. But at the age of 14, my teacher, Dikran Tahta, showed me how to harness my energy and encouraged me to think creatively about Maths. He made me wonder, he made me curious, he opened up new worlds to me … that is what a great teacher can do. ”

To teachers!!!

Outrageous Outreach

You might have noticed that I’m still very excited about the discovery of gravitational waves … judging from the media I’m not the only one. This week gravitational waves hit the Late Show with Stephen Colbert 

This was not the first time science made it to tv shows: the Hubble Space Telescope was featured on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon: and not just once but twice!

Astronomy is so cool that it can be featured on the covers of music albums, such as Joy Divison’s or Megadeth’s:

Megadeth “Super Collider” album cover

Other than in music, science can end up in poems: you can find examples here on my blog or on Sam Illingworth’s
A master of outrageous outreach is certainly Stephen Hawking: he’s a regular at the Big Bang Theory tv show, has played quantum chess with actor Paul Rudd and, last but not least, appeared in holographic form to console a teenager saddened by One Direction’s split.


In another post I told you about CERN being featured at Rio Carnival but science looks good on dresses, too.
Make sure you check all of Shenova’s work as well as Startorialist‘s.
A welcome incursion in people’s everyday life is the installation of cosmic rays detector in one of Naples metro stations by the Italian Narional Institute for Nuclear Physics. 
The term Outrageous Outreach was coined in this paper about unconventional ways of bringing science to the wide public by meeting people where they are on the basis of their interests; a similar approach is the one I dubbed “Marketing Strategy” in my white paper about how to popularize science today

Warped Space

Have I celebrated the discovery of gravitational waves too much?
I can’t see straight! 😉

I have forgotten to write down where this pic was taken: if you have relative info, please tell me.

I have forgotten to write down where this pic was taken: if you have relative info, please tell me.



This is a simulation of what  you’d see if a black hole passed in front of a building such as this one: I think it is a research institute in Germany but I’m not sure, so whatever info you may have please share it.


While I’m at it, let me post the coolest car plate I’ve found so far: it belongs to one of LIGO scientists but you’re welcome to get inspiration by her.


Why so genius?

My apologies for insisting with Einstein’s stuff but the celebrations for the discovery of gravitational waves have to go on!

Take a look at this search on eBay for t-shirt with Einstein as a subject: this is so awesome! Special thanks to Andrea for stirring me to this! If you guys know of other cool stuff like this, just whistle!

On a related note, LISA Pathfinder is going great!

Onde gravitazionali e scimmie parlanti

<< C’era una scimmia … è stata seduta sulle mie spalle per 40 anni. E mi sussurrava all’orecchio:

“Che cavolo ne sai che funzionerà? Ti sei portato appresso un sacco di gente … pensa se non dovesse funzionare mai!”

Adesso se n’è andata … all’improvviso.
Ora mi sento leggero. >>

Così parlava l’altro giorno in un’intervista Rainer Weiss, padre dell’esperimento LIGO che ha rilevato le onde gravitazionali per la prima volta nella storia dell’umanità. Il Professor Weiss ha scritto l’articolo in cui dava corpo al concetto di LIGO nel 1972, quarantaquattro anni fa … 44!

Ora ci dice che durante tutto questo tempo ha sofferto e dubitato come facciamo noi nella nostra quotidianità … lui, che probabilmente a ottobre vincerà il Nobel per la Fisica, ha uno spirito che vibra sulle nostre stesse corde, di dubbio e timore di non farcela …

Grazie, Rai, per aver avuto il coraggio di aprire il tuo cuore! Grazie per esserti rivelato così … umano.