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13 — 06.2011 Science for everyone

13 — 06.2011

Oxygen is an idea by Enel, to promote the dissemination of scientific thought and dialogue.

150 years of energy, science and technology Filoteo Albertini // Edoardo Amaldi // Riccardo Arnò // Gianpaolo Bellini // Carlo Bernardini // Gilberto Bernardini // Luigi Bezzera // Giulio Bizzozero // Gaetano Bonelli // Francesco Borgomeo // Plinio Bringhenti // Francesco Brioschi // Bartolomeo Cabella // Giuseppe Calogero // Mario Capecchi // Giovanni Caselli // Francesco Celani // Giuseppe Colombo // Umberto Colombo // Bruno Coppi // Alessandro Cruto // Luigi De Cristoforis // Renato Dulbecco // Enrico Fermi // Galileo Ferraris // Luigi Galvani // Riccardo Giacconi // Giuseppe Gigli // Francesco Giordani // Camillo Golgi // Felice Ippolito // Rita Levi Montalcini // Salvatore Luria // Ettore Majorana // Franco Malerba // Innocenzo Manzetti // Guglielmo Marconi // Leopoldo Massimilla // Enrico Mattei // Giuseppe Mercalli // Antonio Meucci // Riccardo Moretti // Angelo Moriondo // Giulio Natta // Camillo Olivetti // Antonio Pacinotti // Mario Pannunzio // Luigi Paris // Carlo Perego // Bruno Pontecorvo // Giuliano Preparata // Giorgio Quazza // Tullio Regge // Bruno Rossi // Ernesto Rossi // Carlo Rubbia // Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli // Angelo Secchi // Emilio Segré // Mario Silvestri // Alessandro Volta // Antonino Zichichi //


028 – 033 Intervista a Carlo Bernardini

078 – 079

Energia per l’Italia: la paura di cambiare

La rete di Giovanni Minoli

di Pino Buongiorno 080 – 081 Intervista a Ugo Nespolo

034 – 037

Elettricità: una grande idea

L’energia dell’arte di Simone Arcagni

di Gennaro De Michele 082 – 083

006 – 008 Editoriale di Paolo Andrea Colombo 010 – 013

Eccellenza scientifica italiana: 1861-1910 014 – 019 Intervista a Parag Khanna

038 – 041

Innovare per (lo) sport

Eccellenza scientifica italiana: 1911-1960

di Massimiliano Mascolo 084 – 085 Passepartout

042 – 047

Una società elettrica: innovazioni tecnologiche e rivoluzioni sociali alla luce dei brevetti industriali di Vittorio Marchis

Geopolitica e fonti energetiche: passato, presente e futuro di Nicola Nosengo

048 – 051

020 – 025

052 – 053

Scienza ed energia in Italia: una storia sinergica

056 – 059

Eccellenza scientifica italiana: 1961-2011

Grandi opere italiane nel mondo 086 – 089

060 – 067 Photoreport

Rebus d’archivio di Ilaria Turba

Ogni cosa è illuminata: fotografia, cinema, radio, televisione di Simone Arcagni

Storia di un oggetto

068 – 073

di Davide Coero Borga

La ricerca avanzata di domani? È Made in Italy

090 – 093

Felice Ippolito: scienziato, intellettuale e manager

di Alessandra Viola

di Tommaso Pincio

074 – 075

di Valerio Castronovo

di Marco Cattaneo

Energia dalla natura

094 – 095 Oxygen versus CO2

026 – 027 Photoreport

054 – 055

di Chiara Tonelli

Geotermia: un primato italiano

L’italianità di Enrico Mattei

076 – 077 Connect the dots

di Giuseppe Accorinti

E = mc150

Il futuro non è più quello di una volta

150 anni sempre più caldi. E i prossimi? 096 – 127 English version


Oxygen 2007/2011 13 — 06.2011 La scienza per tutti

150 anni di energia, scienza e innovazione Filoteo Albertini // edoArdo AmAldi // riccArdo Arnò // GiAnpAlo bellini // cArlo bernArdini // Gilberto bernArdini // luiGi bezzerA // Giulio bizzozero // GAetAno bonelli // FrAncesco borGomeo //plinio brinGhenti // FrAncesco brioschi // bArtolomeo cAbellA // Giuseppe cAloGero // mArio cApecchi // GiovAnni cAselli // FrAncesco celAni // Giuseppe colombo // umberto colombo // bruno coppi // AlessAndro cruto // luiGi decristoForis // renAto dulbecco // enrico Fermi // GAlileo FerrAris // luiGi GAlvAni // riccArdo GiAcconi // Giuseppe GiGli // FrAncesco GiordAni // cAmillo GolGi // Felice ippolito // ritA levi montAlcini // sAlvAtore luriA // ettore mAjorAnA // FrAnco mAlerbA // innocenzo mAnzetti // GuGlielmo mArconi // leopoldo mAssimillA // enrico mAttei // Giuseppe mercAlli // Antonio meucci // riccArdo moretti // AnGelo moriondo // Giulio nAttA // cAmillo olivetti // Antonio pAcinotti // mArio pAnnunzio // luiGi pAris // cArlo pereGo // bruno pontecorvo // GiuliAno prepArAtA // GiorGio QuAzzA // tullio reGGe // bruno rossi // ernesto rossi // cArlo rubbiA // GiovAnni virGinio schiApArelli // AnGelo secchi // emilio seGré // mArio silvestri // AlessAndro voltA // Antonino zichichi //

immagine di copertina © studiofluo

Oxygen nasce da un’idea di Enel, per promuovere la diffusione del pensiero e del dialogo scientifico.

Andrio Abero, Zhores Alferov, Enrico Alleva, Colin Anderson, Paola Antonelli, Antonio Badini, Roberto Bagnoli, Andrea Bajani, Pablo Balbontin, Philip Ball, Ugo Bardi, Paolo Barelli, Vincenzo Balzani, Roberto Battiston, Enrico Bellone, Carlo Bernardini, Tobias Bernhard, Michael Bevan, Piero Bevilacqua, Andrew Blum, Albino Claudio Bosio, Stewart Brand, Luigino Bruni, Giuseppe Bruzzaniti, Massimiano Bucchi, Pino Buongiorno, Tania Cagnotto, Michele Calcaterra, Paola Capatano, Carlo Carraro, Federico Casalegno, Stefano Caserini, Ilaria Catastini, Marco Cattaneo, Corrado Clini, Co+Life/ Stine Norden & Søren Rud, Elena Comelli, Ashley Cooper, Paolo Costa, George Coyne, Paul Crutzen, Brunello Cucinelli, Partha Dasgupta, Mario De Caro, Giulio De Leo, Michele De Lucchi, Ron Dembo, Gennaro De Michele, Peter Droege, Freeman Dyson, Daniel Egnéus, John Elkington,

Richard Ernst, Daniel Esty, Monica Fabris, Carlo Falciola, Francesco Ferrari, Paolo Ferri, Tim Flach, Stephen Frink, Antonio Galdo, Attilio Geroni, Enrico Giovannini, Marcos Gonzàlez, David Gross, Julia Guther, Søren Hermansen, Thomas P. Hughes, Jeffrey Inaba, Christian Kaiser, George Kell, Sir David King, Mervyn E. King, Hans Jurgen Köch, Charles Landry, David Lane, Manuela Lehnus, Johan Lehrer, Giovanni Lelli, François Lenoir, Jean Marc Lévy-Leblond, Ignazio Licata, Armin Linke, Giuseppe Longo, L. Hunter Lovins, Mindy Lubber, Tommaso Maccararo, Giovanni Malagò, Mark Maslin, Ian McEwan, John McNeill, Daniela Mecenate, Joel Meyerowitz, Paddy Mills, Marcella Miriello, Antonio Moccaldi, Carmen Monforte, Patrick Moore, Richard A. Muller, Nicola Nosengo, Helga Nowotny, Alexander Ochs, Robert Oerter, Alberto Oliverio, Sheila Olmstead, James Osborne, Rajendra K.

Pachauri, Mario Pagliaro, Francesco Paresce, Claudio Pasqualetto, Federica Pellegrini, Matteo Pericoli, Emanuele Perugini, Telmo Pievani, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Viviana Poletti, Stefania Prestigiacomo, Giovanni Previdi, Filippo Preziosi, Marco Rainò, Jorgen Randers, Carlo Ratti, Henri Revol, Marco Ricotti, Sergio Risaliti, Kevin Roberts, Lew Robertson, Kim Stanley Robinson, Alexis Rosenfeld, John Ross, Marina Rossi, Jeffrey D. Sachs, Gerge Saliba, Tomàs Saraceno, Saskia Sassen, Steven Shapin, Clay Shirky, Uberto Siola, Craig N. Smith, Antonio Sofi, Leena Srivastava, Francesco Starace, Robert Stavins, Bruce Sterling, Stephen Tindale, Chicco Testa, Mario Tozzi, Andrea Vaccari, Nick Veasey, Jules Verne, Umberto Veronesi, Marta Vincenzi, Alessandra Viola, Mathis Wackernagel, Gabrielle Walker, Elin Williams, Changhua Wu, Kandeh K. Yumkella, Edoardo Zanchini, Carl Zimmer.

direttore responsabile Gianluca Comin

direttore editoriale Vittorio Bo

coordinamento editoriale Giorgio Gianotto

comitato scientifico

Luca Di Nardo Paolo Iammatteo Dina Zanieri

Enrico Alleva presidente

managing editor

Giulio Ballio Roberto Cingolani Paolo Andrea Colombo Fulvio Conti Derrick De Kerckhove Niles Eldredge Paola Girdinio Helga Nowotny Telmo Pievani Francesco Profumo Carlo Rizzuto Robert Stavins Umberto Veronesi

Stefano Milano

art direction e impaginazione

rivista trimestrale edita da Codice Edizioni presidente Vittorio Bo

studiofluo

ricerca iconografica studiofluo

stampa Officine Grafiche Artistiche Grafart, Venaria (Torino)

collaboratori Simone Arcagni Davide Coero Borga Pino Buongiorno Elisa Frisaldi Nicola Nosengo Francesco Rossa Alessandra Viola

distribuzione esclusiva per l’Italia

traduzioni

promozione

Laura Culver Gail McDowell

Istituto Geografico DeAgostini spa

Messaggerie Libri spa t 800 804 900

sede legale, direzione, pubblicità e amministrazione Oxygen c/o Codice Edizioni via Giuseppe Pomba 17 10123 Torino t +39 011 197 00 579 f +39 011 197 00 582 oxygen@codiceedizioni.it www.codiceedizioni.it/ oxygen www.enel.com/oxygen ©Codice Edizioni. Tutti i diritti di riproduzione e traduzione degli articoli pubblicati sono riservati.


Contributors

Giuseppe Accorinti

Valerio Castronovo

Marco Cattaneo

Gennaro De Michele

Vittorio Marchis

Giovanni Minoli

Tommaso Pincio

Ilaria Turba

He joined Eni in the commercial sector in 1956, and already in 1960 was appointed manager by Enrico Mattei, who two years later appointed him to be in charge of coordinating the company Agip Commerciale in Africa: Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali and Upper Volta. In 1978, he became the Italian general sales manager of Agip Petroli, where he was managing director in 1981, and later, vice president and chief executive officer abroad. In addition, since 1993, he has been the president of the Enrico Mattei School. He left the Agip group in 1996. In 2006, he published the book When Mattei Was the Energy Company, I Was There.

He teaches contemporary history at the University of Turin and is the editor of the science and history magazine “Prometheus.” He edited the Italian edition of the Cambridge Economic History (1978-1993), the History of the World Economy (19962001) and coordinated (with E. Castelnuovo) the work Modern Europe 1700-1992 (1987-1993). He has published, among others, Legacy of the Twentieth Century (2001), History of a Bank (2003), The Adventure of European Unity. A Challenge with History and the Future (2004), The Fears of the Italians (2004) and Economic History of Italy (2006).

A physicist, he has worked with newspapers (“Il Giorno,” “La Repubblica “) and magazines (“Airone,” “Meridian,” “Cosmopolitan”) and produced reports that have appeared in national and international journals. He has published several books, of both science writing and travel writing. He is the director of “Brain & Mind” and “Le Scienze,” the Italian edition of “Scientific American,” the most prestigious science magazine in the world. Since 2010, he has been the editor of “National Geographic Italy.”

Formerly the head of Research and Development Policies of Enel’s Engineering and Innovation Division, he is a member of the Advisory Council of the European Union’s Technology Platform for the Zero Emission Fossil Fuel Power Plants and of the IEA’s (International Energy Agency) Clean Coal Science Group, as well as General Secretary of the IFRF International Flame Research Foundation. He is the author of over 200 published works and 11 patents. He has received several awards, including the “Philip Morris Prize for Scientific and Technologic Research,” the “Industry and Environment Prize” from the Ministry of Productive Activities and the “Innovazione Amica dell’Ambiente” (literally, “environment-friendly innovation”) award from Legambiente and Bocconi University. In early 2011, he founded ejase, a consulting firm that deals with research, development and industrial innovation.

He teaches history of technology, history of Italian industry and history of material culture at the Polytechnic Institute of Turin, where he also directs the museum and historical documentation center. He has written hundreds of scientific articles and nine books. For some years now, he has been performing a show called Autopsies of machines (washing machines, bicycles, typewriters, vacuum cleaners, etc.) to describe the relationship between man and technology in a highly original way. Due to be published soon is his book One Hundred and Fifty (Years of) Italian Inventions (Codice edizioni, 2011).

He joined Rai television in 1972, becoming one of its most prolific executives as a writer and producer of programs. After 10 years acting as manager of RaiDue, he became the executive director of that same network, of the Format structure and of RaiTre. As an author, in addition to Mixer, he created and produced dozens of programs that have entered the history of Italian TV, such as Quelli della notte (Those of the Night) and Blitz. In 2002, he became the director of Rai Educational and in 2009, director of the Rai History and Rai School channels. In 2010, he was appointed coordinator of the Rai structure in charge of programming for the 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy and launched Citizen Report, the first broadcast of participatory journalism ever made by Rai.

He is a writer, an avid science fiction fan and an editorial columnist for “Rolling Stone” and “Il Venerdì/ la Repubblica.” Among his many books, Einaudi has published A Love from Another World (2002), The Girl Who Wasn’t Her (2005) and Cinacittà (2008). He is also the author of The Aliens. In which it is told how and why the aliens have reached us (2006), an investigation of how the hypothesis of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations has become one of the great myths of modern times. His website is www.tommasopincio.com.

She is an independent author who uses photography, video and new media projects involving experimentation and visual media. The main topics of her career are identity, memory and the relationship between the present and collective imagination, which she deals with by using a working method of field research in constant dialogue with the subjects and topics represented. Designated one of the 100 most interesting photographers under 30 by World Press Photo in 2005, her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions, festivals and Italian and international publications. Her latest projects include: The children of others (2008), MetropoliTANA (2008) and the installation and video performance I don’t know how to knit (2010).

Carlo Bernardini Renowned physicist and professor emeritus at Rome’s La Sapienza University, he was a member of the executive board of the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics, as well as director of “Sapere.” He is also well known for his work in popular science (his books include, Contare e raccontare. Dialogo sulle due culture, which he wrote with Tullio De Mauro, and Fisica vissuta, Codice Edizioni, 2006).

Paolo Andrea Colombo He is Enel’s president from April 2011. He graduated in business administration from the University Luigi Bocconi in Milan, where he teaches accounting and financial statements and is a board member of Mediaset, Interbanca and Eni. He is also on the Audit Committee for Aviva Life, Sirti, Moratti Sapa and Crédit Agricole Assicurazioni - Italy. Colombo is the owner, with Arnaldo Borghesi, of Borghesi Colombo & Associates, a consulting firm specializing in corporate finance transactions, including tax and business consultancy for extraordinary transactions and strategic advice and corporate governance.

Parag Khanna Included in the listing by “Esquire” of the 75 most influential people of the planet, after having worked for the World Economic Forum, Parag Khanna currently directs the Global Governance Initiative on behalf of the New America Foundation and is one of the foreign policy advisers for Barack Obama. His books include The Three Empires and the recent How to Run the World - Charting a Course to the Next Renaissance.

Massimiliano Mascolo As a sports journalist, he was correspondent of the newspaper “La Gazzetta dello Sport” for several years and in 1990 he began working with the sports editorial staff of TG1, where he remained for eight years before moving to Rai Sport, of which he is currently the managing editor. Basketball commentator for Rai Sport, he has reported on three editions of the Olympics, World and European soccer championships, World Track and Field Championships and various swimming, cycling, Nordic skiing and basketball events.

Ugo Nespolo The beginning of his career coincided with the advent of Pop Art, but in the following years he became the protagonist of the conceptual art and Arte Povera movements. In the seventies, Nespolo appropriated another means of communication: experimental cinema, which he has never abandoned. In the eighties, he was in the United States and the New York scene featured in his production of that period. He is the author of numerous advertising campaigns, sets, costumes and video-themes. In 1996, he was appointed artistic director of Richard Ginori ceramics. Museums and galleries, public and private spaces around the world vie for his creations and have dedicated prestigious one-man shows to him. Between 2009 and 2010, his works were presented in more than 50 events and exhibitions. Nespolo lives and works in Turin.

Chiara Tonelli Professor of Genetics at the University of Milan, she is president of the council of graduate courses in industrial and environmental biotechnology. She is a member of EMBO (European Molecular Biology Organisation), the board of EPSO (European Plant Science Organisation) and a member of the Group for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries and Biotechnology of the European Commission. She was a member of the advisory board of the CNR for biological and medical sciences and of the technical-scientific committee of the Ministry for the Environment for bio-safety. She directs the Laboratory of Plant Molecular Genetics at the Department of Bio-molecular Sciences and Biotechnology. She is the author of several research projects funded by Italian and international institutions. She is the author of numerous scientific publications and the books What Are Genetically Modified Organisms (with Umberto Veronesi) and From Gnat to Man, a Close Relationship (with Edoardo Boncinelli).


Editoriale

by Paolo Andrea Colombo Chairman of Enel

Electricity, more than any other of the scientific discoveries, is the one that has changed the daily lives of families and businesses the most, and it is the solution that has had the greatest impact on improving the quality of life over the last 150 years. The contribution of the Italian genius is well known: some of the most significant stages of the electric revolution, that has changed the face of our cities and the way of life and of producing for billions of people, bear the signature of one of our compatriots, from Galvani and Volta to Pacinotti and Galileo Ferraris, just to name the most famous. From the very first studies to the experiments and then to its contemporary applications, electricity has been at the core of the economic and social progress in Italy, and is an area of research and application where our nation has achieved excellence on an international level. The electricity revolution, which begins in New York in 1882 with the first power plant in operation in the world, continues the following year with the opening in Milan of the second plant in the world. Since then, Italian electricity has never ceased to grow, accompanying and supporting the development of the country and contributing to technological developments in the industry worldwide. In the beginning, engineers and scientists find the force of water to be the resource for supplying the nascent Italian industrial system. Between 1898 and 1900, the two largest hydroelectric power plants in Europe were built, giving rise to a professionalism that we have exported around the world. In 1904 in Larderello, in Tu-

scany, the first light bulbs powered by jets of natural steam from the earth were turned on. And even today, Italy is among the major geothermal producers, with clean technology and renewable energy that we are exporting all over the world, from the highlands of Turkey to the deserts of Utah. The two world wars slowed down the progress of the industry, but it was precisely due to the development of the electricity network and the extremely rapid reconstruction of the hydro dams and the entry into operation of the first thermal and nuclear power stations that Italy finds the energy to support the work of reconstruction. On the threshold of the “economic boom”, one million and 700,000 people are still living without electricity; some islands are completely excluded from electrical service and the differences between the north and south, between rural and mountainous areas, on the one hand, and cities on the other, hinder the homogeneous development of the country. In 1962, the nationalization of 1,270 local utility companies gives rise to the founding of Enel, known as the National Electricity Board at the time, and it is the protagonist of an exceptional work of electrification, bringing light even to the most remote farmhouse. As with what had happened in Europe in the previous decade when the creation of CECA and Euratom paved the way for the continental economic unity, likewise the nationalization of Italian electricity created the basis for the country’s social and industrial unification. Over the next decade, the 247 kilometers of 380 kV lines increase more than tenfold to over 2,800 km, creating a vast network of national

transmission and strengthening the interconnections with other countries. Domestic consumption of energy increases and the national electric system favors the growth of a dense network of small and medium-sized companies, the connective tissue of the industrial system of our country to date. The “Italian miracle” is hungry for energy; thermal and nuclear industries exceed hydropower and, once again, Italy leads the international development in the sector. In fact, it is our country that builds the first large-scale fossil fuel power plants, to reduce costs and optimize production, and – a fact that is worth remembering more than ever today – in 1964, we were the third largest nuclear power in the world. The oil crisis of the seventies requires reflection by all governments and the search for practical solutions to the problem of dependence on imported energy resources. Enel proposes a plan for significant investments in nuclear and coal, promoting the first awareness campaigns on intelligent consumption and building the first solar and wind power plants, respectively in 1981 and 1984, the result of cutting-edge research on the new renewable sources. The eighties mark a new challenge: the innovation which until then had characterized the industrial aspects of the electricity sector, the network and systems, is expanded to the relationship with the customers and the first “interactive” services for consumption readings are tested. The issue of the environment also begins to attract more and more attention from the media and citizens. Enel interprets this new awareness by initiating a comprehensive plan for the renovation of the country’s generation

parks, minimizing their environmental impact. With the nineties, comes the advent of the privatization of the electricity sector and its progressive liberalization with the development of a competitive market also beyond national borders. Enel, which is still a monopoly at the beginning of the decade, is forced to give up a significant proportion of its production capacity and distribution networks in major cities to promote the growth of competitors, many of whom, however, are large foreign companies that are still state-controlled. Listed on the stock exchange in the late nineties in what is still the largest initial public offering of the European equity market, Enel initially pursues the path of multi-utility so as to pursue growth, and then, at the beginning of the new millennium, concentrates on its core business of the production, distribution and sale of electricity and gas, starting an internationalization process by turning it into a multinational group, present today in 40 countries on four continents. International expansion, among other things, leads to the possibility of bringing the excellence acquired by Enel in Italy to the rest of the world, particularly in the field of renewable energy and the remote management of networks and meters, and at the same time, making profiles of excellence for foreign companies a common factor - for example, such as the design and operation of nuclear power plants - achieving significant synergies on the economic and management level and an overall enrichment of the patrimony of the Group’s know-how. The most tangible example of this circulation of knowledge is the the electronic meter developed

007


008

by Enel, an Italian patent that marks a real revolution in relations between the producers and consumers of electricity and which is entering the homes of our customers in Spain right in these months. With the large-scale application of the “digital meter”, installed for more than 30 million customers across Italy, and in the near future, for 12 million customers in Spain, we have been the first in the world to take the first step towards a new paradigm of network: the smart grids, intelligent electricity networks that can carry data, integrate renewable energy sources, develop electric mobility, and make consumers active participants in the system, able to self-produce and choose the rate best suited to them. Enel and Italy are at the forefront of this field and lead the European projects for the innovation of the networks that extend to computer science and home automation. Over the past ten years, the commitment to innovation at the level of production has continued: with the construction of the world’s first hydrogen power plant on an industrial scale in Fusina (Venice), the first solar thermal power plant integrated with a combined cycle in Priolo Gargallo (Syracuse), the first high-efficiency clean coal plant in Civitavecchia (Rome) and the first pilot plant for the capture and sequestration of carbon dioxide (CCS, Carbon Capture and Storage) in Brindisi. In terms of renewable energy, Enel has created IPO as of late last year - one of the largest companies in the sector: Enel Green Power. A company that is successfully bringing the Italian tradition in this field to the rest of the world. For example, through participation in the Desertec project, it has started up business on the southern shores

of the Mediterranean. A strategic area for our activities, where the wide availability of renewable natural resources, population growth and the constant shift in policy in recent months certainly provide an important opportunity to avail the expertise of our group for promoting a sustainable development process. Today, therefore, we are a large multinational group involved worldwide in promoting compatible growth and open to the contribution of the different cultures and traditions. But we must never forget that our roots are in Italy. This is where we have gained the experience, the culture and the values that have allowed us to grow successfully in four different continents. Although every moment in Italian history has been marked by a profound evolution of the electricity industry, often at the forefront on a global scale, one element has remained constant: Enel’s commitment in finding the best solutions for economic and social development throughout the country, the enterprises that produce the wealth and the people who are the engine. With respect for the environment and the communities that host our operations. The same commitment will be ensured in the years ahead everywhere we operate, with a momentous challenge: to overcome the poverty of the billions of people who will find electricity to be a valuable support, while safeguarding the environment and making the best use of the resources that nature offers us. A complex and fascinating challenge that we can win by making use of those resources of talent and creativity that have allowed our country to pursue an orderly and sustainable growth during its first 150 years of unitary history.

SONO I VOSTRI SOGNI A DARCI ENERGIA.

ENERGIA PER AVERE IL SOLE ANCHE DI NOTTE.

Realizzare. È questa

la parola che ha sempre guidato la nostra energia: realizzare i progetti che nascono dalle vostre aspirazioni. Così siamo partiti dal sogno di un’energia pulita e inesauribile e abbiamo realizzato, in Sicilia, Archimede, un impianto solare termodinamico che produce energia anche di notte o quando il sole non c’è. Innovando, abbiamo reso possibile un benessere più sostenibile perché abbiamo sempre creduto in un’energia inarrestabile. Come i vostri sogni.

enel.com


Italian scientific excellence

1861-1910

a cura di Francesco Rossa

1863

1864

1866

1867

1870

1873

1876

1880

1884

1885

Angelo Secchi inaugurates the method of stellar classification on the basis of spectral type.

Antonio Pacinotti presents an industrial application of his ring device (known as “Pacinotti’s ring”) in an electromagnetic machine used both as an electric motor and a generator of current (a special type of the so-called dynamo).

Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli shows that meteor showers are due to the remains of the passage of comets.

The Geological Committee (later the National Geological Survey) is established to undertake the task of preparing the geological map of Italy.

The Frejus tunnel, the first tunnel and longest railway passage dug through the Alps, is completed, thanks to the initiative of Sommeiller, Grandis e Grattoni, Work had begun in 1857.

Camillo Golgi discovers “black reaction,” a method of staining nerve tissues based on the use of chromium salts and silver, with which it is possible to observe the contours and the development of cell extensions for the first time in detail.

Cesare Lombroso publishes The Criminal Man, setting out the theory of the atavistic origins of delinquency. The work was revised and reprinted several times, achieving world fame for the anthropologist from Verona.

Alessandro Cruto makes a light bulb with a filament that has a positive coefficient of resistance (that increases with the increase in temperature). It is the birth of the incandescent bulb.

In Turin, Angelo Moriondo patents a machine for espresso coffee, which will be perfected by Luigi Bezzera in 1901.

Galileo Ferraris produces the induction motor with a rotating magnetic field; this is the first (electric) motor using alternating current; the device can also be used as an electrical energy meter.

Innocenzo Manzetti builds the first steam road vehicle.

Luigi De Cristoforis invents the carburetor.

1883 The first power plant is built in Milan to power the La Scala opera house. Giulio Bizzozero discovers the function of blood platelets.


oxygen 13 – 06.2011

Eccellenza scientifica italiana 1861–1910

012

1886

1889

1895

1897

1899

1904

1907

1908

1909

The world’s first hydroelectric power plant opens in Tivoli (Rome).

Giuseppe Peano applies symbolic logic to the basic principles of mathematics.

Guglielmo Marconi carries out his first experiments with wireless telegraphy; by means of electromagnetic waves, signals are sent between two points at a distance of 1.5 km: this is the invention of the radio.

The Italian Physics Society is founded.

Fiat is founded in Turin.

In Larderello the first lights bulbs are turned on that use the heat of the Earth: geothermal energy.

The Italian Society for the Advancement of Science is founded.

The first typewriter (the M1) is created by Camillo Olivetti in the factory he founded in Ivrea that same year.

Marconi receives the Nobel Prize for Physics for his “wireless telegraphy” experiments.

Giuseppe Mercalli makes the first seismic map of the Italian territory. The death of Antonio Meucci, inventor of the telephone.

1898 Battista Grassi, Amico Bignami e Giuseppe Bastianelli show that the Anopheles mosquito is the carrier of human malaria.

Camillo Golgi describes the intracellular apparatus that bears his name.

Filoteo Albertini patents the kinetograph, a camera for the filming and projection of motion pictures.

Guglielmo Marconi transmits radio waves from Cornwall, England: the signals are received in Newfoundland.

1906

1909

The Nobel Prize for Medicine is awarded to Camillo Golgi.

Maria Montessori publishes the results of her anthropological research and educational psychology in two works entitled Pedagogical Anthropology e The Montessori Method, which spread immediately throughout Europe and the United States.

1902 1898

1894

1901

Giuseppe Mercalli introduces the seismic scale that bears his name.

> continued on page 038


Interview with Parag Khanna

Geopolitics and energy sources: past, present and future

by Nicola Nosengo works by Matthew Cusick

Parag Khanna, “globalized intellectual” and director of the Global Governance Initiative of the New America Foundation, tells Oxygen what role competition for energy sources has played in shaping geographical maps over the last 150 years. And what role it will play in the future that awaits us... It is hard to find a better example of a “globalized intellectual.” Parag Khanna, the current director of the Global Governance Initiative of the New America Foundation (a think tank that includes some of the best politicaleconomic analysts in Washington and the surrounding area) and an adviser to Barack Obama during his presidential campaign, has spent his entire career (fulminant: he is only 34) astride several worlds. Born in Uttar Pradesh in India, educated in London, Berlin and Washington and a U.S. citizen for years, he worked as a consultant for the Council on Foreign Relations and the World Economic Forum, as well as for the American defense during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written influential books of great success, including The Three Empires (2009) and the recent How to Run the World – Charting a Course to the Next Renaissance. His specialty, supported by an encyclopedic historical and economic culture and a natural tendency to look at the world from “other” points of view (neither too American nor too European), is the study of how the geopolitical balance will be changing in the globalized world, now an orphan of the Cold War. We asked him what role the competition for energy sources has played in shaping geographical maps over the last 150 years, those that coincide with the history of the Unification of Italy. And what role it will play in the future that awaits us.

In recent decades, we have become accustomed to thinking of energy sources, especially oil, as the most important factor in determining the geopolitical balance. But in 1861 (the year Italy became a nation), the oil age had yet to begin. What factors was the geopolitical competition based on back then? The second half of the nineteenth century was still a period of great growth for the colonial empires. The oil age had not yet started and we can say that it was still the era of territory. What the big countries like Prussia, England, France and, shortly after its birth, Italy itself, sought were territorial expansion and control of trade routes. The big European powers competed for territories in Africa and Asia, and it was whoever controlled the largest territories and populations that would be ensured dominion on the geopolitical chessboard. But soon afterward, the oil age began. What part did the large reserves of the ‘black gold’ play in ensuring that the twentieth century quickly became the “American century”? A key part. In particular, the fact that the First World War took place just a few years after the discovery of large oil fields in Texas and Alaska. The availability of oil, which at that time meant energy at virtually no cost, played a key role in the victory of the United States and its allies in the Great War. The United States also remained one of the world’s largest producers of oil until the Second World War and they easily converted the availability of that resource into industrial power. Only after

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Intervista a Parag Khanna

We must not make the mistake of seeing the future as simply an extension of the past.

the Second World War did the balance of oil production shift more to other countries, but by then, the dominant position of the U.S. had been established. It is a constant of the more cynical views, such as the various versions of the conspiracy theories, that see oil as the secret motivation behind all the geopolitical choices, especially when it comes to U.S. foreign policy: the two wars in Iraq and policy toward the Middle East in general. In the near future, with oil resources destined to gradually become more and more scarce, will oil be the driving force of geopolitics even more than before? No, I think that is a myopic and out-

dated vision. We must not make the mistake of seeing the future as a simple extension of the past. To begin with, the oil market is much more sophisticated and balanced than how it is often depicted. The idea that the U.S. is dependent on Saudi oil, for example, is simply a myth. In fact, the U.S. imports most of its energy from countries within the Western bloc, while it is China, Korea and Japan that import most of their oil from the Middle East. And then there are many sources of energy in the world, and oil is only one of them. The truth is that, at this time, in the world there is an overproduction of natural gas, so much so that there is a lack of the necessary infrastructures to distribute it. Nuclear power will go on,

despite what happened in Japan. And there are alternative energies. In short, to control the oil is not and never will be enough to control the world.

cheaper in some areas, wind energy in others, and so on. Inasmuch as China can increase its production, it cannot control the market.

Of course, renewable energy will also be part of the future. It is an area in which China is known to be investing heavily, to the point that it is already a major supplier of photovoltaic energy, for example. Is there any risk that control of renewable energy will be added to the overwhelming power of China, which is already evident in many fields? I really doubt it. Renewable energy is a sector that has a global demand that is bound to increase greatly and continuously. It is also a sector that will need local solutions: solar energy will be

In depicting the world of tomorrow, you seem to attach great importance to “interface” countries, those that straddle multiple worlds, both historically and geographically... That is true, and I am thinking particularly of Turkey, North African countries and Kazakhstan. These are countries that are placing their bets on several areas and so they are the ones who will benefit most from globalization, which gives them a whole new role. Central Asian countries for example, the socalled “stans,” were created by Stalin

with the explicit intention that they were to be meaningless countries. He mixed ethnic groups so that they would be weak and could be more easily controlled. But after they came into being, their oil and gas reserves were discovered. Now the oil and gas pipelines under construction are their ticket to the globalized world. For example, Azerbaijan was a forgotten corner of the Caucasus, but with the pipeline linking it to Turkey, it has been repositioned as the extreme frontier of the West. Or Kazakhstan, which did not even have a name in Soviet times and was simply considered southern Siberia. Now it is becoming a key country for geopolitics because it is the starting point for the pipeline to Russia, on the one hand,

and to China, on the other. As for Turkey, the corridor passing through its territory now has about 20% of the European energy supply. The debate on Turkey’s entrance in the EU has been overtaken by events, in a way, because Turkey is already part of a Euro-Turkish superpower. In your latest book, you describe a tri-polar world where there are three powers competing for political, commercial, and ideological influence on emerging countries. Those three powers are the United States, China and the European Union. Why not Russia, which many in both the U.S. and Europe see and fear as a re-emerging superpower?


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Intervista a Parag Khanna

At this time in the world there is an overproduction of natural gas, so much so that there is a lack of the necessary infrastructures to distribute it. Nuclear power will go on, despite what happened in Japan. And there are alternative energies. In short, to control the oil is not and never will be enough to control the world.

Because we have to distinguish today from yesterday. In the short term, it is true that Russia is politically stable, has a growing economy and controls large reserves of oil and gas, which allows it to raise its voice with its neighbors. But in the long term, things will change. The population is declining dramatically, at a rate of about 500,000 people a year, due to emigration and low birth rates. In addition, there is a lot of Chinese immigration in the Russian territory, especially in the eastern part. The result is that there are areas that are officially Russian on the map, but which are actually becoming Chinese. Finally, the cost of oil and gas does not necessarily need to remain high in future. Instead, what place does your native India have in this picture? India is competing with China for dominance in Asia, and some time ago, “The Economist� argued that, in the long run, it has the best chance because a democracy is able to draw more benefit from

economic growth. Does this argument convince you? Not at all. I find it a sterile argument based on typically Western theoretical considerations, without any real knowledge of how either India or China works. India may also be a democracy on paper but it is a disaster in practice. There is corruption everywhere, rampant unemployment, and above all, it does not have a strategy for its future, while China does and it is very clear. The idea that many Westerners have of China as a rigid society is simplistic. China is a vital and experimental country, where there are experiments of local democracy in the villages and meritocracy at all levels. The population is largely satisfied and it is obvious that this is so because China is making the largest and most rapid shift from poverty to wellbeing in human history. It is a country of very smart people, guided by a clear strategy and it will achieve its objectives. It is best that, in a sense, we get that through our heads.


Ilaria Turba Š

Science and energy in Italy: a synergistic history

by Valerio Castronovo

The route taken by Italy in the second half of the nineteenth century to pass from the steam age to that of electricity has arrived at another crucial stage today: in fact, the energy sector is both in the midst of a second technological revolution, with significant implications for the quality and way of life, and at the center of a new, complex, political-economic scenario.

In Italy, the interest in the applications of electricity in civil and industrial fields which had spread at the beginning of the nineteenth century after the invention of the voltaic pile (battery) by Alessandro Volta, gave rise to a fruitful series of studies and experiments at the Polytechnic Institutes of Turin and Milan, which were founded soon after national Unity, between 1862 and 1863, and had set up special courses in electronics. Equally valuable for the development of research and electronic instruments, were the contributions of pioneers and scientists such as Antonio Pacinotti (who, in 1860, had designed a device which proved essential to the realization of the first machine for generating current), Bartolomeo Cabella (who, in 1876, used a dynamo he had made himself for the first public use of electric lighting) and Galileo Ferraris (whose rotating field motor, which he discovered in 1885, provided a solution, which under many aspects

was perfect, to the problem of converting electrical energy into mechanical energy). In fact, in 1883, the day after the inauguration of the first power plant in New York, which was the work of Thomas Edison, a similar facility, the second in the world, began to operate in Milan at just a short distance from the cathedral, thanks to the initiative of Joseph Colombo and the organizing committee of an Italian company that was the licensee of the Edison patent, and therefore was named after the American inventor. Other plants were then activated within a short time in various locations around the country. The high cost of coal, which Italy lacked, made alternative sources of energy generation, such as hydroelectric power, convenient, thanks to the use of appropriate catchment areas in the valleys of the Alps and the Apennines. Thus, in the last fifteen years of the nineteenth century, around twenty corporations came into being;


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some of them proved to be long-lasting, as they were enlarged through successive processes of mergers or of primarily physiological concentrations, including abroad. The starting phase of this sector of activity, in and of itself, involved the use of huge amounts of capital, which was needed both for investments in patents and equipment and for the recruitment of technicians and skilled workers. The first alternate current (AC) line in the world with industrial characteristics was built in 1892 at the power plant in Tivoli, which held two other records: one for the transmission distance of more than 27 km; and one for the voltage that was adopted, equal to 5,000 volts. In that same period, between 1898 and 1900, two of the largest hydroelectric plants operating in Europe were built: one in Paderno d’Adda and the other in Vizzola, on the Ticino river. These and other achievements were instrumental both for the launching of the major basic and manufacturing industries in Italy and the incipient modernization of a number of public interest services, from lighting to urban transportation. So much so, that companies involved in the production and distribution of “white coal” (as hydroelectric power was called) played an increasingly important role at

Scienza ed energia in Italia: una storia sinergica

the summit of the national economy, gradually widening their field of activity until becoming, in some cases, so large that they covered entire regions and, thus, gave rise to a vast chain of complementary companies. So, in the early twenties, an oligopolistic system was formed, related to the major banks which, from that time on, characterized the disposition of the Italian electricity industry for four decades, until its nationalization in 1962. Moreover, it showed significant differences as to the prominence of the northern regions and the indicators of production and consumption of hydroelectric power: both for the significance that geothermal energy had in some central areas (such as in Tuscany and upper Lazio) and for the “patchy” discontinuity of hydroelectric plants in southern Italy and the islands. Overall, the Italian electrical system still consisted of an overwhelming prevalence of hydropower. And in this regard, by the time the major companies replaced foreign technologies (German, Swiss or French), they had acquired considerable ability both in the production of electromechanical components, cables and insulators, and in the construction of facilities (including pipelines, dams and power stations), some of which were also built abroad.

During the thirties, after the Great Depression of 1929, half of the Italian electricity system was managed by the State through the IRI (Institute for Industrial Reconstruction). And after the war ended, once the damage caused by the conflict had been rapidly repaired, public and private companies proceeded, in particular (thanks to the impetus of the Marshall Plan), in the development of thermal electric generation. This happened primarily in the central and southern regions in order to meet the growing global demand for energy, part of which was covered by a greater use of oil instead of coal and by the early development of electricity generation from nuclear plants. After the nationalization of the electricity industry in December 1962, the new State Agency (Enel) arranged to create a homogenous and unitary nation-wide system. And that meant a dual strategy: on the one hand, the integration of production activities into a coherent and functional structure from what had previously been dispersed locally or conducted in accordance with specific arrangements; and on the other, the development of the network interconnection and standardization of the power plants. This not only led to the total electrification of

the country, supplying numerous communities in the South that until then had been entirely without or partially lacking electricity, but also to the creation of large thermoelectric groups, the construction of new power plants, an increase in the unit levels of productivity and improved efficiency and service quality. This considerable progress was all the more important since it allowed the country to overcome the tremendous consequences of two oil-price shocks like those of 1973 and 1979. The technological changes that occurred later in the eighties, on the one hand, also created the conditions for Italy’s transition to the status of a society of information and communications, and on the other, combined to limit as much as possible the severe financial consequences determined by the referendum of 1987, because its outcome led to the closure of existent nuclear plants (which since 1964, had made Italy the third largest western country as to electro-nuclear power) and the blocking of production specializing in the relative equipment, devices and materials. Since the nineties, coinciding with the gradual liberalization of the market and in compliance with European Union directives, a new chapter in the energy sector has opened. After its finan-


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Scienza ed energia in Italia: una storia sinergica

Attitudini emerse negli ultimi anni fanno ben sperare che possano essere avviati a soluzione alcuni problemi, come un minor utilizzo del gas per la produzione di energia termoelettrica in modo da ridurre le forti importazioni dall’estero e un’incentivazione delle fonti rinnovabili secondo adeguate condizioni di economicità.

cial and administrative structure was partially privatized in December 1992, Enel has become a Group that is growing in size and potential at the international level, and can be found in more than twenty countries. And thanks to the considerable experience gained over time in the field of research and in the improvement of power plants, Italy has achieved one of the most efficient networks in the world because of lower costs for the transmission and distribution of electricity. In addition, it is also the first country in the world in which there has been widespread installation of digital meters, an essential component of the basic infrastructure for smart grids, the “smart” networks of the future, capable of allowing electric mobility and rational consumption, differentiating prices according to whether it is day or night and at certain times of day. These and other attitudes that have emerged in recent years bode well for solutions being undertaken to resolve some problems, such as using less gas for the production of thermoelectric power (now representing almost 75% of the national electricity production), in order to reduce hefty foreign imports, and incentives for the use of renewable sources with an appropriate cost condition.

Meanwhile, Enel, which has steadily acted to produce “clean” energy even from its coal-fired plants, has begun its return to nuclear power. This comeback has been made possible through the operation of various reactors in Slovakia and Spain and with an agreement with France’s EDF for the joint development of next-generation power plants, as well as the recovery of inhouse know-how needed to manage the related technologies through the work of specialists in engineering and in the development of new projects. And now, after the nuclear accident in Fukushima, it is waiting for the review of safety standards by the European Commission, prior to further investment plans. In conclusion, the route taken by our country in the second half of the nineteenth century to pass from the steam age to that of electricity has arrived at another crucial stage today. In fact, the energy sector is both in the midst of a second technological revolution, with significant implications for the quality and way of life, and at the center of a new, complex, politicaleconomic scenario, characterized on both the financial front and that of applied research by the “competitive coexistence” between the U.S. and Europe, as well as by developments in globalization.


Photoreport

Geothermal: an Italian record

photo by Roberto Caccuri

Larderello is a small town south of Volterra in the “Valley of the Devil,” called thus because of the presence of geysers that characterize the landscape and of the “putizze,” moon-colored areas without any vegetation, due to high soil temperatures. In this small town, light bulbs were lit for the first time ever (in 1904) by using energy produced from the heat of the Earth, and the first geothermal power plant, designed by Pliny Bringhenti, was built here in 1914. The exploitation of the Earth’s energy is, therefore, an Italian record and, after a century of experience in this area, today Italy is the world’s fifth largest manufacturer of geothermal energy.


Interview with Carlo Bernardini

Energy for Italy: the fear of change

by Pino Buongiorno

For 150 years, science and energy have been an essential binomial in Italy. Great scientists. Brilliant mathematicians. Distinguished physicists. Sensational discoveries. But also an all-Italian characteristic in the development of energy production: “There is fear of the new technologies just as soon as a minimal risk is felt.”

Carlo Bernardini, 81, physicist and emeritus professor at La Sapienza University of Rome, among the most active in the creation of the first storage ring for electrons and positrons and one of the most respected science communicators, smiles when he remembers what one of his teachers, Edoardo Amaldi, told him one day. “He said that he had carried out a blitz in the archives of the newspaper ‘Cor-

riere della Sera’ and that he had pulled out a huge number of articles from the beginning of the1900s - when the unification of Italy had already existed for 40 years - that spoke obsessively of the fear of electricity, with those famous signs that still remain in our collective memory: ‘Whoever touches these wires will die.’ It also explains the gap that has always existed between Italy and other European countries, where

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they developed much more technology than we did. In England, it had already been a century since Watt’s steam engine, while in Italy in 1880, the dominant fuel was firewood. At that time, consumption amounted to two million tons of oil equivalent (Mtoe).” “The development of energy is a story that is very little known and sometimes irresponsible,” says Professor Bernardini.

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Intervista a Carlo Bernardini

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Twenty years after the Unity, we were still cutting down trees when the rest of Europe had turned to coal. Why is that? The national production of coal was scarce. We imported a bit of it from the United Kingdom. Instead, we had quite a lot of rivers and even geysers, such as in Larderello, near Pisa. Therefore, we focused on hydropower and geothermal energy. The relationship between energy consumption and the GDP was still low and remained so until at least the end of World War II: 1/8 that of the United States, half that of France. The big leap came with the first economic miracle of the mid-fifties. What was the energy need at that time? It had jumped from 2 to 33.6 Mtoe. It was then that Italy also discovered oil. The mix was like this: 33.6% crude oil, 26.8% hydroelectric plus geothermal, 23.1% coal and lignite, 8.2% natural gas. Wood had fallen to 0.6%. The oil, however, was in the hands of the famous “Seven Sisters.” That was immediately a consortium

with supranational interests. A sort of a pre-James Bond Spectre? Exactly. They extracted fossil fuels but also took care of the markets, trying to keep competitors at bay. Until the advent of Enrico Mattei and the Suez crisis of 1956. The date is important. It was then that Mattei’s Eni began to conclude a series of agreements to make Italy more autonomous, with its own domestic production and from abroad. In the meantime, energy consumption was still growing exponentially: a good 51.5 Mtoe in 1960. The “seven sisters” were alarmed by the activism of Mattei, who was eliminated, and not by chance. There is no longer any doubt about this conspiracy. Eni, however, remained an active player and quite independent of “Spectre.” How did it manage to do so? Because, alongside oil, gas was starting to take over. Mattei had already begun to deal with Algeria and Russia.

Was there an energy policy or was everything entrusted to management by the State? The first energy plans were outlined then, but they were very uncertain. On the other hand, the big news of nuclear energy was developing, shaking up the whole sector. Here again, Italian scientists were the forerunners. In December 1942, Enrico Fermi activated the first nuclear reactor in Chicago. This event led to the first atomic bomb, but also to the exploration of civilian nuclear energy. The conference “Atoms for Peace” in 1955 sparked industrial interest. Thus, the Euratom was born and Italy joined forces, thanks to the urging of Edoardo Amaldi and Felice Ippolito, who had created the CNRN, an offshoot of the National Research Council dedicated exclusively to nuclear energy. What was Amaldi’s role in the history of national energy? The great physicist wanted all the latest technology to be used and he was

a vociferous supporter of nuclear energy. But he pushed for basic research. He was not fixed upon just one type of energy. This is where Felice Ippolito came into play because he, instead, had a precise goal: to make electricity become a public utility. In 1962, two events of enormous importance occurred. Enrico Mattei died in a “mysterious” airplane crash because the monopoly of the “seven sisters” could not tolerate the Italian intrusion. That same year, Enel came into being as the electricity supply agency of the State, putting an end to the hegemony of private producers. Also, Ippolito, who aspired to become the first President of Enel, was sidelined. By whom? I remember those conversations at my house as if it were today, when Ippolito says, “Think how lucky I am. Mattei lost his life. I haven’t, yet.” He was accused by the Socialist-Democratic Party Secretary, Joseph Saragat, and four parliamentary members of the Democratic Christian party, who really had it in for him.

What were the interests at stake? Primarily, several private companies producing electricity were in danger of disappearing. Didn’t they want Enel to be created? They strenuously objected, starting with the Edison company. The fact is that, even though Ippolito was vigorously defended by the Friends of the World, from Mario Pannunzio to Ernesto Rossi, he was brought to trial. Was it a mendacious accusation? Yes. I myself had a fierce fight with Luigi Preti, who sided with Saragat’s reasons. I will never get the firm belief out of my mind that Saragat received funding from the seven sisters to stop nuclear power. But Ippolito was convicted. To 11 years, for a crime that does not exist: international embezzlement. That is, he had been accused of paying taxes on the sale of the Ispra laboratory to Euratom by using the funds for financing the CNEN, the National Com-

mittee for Nuclear Energy. Of course, the president of that body was Emilio Colombo, not he. The bitter irony is that Ippolito was then pardoned by Saragat. He was released from prison after six years and I found him once again as my colleague at the University of Naples. Nuclear power, however, went on. Thanks to Amaldi. In 1963, the GCR Magnox nuclear plant began operation in Latina. The year after, the BWR plant in Garigliano. Subsequently, the central PWR in Trino Vercelli. Altogether, they produced 631 Mwe. Why did they decide to attack Ippolito and not Amaldi, too? Because Amaldi had international stature. If they had accused him, it would have drawn the protests of physicists around the world. Did he ever tell you he was afraid? No. Amaldi had a great political patron, Ugo La Malfa, who had established international relations.


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Was Italian technology considered to be avant-garde? The production chain was all made in Italy, thanks to Ansaldo’s industrial qualifications. There was also excellent research work, concentrated in the laboratory in Casaccia and the one in Frascati. 032

Did the demand continue to increase? In the early seventies, it had doubled: a good 120.3 Mtoe, of which 72.5% was met by oil. We paid 910 billion lire abroad at the time. Construction was begun on the fourth nuclear power plant in Caorso, which alone would produce 800 Mwe. To what extent did the oil shock of 1973 influence Italian energy policy? Italy and Japan turned out to be the countries that were affected the most. As for us, the energy bill passed from 5.5 trillion lire in 1974 to 19.73 trillion in 1980, to reach 30,000 trillion lire in the following year because of rising costs and the depreciated pound. People finally began to talk about overdependence on fossil fuels and a wiser energy mix. Drafted in 1975 and approved in 1977, the plan of then-Minister Carlo Donat Cattin expected to cover the need for 20,000 MWe with nuclear power. The cost of the nuclear kWh was estimated at 9 lire against the16.3 lire per kWh of thermo-electric power generation. On paper, 16 new 1000 MWe plants had already been authorized, beyond the four already operated by Enel. What was the energy policy in the eighties? The price of oil fluctuated all the time. Energy plans were made in 1981 and 1985. The first factions arose. Even though significant sections of the PCI (Italian Communist Party) had supported nuclear power, the left-wing made an environmentalist turnaround, using the weapon of fear to obtain consent. It

was 1986, the year of the Chernobyl disaster. Did extra-national interests play a role in this case, too? I think that Craxi’s Socialists, in the forefront of the anti-nuclear referendum in 1987, made purely electoral calculations. At that time, the Roman school of physics had assumed the technical leadership. I remember a violent confrontation on television with Amaldi calling Gianni Mattioli “stupid.” The opening of the nuclear power plant in Montalto di Castro took place in a particularly hostile climate. No nuclear. Gas was the new discovery. The engineers considered it a waste to build a gas-turbine power plant because it was expensive. But that was that. Even though it was still in operation, Caorso was closed down. At the time, new technologies were emerging: renewables, solar and wind power. But even in this case, there was a lot of hesitation. How do you explain that? We have been much slower than the Germans, in particular, who have produced high-performance photovoltaic materials. Was there a lack of stronger policy direction? There wasn’t any at all. Enel had also made a deviation, becoming a multiutility, even dealing in mobile phones. France played their game by selling a large amount of electricity produced from their nuclear power plants. In the end, Italy, too, was going to return to the atom. Had Chernobyl finally been forgotten? Not really, because when the tsunami hit the Fukushima nuclear power reactors in Japan, Italian nuclear power was blocked once again.

What will the energy mix be in the future? There will always be more gas and even oil, and, unfortunately, coal will come back, which worries me a lot because the surface is being depleted, and so they will go looking for it in depth. It is one of the most radioactive kinds of filth that exists because it is full of radon, like the kind found in Poland. Fortunately, China has decided to install 24 new nuclear power plants. If they had gone on using coal, the entire planet would have turned black. We started off with wood as the unifying factor of Italy. We have landed, 150 years later, at a mix that is a bit confused. This is a country that is adverse to cognizant technological development. Today, unfortunately, we are fully exposed as we navigate.


Electricity: a great idea

by Gennaro De Michele

In just over 150 years, the visionary scientists of a united Italy and their discoveries have contributed significantly to make electricity the most important energy source ever.

scriptographer by studiofluo

The story of how electricity has become a crucial energy source for mankind is compelling. If - as Tim O’Reilly says - “great ideas are like a locomotive driving a train that has to go where a lot of people want to go,” there is no doubt that electricity is a great idea. Many “drivers” have taken turns driving this train over the last 200 years: among them are some Italians who had the merit of making the train run along certain crucial tracts. Some of them lived right after or during the early years of the Unification of Italy, and in their own way, they helped shape the identity of the nation, if only for the prestige with which they endowed it. The modern history of electrical science began in Italy precisely with Galvani and Volta, who lived between 1700 and 1800. Galvani was a man of religion dedicated to science; his field was medicine but once he came across electrology by chance, he never left it. Volta, instead,

was an aristocrat from the Po valley who, in the wake of Galvani’s discoveries, devoted his life to the study of electrical phenomena. It all began when Galvani, a professor of anatomy at the University of Bologna, was working on the dissection of a frog and accidentally touched an electrically charged scalpel to its sciatic nerve: the animal, although dead, responded with a flinch just as if it were alive. An important turning point in his work came when he observed that similar contractions happened in the muscles of the frog when the amphibian was touched on one side with an uncharged conductor, while another placed on the opposite side of the frog was brought close, but without any contact, to an electrically charged machine. Simultaneously with the contraction of the muscles, a spark which was clearly an electrical discharge flew between the machine and the nearby conductor.

Galvani’s studies led to the invention of the battery, not by him - he believed electricity to be inseparable from the living body - but by Alessandro Volta, who was struck by the work of Galvani and repeated his experiments at the University of Pavia, leading to more discoveries. The first of these was contact potential, which is the tension that is created when two different metals are brought together and touch one another; it is still known today as the “Volta effect.” After his first scientific paper, which was written in Latin in the manner of the great men of science of the past, Volta was mainly concerned with the practical possibilities offered by the use of electricity and he made the electric battery in 1800: the first electric generator in the world able to produce constant amounts of electricity for a long period of time. A true revolution. The battery could deliver different amounts of electricity depending on the metals used, and to

define the criteria for the selection of these materials, Volta established three empirical laws that are still valid today and are called “Volta’s laws.” In 1794, he was awarded the Copley Medal by the Royal Society of London (equivalent to the Nobel Prize today), and then the Legion of Honor. But the greatest recognition came in 1881, when representatives of a United Italy were able to have the unit of measure of eletrical potential be named Volt , in honor of its son. After Volta, the development of electricity had a rapid acceleration in the technical sense due to the merits of two other Italians, Antonio Pacinotti and Galileo Ferraris. Pacinotti was the prototype of the patriotic scientist. Taking part in the Second War of Independence as a volunteer sergeant, in 1862 and with Italy united, he was appointed professor at the Technical Institute in Bologna; a few years later he became professor of physics technology


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at the University of Pisa. In the laboratory in Pisa, Pacinotti worked on the first machine capable of transforming mechanical energy into electrical energy; called “Pacinotti’s Ring,” it preceded the modern dynamo by some years. It was an iron O-ring (a sort of donut) around which several copper wires were wrapped, forming loops. Thanks to the effect discovered by Faraday, when the ring was rotated with a crank in a magnetic field produced by an ordinary magnet, it produced an appreciable current. In the first experiments, the current was unstable and discontinuous, with unpredictable and uncontrollable shocks; Pacinotti worked for months, and with an opportune arrangement of the copper coils and the introduction of inverters and sliding brushes, he managed to get a practically continuous current. In addition, his machine could also work as a motor, and if the wire winding through the brushes was fueled with a battery, the “donut” would turn by itself. Despite having invented a unique machine, the scientist from Pisa made the mistake of not patenting it. Pacinotti naively showed the drawings to a certain Zenobe Gramme, who filed the patent of the machine, realized its industrial development and made a fortune. In 1870, the coupling of the dynamo (the machine derived from Pacinotti’s ring) to the hydraulic turbine gave rise to the commercial production of electricity. And thus, on March 18, 1877, Piazza del Duomo in Milan was brightly lit with electric arc lamps and a little later (1883), the Theater of St. Radegund hosted the first thermal power plant in Europe. Then came Tivoli, with its hydroelectric plant that exploited the abundant waterfalls created by the Aniene river. At the turn of the century, with the creation of the first large-scale power plants in Paderno

Electricity: a great idea

d’Adda and Ticino Vizzola, and later, with the thermal power plant at Monte Martini in Rome, the Italian electrical industry was born, changing the physiognomy of the country. Now that the ability to produce abundant electricity had been achieved, what was needed was the development of modern engines that were robust, flexible and inexpensive, permitting the full exploitation of this new resource. Here too, the leap forward was made thanks to the genius of an Italian scientist: Galileo Ferraris, who, through fixed systems made of differently coupled coils and fed with alternating current, enabled the realization of modern engines. The acknowledged founder of electrical engineering, Ferraris devoted himself to the study of electromagnetism and in 1885, he was able to demonstrate to an amazed audience the existence of a rotating magnetic field generated by fixed coils: the development of modern asynchronous electric motors had been made possible. In the meantime, the electrical sciences generated other branches, first of all the one related to communication, with the triumph of the hapless protagonist Meucci and Guglielmo Marconi with the radio. But it is in the field of electricity generation that we find a giant of the same caliber as the pioneers we have mentioned: Enrico Fermi. Let us browse through his album of memories ... a phrase in code, “The Italian navigator has just landed in the New World.” Underneath, a place and a date: Chicago, December 2, 1943. And a photo: Albert Wattenberg as he uncorks a bottle of Chianti to celebrate the first 28 minutes of operation of the atomic pile. And now another picture: the one with the 250 tons of graphite blocks, serving as a moderator, that the Roman scientist had brought to Chicago from all over America and a sketch of the pile signed by all the

scientists who participated in the project. That date was a turning point in the history of Fermi, a history that had begun long ago when he was a young boy. Thanks to a friend of his father, Adolfo Amidei, Enrico became interested in physics and mathematics and he became an expert theoretician and a tenacious experimenter. The meeting with two great physicists, the mystic Bohr and Einstein, who took a shine to him, did not change his way of doing things. Fermi was a natural teacher and he needed disciples. Driven by this need, in the institute of physics in Rome on Via Panisperna, he founded a real school of nuclear physics, making it an international point of reference. His was a new way of doing research, based on friendship, continuous attendance, affection and a heartfelt work group. A unique way of being, far from a baronial concept of university teaching, which led him to the Nobel Prize when he was still very young and, when he was one of the directors of the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, making him the most beloved scientist of the group. The science historian Gerald Holton, in his famous book on scientific imagination, devotes an entire chapter to Fermi’s way of doing things. Wounded in his affections and dignity by NaziFascism, Fermi collaborated with determination and seriousness on the development of the atomic bomb and, with Teller, on the development of the H-bomb. He then promptly adhered to the call of Herbert Anderson: “Let us beware of any breach of our human and civil rights. The war is over. We are free again.” Since Fermi, there have been other great and sometimes unjustly forgotten scientists who have hoisted the banner of Italian science and technology in the energy sector. We must not forget Mario Silvestri and his

dream of Italian nuclear technology; Leopoldo Massimilla and his group of scientists in Naples studying combustion; Luigi Paris and his vision of high-voltage transmission; and George Quazza, who gave us a new way to manage the increasingly complex networks and electricity generation plants. With them, the figure of the electrical scientist began to change, from ‘Electrology” we moved on to electronics and telecommunications; from gas and coal we are moving on to the sun and wind; from fission to hot and cold fusion. The old distinctions have largely lost their meaning: the electrical energy distribution networks are managed with computer science; mathematical models are of general application; microelectronics has opened up new prospects for applications in all sectors; with nanotechnology, we will need to rewrite chemistry; and low-temperature fusion is tearing down the barriers between these disciplines of physics. All this thanks to the power and love of knowledge of many Italian scientists who will carry on, regardless. Thus, Giuliano Preparata invents a groundbreaking theory on low energy; Francesco Celani continues his experiments on the same subject in Frascati under the gaze of surprised Japanese professors; while Carlo Rubbia is trying to find a way to trap the Sun’s energy on Earth and an elderly Italian professor at MIT, Bruno Coppi, commutes between Boston and Rome in search of someone to help him achieve his dream of nuclear fusion. Enterprising machinists who want to carry this great idea of electricity ever onward, who are convinced that producing it in abundance in a way that is clean and cheap is actually a mission that is possible.


Italian scientific excellence

1911-1960

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1946

Riccardo Moretti makes a prototype of the radiotelephone.

Guglielmo Marconi promotes the idea of a radio telemetry to locate remote mobile vehicles and, in 1933, he proposes its creation for a group of Italian soldiers.

Corradino D’Ascanio registers the patent for the first helicopter.

Based on Pauli’s exclusion principle, Enrico Fermi processes the quantum statistics of electrons that can be extended to the case of identical particles with a half-integer spin, thereafter called “fermions.”

Ettore Majorana elaborates a theory of atomic nuclei, based on “exchange forces” between protons and neutrons (also called “Majorana forces”), a fundamental contribution to the birth of theoretical nuclear physics.

Emilio Segré, using radioactive substances, discovers the first artificially-produced chemical element: technetium (#43).

The National Institute of Geophysics and the National Institute of Advanced Mathematics are founded.

In Chicago, Enrico Fermi begins the construction of a natural uranium and graphite nuclear reactor and assembles the first atomic battery.

Marcello Conversi, Ettore Pancini and Oreste Piccioni carry out an experiment in Rome on the penetrating particles of cosmic radiation and discover an elementary particle hereinafter named “muon”: it is the birth of “highenergy physics.”

The first Vespa motorscooter is produced by Piaggio.

1913 The first geothermal power plant, designed by Plinio Bringhenti, begins operating in Larderello.

The Institute for Industrial Reconstruction (IRI) is established.

1923 The National Research Council (CNR); is established; its first president is the mathematician Vito Volterra. Operations start at the first plant for the synthesis of ammonia by Giacomo Fauser, introducing very innovative changes as compared to procedures used until then: “the Fauser process” will spread throughout the world.

1943

Antonio Bialetti conceives and makes the first Moka coffee-maker. 1938 1934 Umberto Nobile, makes the first crossing of the North Pole aboard the airship “Norge.” The ISTAT (Italian National Statistics Institute) is established.

The “Galileo Ferraris” National Electrotechnical Institute is founded.

The Nobel Prize for Physics is awarded to Enrico Fermi for “his demonstrations of the existence of new radioactive elements produced by irradiation with neutrons and the related discoveries of nuclear reactions caused by slow neutrons.”

Salvatore Luria, who moved to the United States in 1940 from Turin, along with Max Delbruck, experimentally demonstrates the spontaneous mutations in bacteria infected with phages and the possibility of permanent changes in the hereditary structure of the virus.


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1947

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1960

In Bristol, the Brazilian Cesare Lattes, the Englishman Cecil Frank Powell and Giuseppe Occhialini discover the particle called a “pion” (pi-meson).

At the University of St Louis, Rita Levi Montalcini starts her studies to detect the properties of normal and transformed cells to synthesize and release into the circulation a protein known as nerve growth factor (NGF).

The founding of the National Committee for Nuclear Research (CNRN), chaired by Francesco Giordani.

The International Congress of Genetics, for the first time in Italy, holds its 9th edition in Bellagio.

Ardito Desio leads an expedition in the Himalayas, leading to the conquest of K2: Desio will guide the subsequent geological-geophysical expeditions sponsored by the CNR in the Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindu Kush in 1962 and 1975.

The Olivetti company is associated with a project of the University of Pisa for the creation of a science computer; a project that stems from Enrico Fermi’s suggestion. Adriano Olivetti immediately senses the great potential of electronic computers.

The premio Nobel Prize for Medicine is awarded to Daniel Bovet.

The Nobel Prize for Physics is awarded to Emilio Segré.

The company NUCLIT creates the first research reactor in Italy in Ispra (Varese), now home to one of the institutes belonging to the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission.

The CNRN, in which part of the staff of NUCLIT is involved, is changed to become the National Committee for Nuclear Energy (CNEN).

1950 Bruno Pontecorvo moves to the Soviet Union, where he will conduct a series of studies and basic research on elementary particle physics and astrophysics.

1954

The National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN), is founded, and its presidency is entrusted to Gilberto Bernardini. An oil field is discovered in Cortemaggiore (Piacenza): the discovery provides an opportunity for Enrico Mattei, ENI’s chairman, to announce a prize for the best logo of a gasoline called “Supercortemaggiore.” The winning logo will be that of Joseph Guizzi, the six-legged dog which, from that time on, has been the AGIP symbol.

Giulio Natta discovers stereospecific polymerization: starting from simple molecules, he creates regular and predetermined polymers by synthesis. Until then, generally amorphous products were obtained, with physical and chemical properties that were not always reproducible. The founding of the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN), in which the Italian physicist Edoardo Amaldi actively participates. In Italy, the first television broadcasts begin.

Giovanni Jona-Lasinio and Yoishiro Nambu introduce the mechanism of “spontaneous symmetry breaking” in the context of elementary particle physics.

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An electric company: technological innovations and social revolutions in light of industrial patents The stories of innovation in the electrical industry are dotted with brilliant inventions, illusory dreams and the vicissitudes of international electrical engineering innovations that traverse the bulk of international patents submitted to the U.S. Patent Office. A demonstration of how Italian “genius “ has been able to propose innovative and surprising solutions, even in those years when Italy was taking its first steps toward industrialization.

di Vittorio Marchis

In 1991, an essay appeared in France signed by Alain Beltran and Patrice Carré and entitled La fée et la servante: la société française face à l’électricité, XIXe-XXe siècle (The fairy and the maid: French society confronts electricity, nineteenth-twentieth century). Beyond contexts that differ in many ways regarding what happened in France and in Italy between the 19th and the 20th centuries, there is no denying that in our country electricity played the dual role of “fairy” and “servant.” The eighteenth century had protagonists such as Giovanni Battista Beccaria, Luigi Galvani and Alessandro Volta; in the second half of the nineteenth century, the “electricians” are turned into “electrical engineers.” Pacinotti, Columbus and Ferraris have broken new ground for technology, and throughout the century what had been “chemical” now becomes “mechanical” and, finally, industrial. Popular imagination is also electrified, and emblematic of this was the patenting of the “brand-name” in the 1880s for “Amaro Elettrico” (Electric Bitters) by the Milanese firm of Benigno Zanini. On the evening of March 18, 1877, the first demonstration of electric lighting is achieved with a powerful arc lamp placed on top of a specially built tower in Piazza del Duomo in Milan. It is the beginning of a new era. In Milan in 1881, with the support of various banks, Giuseppe Colombo founds the Committee for Promoting Use of Electricity in Italy and upon his request, three years later the Edison Company is created and he becomes the managing director and then its President until 1921. For Carnival in 1882, the Scala opera house in Milan is illuminated, as are the arcades and shops in the building north of Piazza del Duomo on the occasion of their inauguration in November of that same year. In Milan on March 8th of the following year, the first electric power plant in

Europe starts functioning in the St. Radegund theater. It generates direct current (DC) electricity with the “Edison system.” In 1884, at the General Exhibition in Turin, the first experiment is made to transfer AC power long-distance (Lanzo-Turin, 40 km), decreeing the success of Gaulard and Gibbs’ transformer in Europe: the Chairman of the Board is Galileo Ferraris and a year later he invents the electric induction motor and founds the Italian Industrial Museum, a laboratory, and a school of electrical engineering. In 1886, at the Higher Technical Institute of Milan directed by Francesco Brioschi, the “Carlo Erba Electrotechnical Institute” is established. Electrical engineering courses are opened in Milan in 1887. That same year, the first Italian hydroelectric plant is built at Isoverde in the Apennines, exploiting the waters of the Gorzente river to provide energy to the city of Genoa. In 1892, the Ganz company of Budapest builds a power plant in Tivoli to give energy to Rome. Equipped with six generators, each with 230 kW of power, it exploits a 50-meter water drop of the Aniene river. Other major hydroelectric power stations are implemented in Paderno Adda (1898) and Vizzola on the Ticino (1901). The EMS (SME) - Southern Electricity Company is founded in 1899 by the Neapolitan lighting and gas company, the Banca Commerciale Italiana and the Società Franco Suisse of Geneva. In 1905, Luigi Orlando founds SELT, the LigurianTuscan electricity company - with the support of the industrial group Odero of Genoa and the Banca Commerciale Italiana - and Giuseppe Volpi founds SADE - Adriatic Society of Electricity, a private hydroelectric company. In 1914, 74% of the installed power is from water sources and, due to World War I, for its new energy needs Italy doubles production in its


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power generation sector. After the war, in 1918 the Pont Saint Martin Hydroelectric Company acquires control of the Aosta Valley Hydroelectric Company and changes the name to SIP Piedmont Hydroelectric Company, moving its headquarters to Turin. It is only in 1924, in Sardinia, that the artificial lake Omodeo - about 20 km long and up to three km wide and named after its inventor, the engineer Angelo Omodeo - is formed by the Santa Clara dam to solve the problem of drought and to electrify urban centers on the island. Ten years later, in 1934, at the behest of Professor Giancarlo Vallauri, the National Electrotechnical Institute is built in Turin and named after the great Galileo Ferraris. On December 6, 1962, Enel, the National Agency for Electricity, is established in order to pursue activities involving the production, import and export, transport, processing, distribution and sale of electricity, thus unifying the diverse systems of various power companies, which until then were con-

centrated in the SIP company in Piedmont; Edison in Lombardy; SADE in Veneto; SER in Lazio; SME in Campania, Puglia and Calabria; SGES in Sicily; and SES in Sardinia. If these brief introductory remarks summarize an industrial history of electricity, up until the 1960s, Italy is still divided into electric “regions” which in many ways duplicate the geography of pre-Unification Italy and there are different stories of innovation in the electricity sector depicting a variegated system full of ingenious inventions and illusory dreams. Electricity produced by electrochemical batteries also enters the picture with the telegraph and various inventors think of exploiting it to transmit signals not only for cablegrams but also to move industrial machinery. Gaetano Bonelli, an engineer and the director of the State electric telegraphs, had already submitted an unsuccessful application “for the introduction of a machine that produces bricks with ease” in 1850 and he plays a decisive role in the years be-

tween 1840 and 1850 in the divulgation of electric communications (media) in Piedmont and in Italy. In 1854, together with the Frenchman Philip Dupre, the owner of several silk factories in Turin and Piedmont, Bonelli founds a jointstock electro-weaving company. The heddles of the Jacquard looms are no longer controlled mechanically by needles and springs guided by perforated cardboard, but by electromagnets. In 1860, Bonelli obtains an English patent for an apparatus called the “Typo-Telegraph”: a tabletop device with a series of electrically controlled writing tips capable of copying messages onto copy paper. The “Bonelli’s Electric Telegraph Company” is created in 1861 by the American Henry Clark, owner of Bonelli’s patent, and in 1863 an experimental telegraph line is put into operation between Liverpool and Manchester in northern England, employing the Typo-Telegraph of Gaetano Bonelli, who had obtained Patent No. 861 in England in 1860. Gaetano Bonelli exhibits a “Typoelectric telegraph, ca-

pable of transmitting 500 messages hourly; four compositors’ tables for the above” at the International Exhibition in London in 1862, in Class 13 (“Philosophical instruments, and processes depending upon their use”). And it is precisely the international patents - for example, those registered in the U.S. Patent Office - that demonstrate how Italian “genius” is able to propose innovative and surprising solutions, even in the years when the country is just taking its first steps toward industrialization. On December 12, 1854, the above-mentioned Bonelli obtains Patent No. 12,050 from the U.S. Patent Office for an “Electrical Loom”: this is probably the second patent signed by an Italian that appears in this prestigious theater of international innovation. He had been preceded by Clement Masserano, who in 1851 had shown the world his “Menattrite Locomotive,” an animalpowered train locomotive. But to remain in the electricity sector, we will have to wait some years before Giovanni Caselli patents his “Telegraph-


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ic Apparatus” (U.S. Patent No. 37,563) in 1863. These were difficult years for Italy, which had only recently achieved unification, but we must not forget that, at that same time, the U.S. was having to deal with the civil war between Northerners and Southerners. Caselli’s machine is a device capable of transmitting remote images printed on a special support which is rendered electrically conductive: the archetype of the fax. In the1870s, in America, Antonio Meucci founds the Telettrofono Company and seeks to patent his invention, obtaining a caveat which he is unable to renew due to lack of money. And so in 1876, Alexander Graham Bell takes advantage of this and start divulging a telephone of his own invention. The fact remains that in 1880, another Italian, Francesco Rossetti, patents a device called “Magneto Electric Speaking Telephony” (U.S. Patent No. 235,173). In Italy, near Turin, the self-taught inventor Alexander Cruto, who assiduously attended the lessons of Galileo Ferraris, after having tried in

vain to produce an artificial diamond from carbon, develops key technologies for the manufacture of filaments for light bulbs that will give birth to an industry for the production of these innovative objects in a country that is opening up to the world of electricity. Even though his company will not have a bright future, crushed by the giants, Cruto arrives overseas in 1890 with a “Process for Making Incandescents” (U.S. Patent No. 425,917). Electricity is mainly used for electrochemical processes, but these are years when the thinking is that in the future there would be electric locomotion: in 1898, the car manufacturer Alfred Diatto patents an “Electric Tramway” (U.S. Patent No. 607,919) and Frederick Pescetto, who was directly involved in Alexander Cruto’s electrical adventures, patents the “Electric Accumulator” with absolutely innovative technologies (U.S. Patent No. 614,339 ). Galileo Ferraris, on the other hand, had always refused to patent his inventions because he con-

sidered them to be for the progress of mankind. In 1895, he goes to America, to Chicago, to attend an important conference on electrical engineering: he is accompanied by his young pupil Camillo Olivetti who, upon returning to Ivrea after this experience, begins his work as a contractor in the field of electrical equipment. But two years after Ferraris’ death in 1899, his successor at the Italian Industrial Museum, Richard Arnò, patents a “System of Electrical Distribution” (U.S. Patent No. 629,898) in which appears as inventor also his master’s name. Even though Camillo Olivetti’s activity will soon be oriented to typewriters, his electrical engineering origins will not be forgotten and in 1922 we find his patent for a “Magneto Electric Machine” (U.S. Patent No. 1,423. 141). Following the international vicissitudes of electrical engineering innovations over the subsequent years is very difficult because the amount of patents filed at the U.S. Patent Office grows exponentially every year. But it is worth remem-

bering, out of curiosity, that in 1954, Enzo Palmentola of Naples and Umberto Travagli of Rome patent a “Small Electric Motor Remote Controlled from a Position” for the Rivarossi company in Como: the world of model trains and toys is also waking up in an Italy that is commencing the years of its “economic miracle.” Then, electricity also changes its own scenarios and while, on the one hand, it leaves space for electronics - one of Pier Giorgio Perotto’s computer patents in 1969 is for Olivetti’s Program 101 -, on the other, designers and architects are bringing “Italian Style” across the Atlantic. In 1973, for Flos, Achille Castiglioni patents his “Parentheses” lamp with a “Vertically and Circularly Displaceable Support” (U.S. Patent No. 3,709,453) and in 1991, for the restructuring of the Lingotto, Renzo Piano registers his own patent for “Suspendable Adjustable Lighting Fixtures” (U.S. Patent Des. 321265). But these are only two examples in a world in continuous expansion.


The story of an object

by Davide Coero Borga

The light bulb, the radio, the fast electric train, the common rail. Four stories and four objects that summarize 150 years of Italian history in four words: innovation, automotive, design and research. Between industrial production and technology, tradition and future, power and energy. We are overwhelmed by increasingly new technologies. Brand new. Newness is such an explosive element that it makes each of our purchases depressing. The digital camera, the plasma TV, the laptop that we bought yesterday: they are already old today, if not yet dangerously Jurassic. Often, when it comes to technology we are facing a whole catalogue of objects that one can do without. Products that are fully included in the category of unnecessary but which, once tried, used and enjoyed, become indispensable. All of a sudden, we cannot do without them and we cannot get through the night without that mobile phone, that smart feature, that app. The objects that fill our lives write our history and redraw the boundaries of our actions. Those same objects are now the custodians of the history of Italy. 150 years of innovation, technology, ingenuity and mechanical design. Between industrial production and research, tradition and future.

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Ilaria Turba

Italy unites. An idea springs to mind...

In Turin, the first capital of the Kingdom, two young scholars meet: Alexander Cruto and Galileo Ferraris. They are peers. The first is the son of a modest mason; he is studying at a school of architecture and, at the same time, is following lessons at the Royal University. To his fellow citizens of Piossasco, he is “crazy” since he works days, studies at night, walks around with huge physics and chemistry books under his arm and builds devices at home that explode. In 1872, he opens a workshop to test the production of carbon, something he manages to do two years later with thin sheaths of graphite. He has a bizarre secret dream: to be able to crystallize carbon to produce diamonds. Galileo Ferraris is an assistant professor of physics at the Royal Italian Industrial Museum (the future Polytechnic Institute). In those years, he

holds a series of conferences on the progress of electronics and Thomas Edison’s experiments in his search for a filament of graphite that is suitable for incandescent light bulbs. Cruto is among those in attendance. At that time, along with Edison, there are many others contending for the primacy of the light bulb: Swan, Woodward and Hiram Maxim. They all have the same problem: platinum filaments would melt and carbon ones would break. In 1879, Edison, who had pocketed $300,000 in funding, presents his prototype; it is nothing but a piece of gimcrackery capable of producing a little bit of reddish light. Instead, Cruto manages to create a filament of synthetic carbon by depositing graphite onto a thin platinum wire in a hydrocarbon atmosphere. He manages to experiment with his invention in the physics laboratories of the University of Turin and on March 4, 1880, he lights up his first light bulb. An objective achieved five months after Edison, to whom the discovery of the incandescent light bulb is attributed, although it took the American scientist eight more years to achieve a commercially viable product. In 1882, Cruto participates in the Exhibition of Electricity in Munich, where he is highly successful. His light bulb has greater efficiency than Edison’s and emits a whiter light. The National Exhibition of Turin in 1884 confirms his success and Cruto is able to sell the project in France, Switzerland, Cuba and the United States. With a loan of £5,000, he sets up a factory in Piossasco, then in Alpignano. But after repeated disagreements with the management, he leaves everything and goes back to being an inventor. Turin, the capital of...innovation

Meanwhile, Galileo Ferraris abandons light bulbs to dedicate himself to studies of electro-


oxygen 13 – 06.2011

A completely improvised laboratory, self-taught experiments and with only the help of a butler. We are talking about Guglielmo Marconi. Just twenty, he is building a thunderstorm detector consisting of a battery, a tube of nickel and silver filings inserted between two heads of silver, and an electric bell capable of ringing in case of lightning. Shortly, he will be able to make the bell ring by sending a signal into the ether directly from a telegraph. In the experiments outdoors, he increases the power of emissions and the distance between the transmitter and the receiver. On December 8, 1895, after numerous attempts and prototypes, the machine built by Marconi demonstrates its ability to communicate and receive

Bettmann/Corbis

Now on the air: the Twentieth Century

signals over a distance without any problems, even overcoming natural obstacles. The shot that Mignani, the butler, fired into the air to confirm the success of the experiment is considered the baptism of the radio in Italy. Worldwide, meanwhile, there are several young experimenters who have obtained results similar to Marconi’s, including Nikola Tesla, who earlier that year has managed to transmit radio signals to a distance of 50 km away from a connection in West Point, New York. Marconi discovers that air, which is able to naturally isolate the high voltage cables suspended between the pylons, is a conductor of sound and an ideal means of communication. With the arrival of the twentieth century, information and speed enter the century: the first radio broadcasting, cinema, television, automobiles, airplanes, fast trains. Only the Second World War will be able to stop everything in a tragic instant.

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magnetism. In 1885, he shows a stunned audience the existence of a rotating magnetic field, generated by two fixed coils and traversed by alternating current. With these experiments he opens the way for the realization of the asynchronous electric motor: just for the sake of comprehension, the kind that still runs our refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners, dishwashers, hairdryers, fans, etc… It is a series of coils generating a magnetic field opposite to that produced by the coils, placed on a movable arm called a “rotor.” The thrust generated by the magnetic fields produces movement and, thus, the electric motor. A discovery that revolutionizes the mechanisms of production at that time. Industry thanked him twice over, since Ferraris is also making the first highvoltage lines in the country, to provide electricity to Turin’s large industrial area built on the banks of the Dora river, now called Spina3. The discovery of the rotating magnetic field is described in a note presented to the Royal Academy of Sciences only on March 18, 1888. Afterward, complaints arise regarding the priority of discovery, especially by Nikola Tesla. The issue ends up in the courtroom and, in the end, the paternity of the invention is acknowledged to have been the Italian scientist’s. We have not yet heard the last of Tesla. And it is not Galileo Ferraris who will meet him, but another Italian, the inventor of an object that has radically changed the lives of Italians: the radio.

The story of an object

The economic boom of technology and research

When the war ends, the Italian railway network, the only artery connecting the country, is devastated and lacks a fleet that is sufficient for meeting the needs of an economy that is ready to grow. The State Railways, therefore, launch a plan to repair the damaged vehicles, as well as to construct a new generation of luxury trains. On November 21, 1952, Breda Railway Construction in Sesto San Giovanni, Milan, presents a fast, new, electric train, the ETR 300. Better known as the Seven of Diamonds, it is an electrically propelled train with coaches. Designed and built in 1950 by Breda in triplicate, it is, in fact, the ancestor of high speed trains. A topnotch railway train, it remained in service until 1992, until the introduction of the Pendolino. During its construction, which is covered by strict secrecy, the workers give the train the nickname “Seven of Diamonds” as a sign of admiration, like the seven of diamonds in the Italian card game called “scopa.” Newspaper and TV journalists soon find out and the name is officially adopted. In those years, there is a widespread fashion of decorating train locomotives with logos that recall their name and that is how the ETR 300 comes to be marked with the symbol of playing cards.

The second prototype comes onto the line in 1953, while the third has to wait until 1959, in time for the Italia ’61 Expo and the centennial in Turin, where the ETR 300 is admired for its elegant and innovative design: unique in the world for its technical and stylistic solutions, the offspring of Italian design in the fifties, it is at the center of the world’s attention. The curved front was inspired by that of the first airline jets, with elegant, aerodynamic bays housing the wheels. The motor of 2000

With the last object, we symbolically return to Turin. And the year is 1990, when the Fiat Research Centre realizes the common rail, the fueling system of diesel engines which, on the whole, is still the most environmentally friendly alternative in the automotive sector today. Although the project is sold in April 1994 to the company Robert Bosch GmbH for completion of development and industrialization, the his-

tory of the common rail is totally Italian. A pioneering group of diesel research and development of the Magneti Marelli company takes three years to demonstrate the industrial feasibility of this system. In 1990, the project passes from the hands of Mario Ricci (father of the common rail) to the Elasis Motor Fuel Research Centre in Bari. Turin develops the electronics; the injector, pump and pressure regulator are designed in Bari. On June 27, 2008, the second version of the common rail for medium-large capacity and class Euro 6 cars is presented. The future is today. Everything is illuminated

A light bulb, an electric scooter, a radio, a car, a train. Objects fill our lives and populate the stories they bring with them. They are there to remind us that we are not here for them, but because of them. Tangible elements of a past that constructs the story of a country.

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Felice Ippolito: scientist, intellectual and manager

by Marco Cattaneo

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A portrait of Felice Ippolito, one of the most brilliant managers of science that Italy has ever had. A leading figure in the Italian nuclear adventure, he directed the CNRN and the National Committee for Nuclear Energy (CNEN), and was a founder of “Le Scienze” magazine.

Ferdinando Scianna/Contrasto

“It is inevitable that we, too, will return to considering nuclear energy, in whatever form it may take, as indispensable for our electrical power system. But by then, the research will not have been done and the industry personnel and even the capabilities of the equipment manufacturers will have been dispersed and we will be faced with the need to buy turnkey reactors from those who have not stopped in the meantime. Yes, our industry will show up at the new major energy event of the dawning of the twenty-first century dressed in linen trousers.” These prophetic words were the conclusion of an article published in the newspaper “La Repubblica” on April 21, 1991, exactly twenty years ago, shortly after the closure of the Italian nuclear power plants following the referendum of 1987. The title was The Anti-nuclear Conformist and it was signed by Felice Ippolito. Thirty years earlier, Ippolito had been the main protagonist of the Italian nuclear power adventure which ended prematurely - in June 1964 - with a quick trial for embezzlement and an 11-year prison sentence, which was reduced to five on appeal. Of the 66 offenses and 40 charges, he was found guilty of only two: of having used a CNEN car during a holiday in Cortina and of having given leather folders to journalists at the inauguration of the Research Centre in Ispra.

But that was enough to deal the final blow to the national research program on civil nuclear power almost half a century ago, to the satisfaction of the oil industry and with the complicity of the political class. In September 1964, three months after Ippolito’s first-degree conviction, Italy found itself at the 3rd World Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy with the primacy as the third western country for electro-nuclear power in use - with 600 MW of installed capacity and production already able to meet 4% of the electricity demand - thanks to the power plants that had recently started operation in Latina, Trino Vercellese and Garigliano. The result of three key technologies - produced by General Electric, Westinghouse and Nuclear Power Group Ltd. were to form the pivot around which the skills of national research would be honed in order to design an Italian reactor. But with Ippolito’s trial and his expulsion from the National Committee for Nuclear Energy (CNEN), that program would inevitably be extinguished. Born in Naples on November 16, 1915, Ippolito was a civil engineer who then focused on geology and soon became passionate about the prospects for nuclear energy production, in particular investigating the possibility of extracting uranium in Italy, which would have made the

country independent of weighty foreign oil supplies. For these interests and as a specialist in geology and uranium, in 1952 he was called on to join the fledgling National Committee for Nuclear Research and was immediately appointed secretary, a role traditionally held by the youngest member. In 1956, a year after the expiry of the original committee, a new one had not yet been appointed, as per another national tradition that endures to this day. Therefore, with the resignation en bloc of the members, Ippolito was vested with the role of secretary general, which he would maintain until 1960, with the transformation of the CNRN into the CNEN and the concomitant conveyance of the research center in Ispra to Euratom. In those years, with pressure from Ippolito, the CNRN had become a major research institution with 1,700 employees, abundant funds and a first-rate scientific-technical patrimony. And in the following years, the CNEN would follow in its footsteps - until the summer of 1963. On August 10th, the press office of the Social Democratic Party published a statement by Joseph Saragat attacking Ippolito’s management of the CNEN, backed by the right-wing press close to the powerful private industrial groups, who saw the danger of a monopoly in the pro-

duction of electricity following the nationalization and the creation of Enel, of which Ippolito had been a fervent promoter. After months of investigation and violent attacks by the press, Ippolito was arrested on March 3, 1964. Of the five-year sentence, he served two before being pardoned by Saragat himself, who had become President of the Republic at the end of that turbulent 1964. After those vicissitudes, Ippolito slowly returned to public life. He founded the monthly magazine “Le Scienze,” the Italian edition of “Scientific American,” in 1968 and, as its director until 1995, he continued his cultural and political battle from its pages. Between 1979 and 1989, he was a member of the European Parliament with the PCI (Italian Communist Party) and, later, a member of the Major Risks Commission of the Civil Protection Agency, a member of the Board of Governors of Mining and the vice president of the National Scientific Commission for Antarctica. In December 1996, he received the gold medal of the Academy of Sciences and was appointed Knight of the Grand Cross. And after his death which occurred on April 24, 1997 - the National Museum of Antarctica was dedicated to him. Virtually a moral reparation that came too late for one of the most lucid and brilliant managers of science that Italy has ever had.


The Italian nature of Enrico Mattei

by Giuseppe Accorinti

I underlined that the nature of being Italian was a must for all of us who were working abroad: also in regard to behavior. An extreme episode: on New Year’s Eve in 1961 (celebrating it at five degrees north of the Equator in more than 40° C heat was a bit hard …) at the Ambassador Hotel in Accra, five Italian workers of Ghana Agip Oil company started singing The inns at three in the morning: but, heaven forbid, an Italian diplomat was present - our relations with diplomacy were difficult because Mattei’s foreign policy was not in line with that of the Government – and he mentioned it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A telegram was sent from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to President Mattei personally, who certainly did not like it. He ordered a quick investigation and sent a telegram in which he invited the head of the Agip area of West Africa to send the five employees “with their baggage” to Italy and upon their return they were fired – just like that! - on the grounds that they had acted without taking into account that, in addition to representing Agip abroad, they also represented Italy. It is known that after the Liberation, as the leader of the Christian partisans, Enrico Mattei

David Lees/Corbis

It is nice to be able to recount - I use that verb because I was there and I worked with him in Italy and in Africa - one of the lesser-known aspects of Engineer Mattei, namely his Italian nature, which was a constant in the business life of the man we “young Agips” called “The Boss.” First of all, I would like to remember his words which always informed the way we worked, “We never go abroad with the idea of living in a foreign land.” And then some examples-symbols of the Italian character of the founder of Eni. The first is that we had to travel around Africa in Fiat cars, because we were an Italian company and Fiat was Italy. They were all yellow Fiat 1100 cars with the six-legged dog logo, and we had a trunk full of spare parts. Of course, we were not enthusiastic, as compared to the competitors from international corporations who traveled in large cars with air conditioning. The same thing was also true about his personal cars: in 1960, we went to the Casablanca airport in Morocco to pick up one of our staff in someone’s personal Mercedes. We were almost fired for that; right away “radio-jack” went into action and those of us who had foreign cars sold them immediately.

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“Who was Enrico Mattei? An adventurer? A great patriot? One of those elusive, indefinable Italians who can get in on all sides, capable of great charm as well as great fury, generous but with the memory of an elephant as to injuries suffered, skillful in using money almost without touching it, taking no sides but able to use them all, cynical but for a great design.” (Giorgio Bocca).

was sent to A.G.I.P. – it used to be written like that, but he took away the periods - to liquidate the company, but upon reading company documents he became convinced that perhaps near Milan, in Caviaga, there was methane – then unknown, not only in Italy but in all of Europe – and he decided to continue the search. But he needed money to pay the workers, and not being able to request funds from Rome, he asked for a loan from Mattioli, the famous president of Banca Commerciale, who would not grant it. Mattioli finally said yes but he asked for Chimica Lombarda, Mattei’s successful company in Milan, as collateral. Though quite surprised, Mattei agreed, saying: “I’d rather be poor in a rich country than rich in a poor country”* (and he really was rich; he had always only had his expenses reimbursed by Eni and his salary went to charity). In 1958, at an awards ceremony for Agip workers in Rome, winging it as always, he concluded his remarks thus: “The Eni group has become a big thing [it had only been established five years earlier, author’s note], so together we must make a greater effort towards a tomorrow that will be prosperous for you, Agip, Eni, but above

all, for our country.” And in 1960, when the Italian expedition led by Prof. Ardito Desio – a friend of Mattei’s - conquered the summit of K2 with the great mountaineer Achille Compagnoni, to reward the great achievement, Mattei decided to build an Agip Motel in Cervinia and let Compagnoni himself run it. After the tragic death of the engineer, this plan was scrapped. In 2002, in an interview on RaiTre, Gianni Agnelli expressed great esteem for Mattei, repeating what he had seen in terms of the Italian character of “Mattei’s people” abroad. This is the beautiful passage taken from one of Mattei’s speeches which was included in the funeral memorial held after his tragic death: “To work in silence, with tenacity, in the interest of our Country. Every day a new anxiety drives us. To do, to act, to assist the effort of our People who rise again. We trust in Providence. It always helps everyone and helps our country, which flourishes and is renewed.” [*: Regarding the long movie Eni produced in 1961, I would only add a title (suggested by Mattei himself?): Italy is not a poor country. It certainly was his philosophy at the time …]


Italian scientific excellence

1961-2011

1961 In Frascati, at the National Laboratories of the INFN, where the National Synchrotron Light had just come into operation, a new type of accelerator is created, the machine for the storage of electrons and positrons. AdA, the prototype of all subsequent storage rings, will be crucial for the progress of research in the field of elementary particles. 1962 The National Electric Power Authority (ENEL) is founded through the nationalization of 1,000 private companies: the level of the country’s electrification is significantly lower than that of the rest of Europe, but after 10 years, the territory is 98.8% electrified.

Adriano Buzzati Traverso founds the International Laboratory of Genetics and Biophysics (LIGB), based in Naples, an international reference point for molecular biology. The Italian first nuclear power plant is built in Trino (Vercelli) and it will be followed by those of Latina, Caorso and Garigliano, in addition to the one that was never completed in Montalto di Castro; currently, none of these plants are any longer in operation. The President of Italy Antonio Segni inaugurates the thermoelectric power plant in La Spezia.

Pier Giorgio Perotto begins designing the “Perottina,” a desk-top calculator that can be considered the first personal computer.

1963-1964

1966

1969

1975

1980

1984

1986

Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza and Anthony Edwards develop the first model for the construction of human phylogenetic trees based on the differences in the distribution of genes; the work marks a turning point in the history of human evolution studies.

Corsica, Sardinia, Elba and Ischia are connected to the peninsula by submarine cables in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The Nobel Prize for Medicine is awarded to Salvatore Luria.

The Nobel Prize for Medicine is awarded to Renato Dulbecco. 1977

Nasce il primo campo eolico italiano, realizzato da Enel ad Alta Nurra (Sardegna).

Rita Levi Montalcini is awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

The North and South of Italy are connected by the 380-volt power line in the Apennines and a connection is made with neighboring countries.

Thermal power stations began operating in Porto Tolle (Rovigo), Torrevaldaliga Nord (Roma), Fiume Santo (Sassari) as does the hydroelectric-pumped plant in Entracque (Cuneo).

1967 Ruggero Ceppellini publishes a series of studies on the organization and distribution in the population of genes that control the rejection of transplants.

The world’s largest geothermal power station is opened in Travale.

The nuclear power plant in Caorso (Piacenza) and the thermoelectric plant in Piombino (Grosseto) start operating. 1978 The Science Park of Trieste, known as AREA for scientific research and technology, is established.

1968 1963 Giulio Natta receives the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his research on stereospecific polymerization.

1964 Renato Dulbecco shows that the DNA of oncogenic viruses integrates into the DNA of infected cells. Abdus Salam founds the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste.

1979

Gabriele Veneziano studies the “dual models” for the first time, from which the current “string theories” stem. Federico Faggin develops the first microprocessor in the United States.

Experimentation with solar and wind energy starts.

1974 Enrico Bombieri wins the Fields Medal, the equivalent of the Nobel prize for mathematics, for his research on the theory of minimal surfaces and the number theory.

Tullio Regge receives the Einstein Medal for his work on relativity.

1981 Viene costruita la prima centrale solare italiana ad Adrano, in Sicilia. 1982 The Consiglio per le Ricerche Astronomiche (CRA), coordinating the development of research in astronomy and astrophysics of the Italian observatories, is established. The Reform Act of CNEN in ENEA (National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Environment) is sanctioned; the reorganization of the institution is under the chairmanship of Umberto Colombo.

The Nobel Prize for Physics is awarded to Carlo Rubbia for his experiments in 1983 for the capturing of intermediate bosons of weak nuclear interactions. Edoardo Boncinelli and Antonio Simeone identify the homeotic genes in humans, which control the development of animal morphology. 1985 The Nobel Prize for Economy is awarded to Franco Modigliani. In Padua, a team led by Professor Vincenzo Gallucci performs the first heart transplant in Italy.

Italy participates for the first time at the meeting of the major industrialized countries in the world.


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Eccellenza scientifica italiana 1961–2011

1988

1989

1992

The Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI) is founded.

The Ministry of University and Scientific and Technological Research (MURST) is established; the first minister is Antonio Ruberti, who initiates important steps to promote the spreading of scientific culture.

The scientific satellite Tethered, built and designed in Italy, is launched on July 31st to demonstrate the feasibility of producing electricity in space. For the first time, one of the astronauts onboard the shuttle Atlantis, which is carrying the satellite into orbit, is an Italian, Franco Malerba.

After Frascati (1959), Legnaro (1968) and Catania (1975), the fourth National Laboratory of INFN starts operations in the one in Gran Sasso, created thanks to the initiative of Antonino Zichichi; it is the world’s largest underground laboratory. Eni e Montedison avviano le trattative per la fusione dei due gruppi in un unico polo chimico nazionale. Leonardo Chiariglione promotes and starts the ISO standardization known as MPEG (Moving Pictures Experts Group), “father” of the MP3, the standard that has created a revolution in the network, enabling on-line transmission of video and music.

1990 he Wolf Prize for mathematics is awarded to Ennio de Giorgi for his contributions to the theory of minimal surfaces. The Museum of Physics and Astrophysics is established through national law.

Giacomo Rizzolatti discovers a class of neurons in the premotor cortex of monkeys; called “mirror neurons,” they are activated when the animal performs specific movements directed to a purpose, either when observing these same movements by the experimenter or other animals.

1994

1997

2000

2003

2005

2008

The government decides to privatize Eni, Iri, Ina and Enel.

The National Institute for the Physics of Matter (INFM) is created.

The Cassini-Huygens space probe is launched.

Genoa hosts the first Festival della Scienza.

Neural stem cells from a human embryo are created in Milan and Edinburgh.

The world’s first shoulder transplant is performed in Bologna.

The Catholic Church redeems the Italian scientist Galileo Galilei, condemned in 1633.

The inauguration on the Karst, in the AREA of Science and Technology Park of Trieste, of the Synchrotron ring “Elettra.” a 1.5 giga highbrilliance light machine.

Angelo Vescovi achieves the transformation of neural stem cells in muscle cells. The discovery raises great expectations for the development of new therapies based on cell transplantation for degenerative diseases.

On the border between Italy and Austria, the Mummia del Similaun: is found: the perfectly preserved body of a human being going back to a period between 3,300 and 3.200 B.C. known as “the Iceman” or “Ötzi”.

In Ceprano (Frosinone) the fossilized remains are discovered of a skull referable to an archaic species of Homo, also known as the Man of Ceprano.

1993

1996

The world’s largest photovoltaic power plant is built in Serre Persano. Serre Persano (Salerno).

The inauguration of the National Telescope “Galileo” (TNG), installed on the island of Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, which belongs to the Council for Astronomical Research (CRA) and was built under the supervision of the Observatory of Padua.

In Altamura (Bari) the remains of the Man of Altamura (Homo arcaicus), come to light, the only example of its kind.

1999 The CERN Council approves the CNGS project (CERN Neutrinos to Gran Sasso) to be developed in collaboration with the INFN. The project involves the production of a beam of muon neutrinos at CERN, which after a journey of 730 km under the Earth’s surface, will reach the Gran Sasso National Laboratory, where the neutrinos will be detected by experiments. By act of Parliament, the Museum of Physics – Study and Research Centre is established in Rome, on via Panisperna.

Celebration of the entry into operation of the interferometer Virgo, for the detection of gravitational waves predicted by Einstein in the theory of general relativity.

2001 The first edition of the Linux Day is held in 40 cities scattered throughout the Italian territory.

Astrophysicist Riccardo Giacconi is awarded the National Medal of Science. Prende avvio a Ivrea il progetto Arduino, guidato, tra gli altri, da Massimo Banzi e Gianluca Martino, per lo sviluppo di una piattaforma hardware per il physical computing.

2002

2007

2010-2011

The Nobel Prize for Physics is awarded to Riccardo Giacconi.

Mario Capecchi is awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

Paolo Nespoli è il primo astronauta italiano e il terzo europeo ad affrontare una missione di lunga durata (159 giorni) nella Stazione Spaziale Internazionale (ISS).

Fiat patents the Multi-air motor.

2004 The Cassini-Huygens probe is the first to enter the orbit of Saturn.

A group of scientists, including the Italian Paolo De Coppi, announce they have discovered stem cells in amniotic fluid.


Photoreport

Archive puzzle

by Ilaria Turba

An imaginary journey into Enel’s extraordinary collection, housed at the Museum of Electrical Technology of the University of Pavia. The pieces pictured are parts of machines, some of which are very large, and original instruments. Removed from the origins of their practical use a long time ago, they now come back as fascinating and mysterious forms for tracing the collective history of electricity. These are “re-found,” “re-viewed” and “re-explored” objects; in some cases, they retain a taste of the period of their construction, others open unusual imaginary passages, becoming first landscapes and then anthropomorphic objects. The author changes their size, isolates details and relates these historical findings to other graphics and photos from the Enel archives, creating small, visual puzzles.

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Photoreport – Archive puzzle

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1 Detail of a speed regulator with exciter, made in Berlin in 1909; with a detail of an exciter group from 1910 and electrical discharge.

2

4

2 Voltage autotransformer. 145V entry, 100 to 200V exit, with workers on the pylons during rural electrification (1970).

3 Mosaic with detail of the excitation group of the Carema power plant in the Aosta Valley (1899) and a detail of dynamo excitation (source: Central Bassano del Grappa, Vicenza, 1907).

Gadda 80KVA alternator from 1905, from the Molino Vecchio (old Mill) plant in Ascoli Piceno.

4


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Photoreport – Città fra le nuvole

5

Detail of the campaign to save energy in the seventies / Series 5; with semiconductors.

5

6 Iron defense to protect wooden supports, with numerators and induction meter indicator for singlephase alternating current.

6


Photoreport – Archive puzzle

8

7 Power line in Messina (1960); in the foreground, a speed regulator from the Acquoria-Tivoli plant (1903).

7

8 Speed regulator from the Acquoria-Tivoli plant (1903), with details of a speed regulator from the plant in Alcantara.

9

9 A “bell” or “barrel” turbine with two rotors. Source: S. Angelo from Fasanella, Salerno (1913); with extracts of an image of the control system of the Production Optimizing Center in Rome.


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Advanced research tomorrow? It is “Made in Italy”

by Alessandra Viola

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Newmann/Corbis

150 years of Unity have brought us this far. But where will Italian research lead us in the next 150 years? The road is already partly drawn. From astrophysics to medicine and robotics, from second generation bio-diesel to plastic solar cells, Italy is already a leader in advanced research in various fields. Here are some of them...

Who remembers Italy as it was 150 years ago? No electricity, no telephones, no radios, televisions, automobiles, household appliances, and of course, no computers (not to mention the Internet!). It is even hard to imagine a country that was so different from how it is today. Yet at that time, in the act of bringing together many small and weak states to form one nation, Italy has become the basis for a technologically and scientifically advanced power, in the avant-garde of the world. Just think of the strides made by our scientific research in this century and a half, and Antonio Meucci, Guglielmo Marconi, Enrico Fermi and Carlo Rubbia come to mind, as well as Giulio Natta, Emilio Segrè, Rita Levi Montalcini and Ettore Majorana. Memory randomly fishes out a long list of names, with the knowledge that many others have been lost. There are hundreds of researchers who, since the Unity until today, have changed the face of Italy: but who will be the ones who will change the country again in the next 150 years? Let us make some predictions; not by using a crystal ball, but by visiting the labs, talking with researchers and consulting scientific journals. In many areas, the way of future success is already laid out. From astrophysics to medical robotics, from renewables to bio-materials, from microbiology to botany (just to name a few), Italy is already a leader in advanced research in various fields. Whether it is algae or solar cells, synthetic bones, nuclear power, plants or airplanes, robots, or even the substance that the universe is made of, Italy is working hard for its future. And some of the names to be remembered (or which have been forgotten but nevertheless have contributed to the development and scientific growth of the country) you may already know. For example, Stefano Mancuso, the director of

the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology at the University of Florence, has discovered that plants are intelligent. They have many small “brains” at the bottom of their roots, networked like the Internet and able to talk to each other to find the most effective solutions to problems that arise. His research promises to revolutionize the way we look at plants and the whole plant world, but it will also be useful for space travel, the production of energy and new materials, and for robotics. They have even thought of a “plantoide,” a plant-inspired robot, at the Sant’Anna High School in Pisa, where there are already dozens of prototypes of robots made starting from animal models: from snakes to grasshoppers, from octopi to insects. Cecilia Laschi, of the St. Anne Institute of Bio-robotics, for example, is working on Octopus, a fully flexible robot inspired by the morphology of the octopus and capable of moving on the seabed and in particularly inaccessible environments to reach and manipulate objects of difficult access with its tentacles. “Bio-inspired” robots, which are inspired by the behavior and morphology of different life forms, will soon be used for many different purposes: from medicine to saving earthquake victims, from environmental monitoring to military intelligence. The smaller robots may even be swallowed and subsequently guided remotely by a surgeon using a microscopic camera to perform mini-operations directly inside the patient’s body. Tiny devices but gigantic when compared with the sub-atomic particles that the National Institute of Nuclear Physics studies at Gran Sasso with physicists from around the world. There, protected from cosmic rays, experiments such as Borexino (the international collaboration directed by Gianpaolo Bellini) investigate the nature of the Universe, trying to capture the

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oxygen 13 – 06.2011

Advanced research tomorrow? It is “Made in Italy”

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epa/Corbis

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epa/Corbis

secrets of the particles that compose it, and in particular, the elusive neutrinos, produced by the extremely high energy of the stars. Energy such as that which nuclear fusion attempts to reproduce on Earth, in the largest experiment ever attempted in the world: ITER. Italy has contributed to the project with several experiments, including one directed by Peter Martin at Padua. It is called RFX and is a “tokamak” (a metal “donut” creating a magnetic field for confining plasma) which has already discovered some secrets about the behavior of gases at very high temperatures, thanks to which it will be simpler to “turn on” ITER, producing abundant energy and zero emissions. And thus, solving a major problem that we face in coming decades. In addition to nuclear fusion, there are many hypotheses that Italian researchers are working on: from solar energy (the patent for solar

thermal concentration, which promises to revolutionize production, is Italian) to high-altitude wind power, from geothermal (here again, Italy is at the forefront with technology for producing energy even at “low’“ temperatures) to hydropower. Up to second-generation bio-diesel: which is produced without the use of raw materials for food and, therefore, (possibly) without taking up space from agriculture. For example, at the Donegani Institute in Novara, to produce bio-oil, they have chosen a raw material that does not need to be cultivated at all, but “grows” by itself from year to year. Carlo Perego and his team are, in fact, studying how to produce energy by using wastes, and in particular, their own portion of organic waste. Biodiesel from refuse potentially (according to estimates by the Donegani Institute) eliminates 400,000 tons per year of wet waste in exchange

for 1,000 barrels per day of fuel oil by using a thermal process that is quite simple on the whole. In general, the idea is to use the nutrients contained in the garbage to “fatten” microorganisms (yeasts) that can then be squeezed to extract the bio-oil. A bit like what Mario Tredici is trying to do at the University of Florence with algae, the production of bio-diesel in the world has already been used on an experimental basis by some airlines that have chosen to reduce CO2 emissions. Regarding reducing emissions of airplanes, Giulio Romeo, at the Polytechnic Institute of Turin, has gone further and thought of a more extreme solution: by building and flying the world’s first plane fueled by hydrogen, he has even managed to set them at zero. They say that the best ideas are often the simplest. And another example is that of construct-

ing low cost solar panels by replacing the glass with plastic and the silicon with ... fruit juice. Many have been trying in recent years, but Giuseppe Gigli and Giuseppe Calogero seem close to success. Gigli works at the Italian Institute of Technology and makes solar cells based on polymeric materials (such as plastic). Semitransparent, light, flexible and economical solar cells that can be colored. As of 2014, it will be possible for us to use windows, roofs and even entire walls or ceilings to produce energy directly with the architectural volumes, instead of panels applied at a later time. More or less promising to make the “solar roof tile,” instead, the Italian patent of Francesco Borgomeo is already a reality and is sold by Enel Green Power and Area Ceramic Industries, to produce energy directly with the roof of a house. Giuseppe Calogero, who works at the


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Adrian Houston/Gallery Stock

Advanced research tomorrow? It is “Made in Italy”

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David Lidbetter/Gallery Stock

CNR, uses real “fruit juice” to capture the light, instead of expensive silicon. His solar cells are made with tincture of iodine, titanium dioxide (normal paint) and natural dyes extracted from the prickly pear, the eggplant and the red Sicilian orange, for example. The production cost is 10 times lower than traditional silicon cells and even if the yield is still quite low, it is predicted that the technology will be launched on the market already in 2020 to coat backpacks or bags, clothing, tents and sails with organic cells, for powering laptops, cell phones, light bulbs and other small devices. Moreover, producing very small and controlled amounts of energy is a challenge that is no less interesting than that of producing very large

quantities, as is well known by Luca Angelani, who at the CNR of Rome, has invented the bacteria-run motor: a micro-gear, immersed in a bacterial solution, which can be run by orienting the movements of the bacteria in the desired direction, producing energy more or less like the wheel of a mill does. The list could be infinitely long and it is certainly impossible to say how many of these names will go down in history. What matters for now is that they are all helping to broaden our horizons, to give us more freedom and, ultimately, to make our lives better. Provided that the continuing cuts in research do not take away the ground from under the feet of those who are already racing toward the future.

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Energy from nature

by Chiara Tonelli

Martin Adolfsson/GalleryStock

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The use of organic matter to produce energy is not new: before the advent of petroleum and all that relates to it, one of the most popular man-made sources of energy was wood. The challenge that faces us is therefore to take up the legacy of the past and adapt it to the needs of the present and, above all, the future.

Currently, renewable sources generally meet only 13% of the world’s energy needs and by 2020, the European Union expects the figure to reach 20%. Again by 2020, 10% of transport fuel should consist of biofuels such as biodiesel and bio-ethanol produced from biomass. Basically for every 10 gallons of fuel used, one will have to come from agriculture. In Italy, for example, where we burn about 40 billion liters of diesel and gasoline every year, about four billion will have to be produced in this way. To do this requires a lot of raw material. A practical example may be helpful to give an idea: if you wanted to use biomass to fuel the electricity generation plant at Porto Tolle (four groups of 660 MW, currently powered by coal) an area larger than the entire Po Valley would have to be utilized for the cultivation of the biomass. The so-called “biofuels” are divided into two categories: the first generation biofuels and the second generation. The change that science is undergoing in recent years lies in the transition between these two types, and the reasons that make it necessary. The first-generation biofuels are the products of the fermentation of sugars and the starch content in some plants including cereals, sugar

cane, rapeseed, soybean and sugar beet. The main fuels are biodiesel (diesel substitute) and bio-ethanol (gasoline substitute) which after major advances in technology, and in recent years have had a significant increase in production. In Brazil, since 2005, the price of ethanol in particular has become competitive with oil. If the technology is already sufficiently developed, then what is the problem? To produce biofuels, we need a lot of raw material. It is therefore necessary to allocate a lot of terrain for cultivation, and not only do the plants currently used need many nutrients and water for their growth, but they are also an important food source. The increasing world population requires an increase in food production and the land available for cultivation cannot be increased further without causing damage to the ecosystem of our planet. So what do we do? Or not produce biofuels, or find a way to produce them without competing with food crops in a sustainable manner, i.e. with low water consumption, affordable production and conversion costs and with a positive energy balance. This is where the second-generation biofuels which are the product of processes that exploit ligno-cellulosic biomass come in: herbaceous

and woody plants, agricultural and forestry residues, and large quantities of municipal and industrial waste. The first big difference is purely quantitative: simply put, there is more material to exploit. If in fact starches and sugars are a small portion of plants, the trunk, the leaves, the stalks and straw - which contain a lot of cellulose and hemicellulose – make up most of the biomass. Cellulose is the most abundant biopolymer on Earth and is found in the wall of plant cells. To make it possible to be used for energy, a pretreatment is needed to degrade the lignin and make the cellulose accessible to hydrolysis for the formation of sugars that are then fermented to produce bio-ethanol. However, the most important aspect of all this is its total independence from the agricultural value chain: biomass, wood and cellulose do not compete with the cultivation for food consumption, so no land is taken away from the cultivation utilized for the food that ends up on our tables and it doesn’t cause deforestation. Put simply, just apply the same principle we already know for the recycling of glass, cans, plastic and paper: then, instead of being thrown away, what is not used is placed back into the

circle of economic productivity. In Italy, where roughly every hectare produces several tons of wood and herbaceous refuse, you get to 4-5 million tons of waste per year. There’s not just refuse however. In view of the constant push to find maximum efficiency, some plant species have also been identified (poplar and reeds such as Miscanthus, Arundo, etc.) that are characterized by a reduced consumption of water, fertilizers and nutrients, with a high degree of resistance to drought and damage by insects and parasites, and which can be grown on land not suitable for agricultural use. In conclusion, we can say that, through the use of agricultural waste and the ad hoc selection of plants, you can get sufficient biomass to produce biofuels in a more sustainable way, but we still need to invest heavily in research to make the whole system efficient, just as there also needs to be a major rethinking of the territorial organization. It is important that you understand that we have chosen the right path: plants are actual industries that process the sun’s energy to produce food, oxygen and energy. Only their intelligent use can help us produce the energy we need in a balanced, sustainable and economical way.


oxygen 13 – 06.2011

Connect the dots

E=mc150 1. “I think I can say that,

in scientific research, neither the degree of intelligence nor the ability to perform and complete the task at hand are essential factors for success and personal satisfaction. What counts the most in both is total devotion and to shut our eyes to the difficulties: in doing so, we can address the problems that others, who are more critical and more acute, would not address.” Rita Levi-Montalcini

2. “Nature is constructed in such a way that there is no doubt that it has been made this way by chance. The more one studies the phenomena of nature, the more deeply one becomes convinced of this. There are natural laws of incredible depth and beauty. It is just not possible to think that everything comes down to an accumulation of molecules. […] The scientist, in particular, fundamentally acknowledges the existence of a law that is transcendent, something that goes beyond and that is immanent in the natural mechanism. He acknowledges that this ‘something’ is the cause which is pulling the strings of the system. It is that something that escapes us. [...] The more you look into it, the more you realize that it has nothing to do with chance.” Carlo Rubbia

3. “There are only two

4. “There are various cat-

5. “We Italians are like

6. “It was just past noon

7. “For those who culti-

8. “It is inevitable that we,

9. “Among the various

10. “Excessive ambition of

possible conclusions: If the result confirms the hypothesis, then you have just made a measurement. If the result is contrary to the hypothesis, then you have made a discovery.”

egories of scientists in the world: second and third rank people who are doing their best but do not go far. There are also people of high standing, who arrive at discoveries of great importance which are fundamental for the development of science. And then there are geniuses like Galileo and Newton. Well, Ettore was one of those. Majorana had what no one else in the world had. Unfortunately, he lacked what is commonly found in other men: simple common sense.”

dwarfs on the shoulders of a giant, all of us. And the giant is culture, an ancient culture that gave us an extraordinary, invisible ability to understand the complexity of things. Articulating the arguments, weaving together art and science: this is a huge capital. And there is always a place at the table in the rest of the world for this Italian character […] We must always remember that creating architecture means constructing buildings for people, universities, museums, schools and concert halls: these are all places that become outposts against barbarism. They are places for being together, places of culture, of art, and art has always made a little light shine in the eyes of those in attendance.”

on December 12, 1901, when I put a headset to one ear and I began to listen. On the table in front of me there was a very crude receiver, a few loops of wire, some capacitors, a conductor, no valves, no amp, and no galena. I was going to finally put the accuracy of all my beliefs to the test. [...] The key issue was whether or not the radio waves could be blocked by the curvature of the Earth. I had always been convinced of the contrary, but some scientists argued that the roundness of the Earth would have prevented long distance communications, as was the case in the attempt at crossing the Atlantic. The first and definitive answer to this question came to me at 12:30. Suddenly, around half past twelve, there was the sharp ‘click’ of the hammer against the conductor, a sign that something was about to happen. […] I knew then that my calculations had been perfectly accurate. The electric waves sent from Poldhu had made it across the Atlantic.”

vate it with passion and success, the best thing about mathematics does not consist in the immense social utility of its applications – to deny that, before the spectacle of modern civilization leaning more and more widely on the progress of physics, chemistry and mechanics, would be the same as denying sunlight –, but rather, consists in the fact that some of its highest theories - when they are contemplated in their entirety, in their harmonious revelation of coherent and compact systems, of that truly strict coherence and truly solid compactness that would make it pointless to seek more impressive examples in other fields of human knowledge give such an impression of high and pure beauty, that they are capable of arousing the most inspired poems and pages of the most powerfully evocative music.”

too, will return to considering nuclear energy, in whatever form it may take, as indispensable for our electrical power system. But by then, the research will not have been done, and the industry personnel and even the capabilities of the equipment manufacturers will have been dispersed and we will be faced with the need to buy turnkey reactors from those who have not stopped in the meantime. Yes, our industry will show up at the new major energy event of the dawning of the twentyfirst century dressed in linen trousers.”

schools of thought in recent decades that have proposed new moral and social concepts to the civilized world, the most powerful is certainly the one that supports a different relationship between man and nature. The ultimate goal is to convert traditional anthropocentric culture, which sees nature as unconditionally subservient to the needs of the human species, into a culture that could be called ‘ecocentric’ or ‘nature-centric’ or ‘jointly liable.’ Mankind is placed in the natural environment as one of its many components, and nature is the great mother from which humans, plants and animals have been generated. Therefore, the love for the environment should not be only the kind that is subtly selfish, aiming to enhance it and improve it to make life more pleasant and healthy, but it is a duty, a moral imperative of an almost sacred respect for Mother Nature which creates and nourishes all the species, including mankind.”

purpose can be criticized in many areas of activity, but not in literature. Literature lives only if it sets immense goals for itself, even beyond every possibility of creation: only if poets and writers attempt endeavors that no one else dares to imagine will literature continue to have a function. Seeing as science is wary of general explanations and solutions that are not sectoral and specialized, the great challenge of literature is that of knowing how to weave different knowledge and different codes together into a multiple, multifaceted vision of the world.”

Enrico Fermi

“Although Fermi lived in an era full of dramatic historical events and so, because of his work, found himself playing an important role in them, the most intense and adventurous aspect of his life was that of being the intellectual of scientific discovery.” Emilio Segré about Enrico Fermi

Enrico Fermi about Ettore Majorana

Renzo Piano

Guglielmo Marconi

Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza

Felice Ippolito

Umberto Veronesi

Italo Calvino


The network

by Giovanni Minoli

“The network is the connective tissue of society, from the moment mankind discovered the idea of progress. The electrical network is the bloodstream upon which every form of the future is based and upon which every form of communication moves, in the broadest and most all-encompassing meaning of the term.” ©

Chris Cheadle/All Canada Photos/Corbis

If a Martian that suddenly landed on Earth had access to a single word to describe the complex system of human life, what term could be used to render the idea and give a precise description of the new scenario that appeared before his eyes? You could rack your brains for a long time without being able to give a definite answer, unless you look with honest eyes and a calm mind at the true reality of the facts beyond the superstructures. What unites – allow me the unusual combination - Osama Bin Laden and Pope John Paul II? What links the telephone and the supermarket? What encompasses students and entrepreneurs in a single embrace? Currently, on the flagship Rai television network, Carlo Conti conducts a quiz show called The Inheritance. One of the games consists of juxtaposing a word to some of the terms proposed by the authors. Just one, only one single word. Let us give it a try: if we put together “telematics,” “train,” “television,” “computer,” “terrorist” and “electric,” what do we get? That is to say: what word can be easily adapted to each of these possible variations? Well, only one. In the world today, we speak more and more often of the “telematic network,”

the “television network,” the “computer network” and the “terrorist network.” And if you happen to pick up one of the most interesting books on the sociology of mass communication (Communication and Power by Manuel Castells, published by Bocconi University), you will realize that many pages are devoted to the network, its potential and the infinite developments, even those that can only be hypothesized. Except that the network, or a set of interconnected nodes, as well as its meaning as a work tool for fishermen, has been identified in modern times with the electrical network. And all that has a coherence of its own: what would the computer network be without the electrical network? A fantastic chrysalis that is incapable of becoming a butterfly. What would a television network be without the electrical network? A self-referential nullity. What would the network of al Qaeda be - Osama and his cave - without electricity? A fantasy for the chosen few gratified by oral narration. The network is the connective tissue of society, from the moment mankind discovered the idea of progress. The electrical network is the bloodstream upon which every form of the future is based and upon which every form of communication moves, in the broadest and most all-

encompassing meaning of the term. It has been many years since Giuseppe Verdi lay dying in a bed at the Grand Hotel in Milan and tram conductors passing in the street below, Via Manzoni, were forbidden to ring their bells in front of the hotel so as not to disturb the last hours of a great composer and a father of his country, in the technical sense. That world has remained - in recent months we have worked for this – only in the Unity of Italy, in that common sense of belonging to a shared history and the shared interweaving of experiences and emotions. And so we are back to the network: if Italy is unified it means that it is a network, or more precisely, a set of interconnected nodes in which every single life given to the country coincides and blends with every hope of the young people who need to receive instruction and courage from that Italy. Thus, the network of politics and journalism, the network of industries and entertainment, the food network and that of transportation are all part of a single network which, by definition and through evidence, is called the electrical network. In our lifetime, we have gone from the typewriter to the computer, from dusty archives to the

speed of the web, from the phone booth to the iPhone. Having entered with force into the “Information Age,” we fill our mouths with words like blog and social network, streaming and frame, and we are all living at the speed of light. But, as a matter of fact, we still and always need light. For, however much we may be projected toward the future of the globally interconnected network, we still have the duty to become excited by the magic of a light bulb that lights up, because it means that in that moment a circuit is triggered, a spark is released, a connection is activated; a synergy that comes from energy and, simultaneously, provides energy. To us, ferrying history from the 20th into the 21st century, what we must remember is that once there was only the flame of the candle that, to quote a French philosopher, “recalled immeasurable thoughts, which evoked unlimited images.” Today, we must not forget that candle, but we know that light should not only illuminate the table of the wise but also illuminate the minds of all people who are projected toward a future that technology can indicate to us but which will be the concern of ethics to build.


Interview with Ugo Nespolo

Art’s energy

by Simone Arcagni

Ugo Nespolo, one of the most renowned contemporary Italian artists abroad, tells Oxygen how art and energy have been contaminated during the 150 years of the Unification of Italy and also discusses the years of the industrial revolution, electricity and modernity.

And regarding energy, precisely how light and electricity have become an expressive material, an art material... Certainly one can speak of art and sources of energy: the Greek artist Takis created works with electromagnetic energy, building self-propelled sculptures that followed electrical impulses that are like magical objects. I remember seeing beautiful works of his in Paris.

So these truly have been 150 years of modernity, science, industry, technol-

Art and industry, therefore, have marked the last 150 years ... however, Walter Benjamin warned that in this society, work has lost its “aura,” the sense of originality, and a work of art that is unique no longer exists... In fact, Benjamin speaks of The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

but the new “aura” of modernity is repetition, as shown by the works of Andy Warhol. I do not view art as elite: it must be evidence of the real world and today it is contaminated by divulgation and has to encounter the media, communications: this is Warhol’s lesson. In fact, you have also worked for the Rai... Yes, I did several things, including the video theme for Renzo Arbore’s program Indietro Tutta!. In my opinion, the relationship between art and mass media is truly contemporary: it is the present but also the future. For example, in my study I have an electronic sector for editing my videos and I have a computer: if there is no electricity, everything is shut down.

Studio Nespolo

The 150 years of the Unification of Italy are also 150 years of industrial revolution, the electric light, modernity and energy: so, we wonder how art and energy have been contaminated and which, from your point of view as an artist (and especially an artist who has experienced very different means and forms of language), are the most prominent examples of this partnership … I am faithful to the dictate of the historical avant-garde, “to bring art into life”: the artist, therefore, is required to overcome the narrow boundaries of the set areas of the work of art and art-making. I think, given that art always aims to be contemporary, that it requires being among one’s contemporaries and be-

ing up-to-date; the last 150 years have forged a strong relationship with energy (defined as a power source, such as electric current or electronic flow), with industry and with electricity, touching upon many scientific fields. The relationship with science is a very profound relationship that is ancient and widespread: think, for example, of the number of gold, what is called the “golden section” which, ultimately, is a mathematical formula and we often find it in artistic creation. We can go back to Herodotus, who speaks of the magical and scientific functions of the pyramid of Cheops. Think of the Fibonacci numbers, the series of numbers named after the 13th-century mathematician from Pisa, which have been utilized, for example, by Mario Merz. Or fractals: numbers, logic and proportion have to do with art and have a lot to do with science.

ogy, mass communication, energy … Years of modernity and, I might add, of postmodernity and then, of course, of industry, electricity and science. A period that has also upset the very meaning of art: everything is (or could be) a work of art and, therefore, real-life elements such as movement, electronics, selfpropelled objects, video (think of the phenomenon of video art) and cinema all enter in. For example, it was Mario Schifano and I who began experimental Italian cinema in the late sixties.

©

Ugo Nespolo (born in 1941) is an artist who lives in Turin; he started his career in the sixties, with an affinity toward movements such as Pop Art, Futurist conceptual art and “Arte Povera.” His art is often humorous, outrageous, colorful and imbued with a sense of fun, playfulness and movement. Nespolo employs various forms of expression using different materials and different techniques, and also experiments with the languages of film and video, including collaborations with the Rai network. He is one of the most renowned contemporary Italian artists abroad and we met in his large, colorful studio in Turin.

And Jean Tinguely comes to mind, with his sculptures that are false selfpropelled machines that are often electric; or even Dan Flavin and his colored neons or the neons by my great and dear friend, Mario Merz. All absolutely original works. But there is another important phenomenon that has left its mark on contemporary art relating to energy, because it produced works that move and use light and electricity sources: I am referring to kinetic art and, for example, the experiences of the N Group and the T Group, the latter with the works of David Boriani, John Anceschi and Gabriele De Vecchi and their implications with energy.


Innovating for sport(s)

by Massimiliano Mascolo

Italian technology applied to sports, both basic and high-end, has often been revolutionary. World sports and Italian technology are inextricably intertwined in every sector.

The contribution of Italian technology to the progress of sports arose from the idea of sport itself: of that “war without the shooting,” as Orwell called it, which has established supremacy and also resolved issues of importance ever since the earliest times. The first maxi-sports facilities were the Circus Maximus and the Coliseum, still today (especially the latter) a matter of Italian pride and foreign admiration. But, restricting ourselves to a much shorter period, roughly that of unified Italy, just think (always in terms of sport facilities) of the large Diana swimming pool in Milan, built in the mid-nineteenth century, and the ski jumping ramp in Sauze d’Oulx, which was built in 1905: Italy, which in other areas chased the big European nations, was able to line up here alongside the English, the French and the Germans, who had been devoted to creating comfortable and prestigious sports facilities for some time. Italian technology applied to sports, both basic and at the top, has often been revolutionary. Consider the clothes, always a leading sector of our economy, especially in the seventies, when there was an explosion of tasteful, well-made, technically-advanced proposals that were “Made in Italy” and launched by skilled marketing operations.

Or the equipment, such as the bicycle, for example: from the craftsmen who have given Italy the primacy in the construction of evermore modern products up to the team that followed Francesco Moser in the latter part of his career - scientists in biomechanics, sports medicine and nutrition who introduced lenticular wheels, crucial for the record set by the Italian cyclist. It is a short step from the human engine” to other engines, and our country has always been at the forefront of innovation, from car racing to motorcycle racing and up to aviation. The last years of the ’30s were those of the great flights, propagandistic actions but always exceptional events for the time, and a series of still unsurpassed records: such as the one by Francis Agello, seaplane speed record holder, piloting an aircraft made by Macchi-Castoldi with a Fiat motor. The most prestigious pioneer of motor sports, Piero Taruffi, possessed topnotch technical skills (a degree in mechanical engineering), excellent piloting skills and an ability for testing that allowed him to create historical prototypes together with the Guzzi company, such as the Swallow, perhaps the first modern motorcycle, and the Bisiluro. The skill of the pilot and the small yet cutting-edge structures, brands that

are able to prevail in the challenges with foreign powers: such as Giacomo Agostini with MV Agusta and, more recently, Valentino Rossi with Aprilia, an experience that the great champion from Pesaro is now trying to repeat with Ducati. The Italian contribution to motor sports is encyclopedic and full of gold medals. Ideas that are also applicable to mass production and even to other sports: nowadays, to compile a ranking of races, both of car races with few competitors and the marathons with thousands of participants, ten seconds would suffice and words such as “chip” and “transponder” have entered the common parlance; but there were fewer when (more than 30 years ago) Ferrari began to experiment with the transmission of low-frequency radio waves to calculate lap times in the “friendly” track at Fiorano. And the problem of correctly compiling the order of arrivals would have been left without a solution for who knows how long if had not been for the insight, in the late ‘30s, of Lorenzo Del Riccio, an Italian optical engineer, head of the research laboratories of the Paramount movie studios and the inventor of the first rudimentary system of photo-finishes. In hyper-specialized sports these days, perhaps revolutions are no longer possible, although sometimes they come close; for example, bath-

ing suits, which a few years ago led to several firsts in swimming: obviously one cannot ignore the human element, which is why a talent like Federica Pellegrini can win with or without the “magical” bathing suits. There are other areas where world sports and Italian technology are intertwined: the construction of playgrounds, the computer analysis of sports statistics and the application of discoveries in medicine, which can unfortunately lead to doping. Although the times of cola-based drinks and coffee launched in Italy by Carlo Erba in the late nineteenth century are distant, as are the times of the “bombs” used by cyclists (and not just by them) from the thirties onwards, we now have the paradox of hazardous substances used more by amateurs than by professionals, and perhaps it is a never-ending chase between doping and anti-doping. A problem that may become unsolvable unless there is a tightening of controls and sanctions, or a relaxing of the regulations toward what is forbidden. In the end, there is always a lack of sports culture, and unfortunately, in that regard, we Italians do not really seem to be vigorous innovators.


oxygen 13 – 06.2011

Passepartout — Great Italian works in the world

Pietro Belluschi and Pier Liugi Nervi Saint Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, San Francisco, California, USA

1964

Lodovico Belgiojoso (studio BBPR), Primo Levi, Mario Samonà, and Luigi Nono Italian Memorial, Auschwitz, Poland 1970

Luigi Negrelli Suez Canal Project, Egypt

Sebastiano Grandis, Severino Grattoni and Germain Sommeiller Frejus railway tunnel, Italy – France

Manfredo Manfredi and Ettore Ximenes Independence Monument, São Paulo, Brazil

Giuseppe Pettazzi Fiat Tagliero service station, Asmara, Eritrea

Giò Ponti Villa Planchart, Caracas, Venezuela

Pier Luigi Nervi UNESCO building, Paris, France

Luigi Moretti Watergate Complex, Washington, D.C., USA

Pier Luigi Nervi and Luigi Moretti Stock Exchange Tower, Montreal, Canada

1847

1871

1922

1938

1957

1958

1962

1971

Passepartout

Great Italian works in the world

1971

1977

1988

1993

1995

2001

2001

2006

2007

2011

Experimental Town, Arcosanti, Arizona, USA Paolo Soleri

Georges Pompidou Centre, Paris, France Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers

Kansai International Airport, Osaka, Japan Renzo Piano

Belém Cultural Center, Lisbon, Portugal Vittorio Gregotti

Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht, Netherlands Aldo Rossi

Area ABB-Roland Ernst, Berlin, Germany Giorgio Grassi

Vienna Twin Tower, Austria Massimiliano Fuksas

Italian Institute of Culture, Tokyo, Japan Gae Aulenti

New York Times Headquarters, USA Renzo Piano

Deutsche Bank Headquarters, Frankfurt, Germany Mario Bellini


©

The Italian unification has created a modern society that has exploited electricity to capture light and to give life to devices and arts that bear witness to reality: photography, cinema, radio, television.

by Simone Arcagni

John Springer Collection/Corbis

Everything is illuminated: photography, cinema, radio, television

In the early nineteenth century, an Englishman, Joseph Nicephore Niepce, and a Frenchman, Louis Jacques Mandé, start - at first singly and then by forming a company together - to develop the techniques that led to the discovery of photography. The process is finalized by midcentury, right when Italy is taking its first steps toward the uprisings, the Carbonari meetings and the still underground ideals and thoughts of unification. The characters in this story are all already active: Giuseppe Mazzini, Vittorio Emanuele III, Giuseppe Garibaldi and Camillo Benso Count of Cavour. And so it is that in 1860, a Garibaldi-sympathizer from Genoa, Alessandro Pavia (1826-1889), photographs the participants of the Expedition of the Thousand and creates a photo album that fits into our history. It is inextricably linked to the birth of this modern nation, to modern culture and to modernity because photography is the means of technical reproduction, the art that is the daughter of science and technology and the vehicle of mass communication. The 150 years of Italian unification are, thus, also the 150 years of a modern state, as it has come to be defined in Europe following the

French Revolution. But it is also a modern society that uses the energy of steam and electricity, that captures light and creates devices that can observe reality, like photography, which is beginning to provide large repertoires of urban and natural landscapes and people, faces and bodies. It is curious and interesting that some threads intertwine in this story: Turin becomes the first Italian capital and Turin also becomes the first industrial capital, as if to emphasize a close connection between the modern idea of Italy and the modernity that this country wants to assume, although it is still a predominantly rural nation. And thus, it is in Turin that the automobile factory FIAT (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino) is founded in 1899, while already in 1895 the Italian city of Turin has adopted, more than any other (could it be its close proximity to France?), the newborn cinematographic invention of the Lumière brothers, Auguste and Louis, a product of their studies and business interests in photography. In 1895, the Lumières’ cinematography arrives in Italy, giving rise to some great figures such as

Luca Comerio, an almost romantically adventurous cameraman from Milan who participates in the expedition to Libya in 1911 and then, in 1915, faces the hardships of the First World War with his ever-ready camera on his shoulder. At a time when cinema is not given any artistic credit, only the Italian Futurist avant-garde has the courage to place the new medium among the other arts and, indeed, to imagine that it will surely become the main art form of the twentieth century . The country’s industrial capital, Turin, adopts this new form of art expression: studios such as FERT are created and directors, actors and producers compete with Paris in the creation of films. The first and most significant result of this experience is Cabiria (1914) by Giovanni Pastrone, an extraordinary example of musician, producer, actor, director and scientist. Cabiria is a blockbuster that, in the era of short or medium-length films, is more than three hours long. It is a spectacular and expensive film, enriched with music by Ildebrando Pizzetti and captions written by the “bard” Gabriele D’Annunzio.

However, it is precisely the presence of D’Annunzio (which the author himself will actually minimize later) that opens the doors of Italian cinema (which, with its stars and its historic epics, is appreciated and recognized all over the world) to a new phase in which writers and intellectuals begin to be interested in the medium. Examples include Steel (1933), written by Luigi Pirandello and directed by Walter Ruttman Fascism invests in cinema and, following Mussolini’s motto, “Cinematography is the strongest weapon,” Cinecittà - the Experimental Centre of Cinematography, the Venice Film Festival and the Istituto Luce (Light Institute or the “Union of Educational Cinematography”) are founded. At the end of the war, it is cinema, above all, that undertakes the task of rethinking our society, of looking at the disastrous events of previous years but also of highlighting the need for the civil and cultural rebirth of our country. And so, in parallel with the choice of becoming a Republic and the writing of the Constitution, our cinema makes its return with great masterpieces of neo-realism, such as Rome, Open City (1945) and Paisà (1946) by Roberto Rossellini, The Bicycle


oxygen 13 – 06.2011

Everything is illuminated: photography, cinema, radio, television

088

Thief (1948) by Vittorio De Sica and The Earth Quakes (1948) by Luchino Visconti. Starting with that amazing season, which marks the new Italian Renaissance and, at the same time, the birth of the Republic, cinema will always be alongside social and cultural changes: for example, before and during the economic boom, acting as witness to the changes of the social aspects and the economics of a once predominantly rural country that has definitively become an industrial one. Hence, the “Italian comedy” films, with incredible characters including (among others) Alberto Sordi, Vittorio Gassman and Marcello Mastroianni, observe the defects (above all) and the virtues of Italians. While the season of great art films – by Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni and Pier Paolo Pasolini, to name just a few - once again testifies to Italian creativity and culture applied to an industrial art like cinema. Taking a step back, if cinema was born in 1895, that same year Wilhelm Röntgen, with his report entitled “On a new kind of rays: a preliminary communication,” announces the discovery of what will be called “X-rays.” And also in 1895, an Italian, Guglielmo Marconi, opens the door to fast wireless mass communication, having succeeded in transmitting (ac-

tually two years after a similar experiment was carried out in the United States by Nikola Tesla) a Morse code signal about 2 kilometers away from the family villa in Pontecchio (Bologna). Marconi’s “wireless telegraphy” is perfected in the meantime and soon becomes the radio. The radio accompanies the history of our country: used in warfare during World War I, it later becomes a fundamental means of fascist propaganda, leading to the founding of the URI (Italian Radio Union), which makes its debut on October 6,1924. In January 1928, the URI becomes EIAR (Italian radio auditions) and, in the following years, the medium broadcasts many programs, including Mussolini’s speeches. In 1935, Italy invades Ethiopia and radio commentary is officially born in our country; that is to say, a mass information service that is broadcast live. The information media are changing all over the world and in Italy the access to information, communications and journalism is changing the social system, as well as the cultural system. Further testifying to the importance of mass communication is the founding, at the instigation of Pope Pius XI, of the Vatican Radio in 1931. During World War II, the radio is a means of

war strategy of fundamental importance: in addition to communications in war zones to help military strategists, consider, for example, the importance of the famous Radio London. The radio is also the means of mass communication that people use to get news and also, why not, to try to “distract themselves” for a while from the ongoing disaster. After the war, the RAI (Radio Auditions Italy) is created. The desire for the rebirth of our country is marked by this medium: a clear example is the Italian San Remo Song Festival, which is broadcast live for the first time in 1951 with incredible success. But meanwhile, technology places radio and film alongside another means of mass communication and expression. Television is a new mass-media offspring of science and industrialization and it arrives in Italy in 1954 (the first transmission is dated January 3rd ). On April 10, 1954, the Italian Radio Auditions is definitively turned into RAI - Italian Television. How television became the foundation of a second Italian unification is well-known by now: it is with television and its many educational programs that Italian citizens become literate and, above all, learn Italian, which is finally designated as the common national language. But television also means culture, information, entertain-

ment and leisure, and it supports, accompanies and characterizes the Italian economic boom. And once again, the paths of industry, economy, energy, society and culture are inextricably interwoven. Symbols of the boom are products that support the great tradition of Italian craftsmanship and industry, with a particular propensity for engines and a capacity to think about the aesthetics of mass-produced goods, hence giving rise to the great age of Italian design: just think of the Ferrari, Lambretta, Vespa and the Fiat 500. As well as the by now “legendary” Letter 22 made at Olivetti, the company in Ivrea that has been a model, not only for its industrial capacity (it was the first to experiment in the ‘60s with new technologies and electronics), but also its ability to propose a new model of avant-garde industrial development. Experimentation and the uniting of creativity and technology seem to be basic characteristics of our “young” country’s DNA: as in the case of Luciano Berio, the composer and musician whose fame is linked to his electronic experimentation. Another example of how a great and ancient Italian tradition like music has succeeded in opening up to research and becoming contaminated with the new technologies.


by Tommaso Pincio

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That is to say: “futurology (not?) realized.” What visions of the future proposed by the most visionary science fiction have occurred, even if only partially? And which ones not at all? Tommaso Pincio, writer and lover of science fiction, tells Oxygen about them. “What we call science fiction is not about prophecies, but a credible portrait of our fears and our desires.”

John Springer Collection/Corbis

The future is not what it once was

The future is not what it once was. The quip is obvious yet necessary when thinking about the “magnificent and progressive fates” predicted by science fiction in its golden age, the ‘50s and ‘60s. For example, take space travel, which is the most classic motif of this successful genre, officially born in 1926 thanks to Hugo Gernsback, but in fact much older. What is left of the cosmic explorations proposed in many novels and the 700 episodes of Star Trek? Since 1969, a vehicle of Earthly construction with humans on board has landed on a celestial body only six times. All six times the celestial body in question was the one closest to our planet. Not less significant is the brevity of this epic: just three years. It may be that 17 does not bode well, but after the Apollo mission in December 1972 - earmarked by precisely that jinxed number - the space program was essentially cancelled. Since then, the most we have managed to do is

build a space station where wealthy tourists are also allowed. For decades, we have been talking about NASA’s traveling to Mars, but the date of departure is systematically postponed and even if the enterprise were accomplished, it would still be nothing compared to the scenarios depicted by lots of science fiction in its time. There is also a lesser-known fact that should be considered. In 1971, thus when the brief parable of the lunar voyages had already taken a downturn, the journalist Don C. Hoefler suggested a new name for the Santa Clara Valley. In his view, the southern part of the area surrounding the San Francisco Bay should be called Silicon Valley so as to take into account the high concentration of industries related to semiconductors and computers. That very year, a company in the area, the Intel Corporation, produced the first microprocessor, a chip capable of operating singly to make decisions and calculations,

and for data processing. It was the turning point that not only dramatically improved the performance of computers, it also - in terms of cost and ease of use - turned them into items available to everyone. Due to a curious twist of fate, the funding cuts to the space program decided in the early seventies involuntarily made a significant contribution. Short of funds, NASA was forced to reduce its purchases of electronic equipment. Companies in the sector therefore turned to the public market, particularly focusing on the production of pocket and desk-top calculators. The 4000-1 was, in fact, designed by Intel on behalf of a Japanese company that produced objects of this type. In short, we are not yet in a position to move from one galaxy to another at warp speed, but we can effortlessly navigate through the websites of a universe which, though virtual, seems as endless as the one triggered by the Big

Bang. And the realization of this second possibility - unimaginable until a few decades ago - we owe in some ways to the fading science fiction dream par excellence. That the world has evolved in different directions than those predicted is confirmed by a banal given. When asked “What do you want to be?” no child today would respond “an astronaut,” as they systematically did some time ago. If this is true, the logical conclusion would be that - in terms of the ability to explore the future - science fiction writers have a credibility which is more or less equal to that of astrologers and fortune tellers. And to think that it was a guru of science fiction, Arthur C. Clarke, author of the novel on which Stanley Kubrick based 2001: A Space Odyssey, who formulated the three laws of prediction: 1. When an esteemed but elderly scientist says that a certain thing is possible, he is almost cer-


oxygen 13 – 06.2011

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John Springer Collection/Corbis

The future is not what it once was

tainly right; when he states that a certain thing is impossible, he is probably wrong. 2. The only way to discover the limits of the impossible is to venture a little further into the impossible. 3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Reading these carefully, one realizes. however, that these three laws do not tell us how to anticipate the future at all. Each of them, albeit in three different ways, warns us of the same danger: that ignoring the factors can lead us into error. The trouble is that when we try to imagine the future, we inevitably do so starting from our own expectations, which in turn derive from the need or even the mere desire to obtain something that we still do not have. After all, this is also the spirit that directs much of scientific research. Indeed, only a madman would think of devoting years studying to find a new treatment for smallpox, or to prove that the Earth is not flat. Put in these terms, it seems obvious, but it

is the apparent evidence of what is reasonable and what is not that prevents us from outlining future scenarios that are not a logical projection of the present. In 1968, when 2001: A Space Odyssey hit the movie theaters, wonders such as the Lunar cities, floating hotels and interplanetary travel predictions seemed reasonable for the beginning of the third millennium, and yet none of them has ever come to pass. To be fair, it must be remembered that science fiction writers were not the only bad prophets. In the forties of the last century, an IBM executive said with false complacency: “I believe that in the market of the entire planet there is room for up to five computers at most.” And again in 1977, just when the Apple II, intended to provide the prototype of the personal computer, was being built in a garage in California, the Digital Equipment Corporation continued to feel the same way: “There is no reason why a person would want a computer at home.”

Being in good company was not much use. Despite the bright interlude of cyberpunk, science fiction has never recovered from the crisis of the seventies and the end of the space age. It is said that the late film producer Carlo Ponti made “horrible grimaces” upon simply hearing the term “science fiction” and that it was hard work to convince him to finance one of the few films of this kind ever shot in our country, Elio Petri’s The Seventh Victim (1965). A similar reluctance was even affecting Hollywood, where the number of science fiction films was decreasing steadily. William Gibson, acknowledged master of cyberpunk, has recently expressed a very significant thought in this regard: “When I was 12, the only thing I wanted to be was a writer of science fiction. Today, I’m not so sure I’ve actually become one. I suspect that there was something different at the start of my career because I took it for granted that the present moment was always infinitely stranger and more complex than any ‘future’ I could ever imagine.” Could it be, therefore, that the real purpose of science fiction is not at all that of imagining what will happen? Not for nothing Frederik Pohl, from whose pen came genuine classics such as The Space Merchants, co-written with Cyril M. Kornbluth, argues that “no writer of science fiction endowed with any sensitivity would ever try to predict anything.” Unfortunately, this is true only in part. It may be that foresight is not uppermost in the thoughts of writers, but what about the instinct and the varied realm of the readers, the real custodians of the sense of a book? For example, how many times have we heard that Orwell had predicted it all? And here comes the fun part, because with 1984 - moreover, ascribable to science fiction only in the broadest sense – he did not get a single thing right. Is the world divided into perhaps three totalitarian superpowers perpetually at war with each other? Is the only kind of thought allowed the so-called Doublethink? Are we perhaps talking in Newspeak? Is there a case of Big Brother other than the vulgar reality shows? It could be argued that the foresight of writers is not meant to be taken in such literal

terms. Absolutely true, but in using such a criterion for evaluation we would also have to accept the ambiguous predictions of horoscopes and fortune cookies as valid. Actually, we would not need to champion any prophetic quality to enhance the value of Orwell, and yet the temptation to say “He had thought of everything” is irresistible. That is because faith in predictability is somewhat comforting. And when William Gibson claims to be something other than a science fiction writer, he is referring precisely to this special kind of belief: “We often see what we expect to see, we interpret the world through a personal lens, and are therefore extremely vulnerable to the trap of apophenia,” the unmotivated seeing of connections. On the other hand, there are works in which writers have proven to be good prophets. H.G. Wells was particularly gifted in this. In his book, Advances, published in 1901, he predicted the advent of sexual liberation and eugenics. Some time later, in 1914, in the novel The Liberation of the World, he prefigured the invention of the atomic bomb. In 1933, he ventured an even more detailed hypothesis: the intensive use of aerial bombing in war actions. However, these books have, in fact, fallen into oblivion and instead, Wells is remembered for novels proposing scenarios that never occurred, beginning with the Martian invasion feared in the famous War of the Worlds. Something similar can be said of another undisputed master of science fiction, Jules Verne. Paris in the Twentieth Century contains detailed descriptions of glass skyscrapers, high-speed trains, cars, computers and even a global communications network: all of which in 1863 - or when Verne imagined them - were still far from existing; nevertheless, this short novel is among his lesser-known works. This shows that what we want from science fiction are not prophecies, but a credible portrait of our fears and desires. In other words, it is not the future in and of itself that we truly want to know about; rather, it is what we already cultivate in our souls: that the future is within us.

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Oxygen versus CO2

Oxygen versus CO2 by Elisa Frisaldi

150 years that are hotter and hotter. And the coming years?

the surface down to a depth of 700 meters. The results show that between 1993 and 2008, a quantity of heat equal to about 0.64 ± 0.11 Watt/m2 had been trapped underwater. The most recent statements with regard to changes in global temperature are those that emerged at the last UN climate conference (COP16), which was held last December in Cancun, Mexico. According to tabulations released by the American Space Agency, the average global temperature measured from December 2009 to November 2010 was 14.65° C. This means that there was a rise of 0.65° C above the average as compared to the period of control that elapsed between 1951 and 1980. To try to slow down this trend and the resulting natural disasters (storms, hurricanes, floods and fires) as much as possible, the Kyoto Protocol calls for developed countries to reduce by 2020 their emissions of greenhouse gases by 25-40% as compared to 1990. In parallel, the Long-term Cooperative Action document says that developed countries, including the U.S. in this case, that are not part of the Kyoto Protocol have to further reduce greenhouse gases to match what is required by the Fourth Assessment Report (2007). The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is the central element of an in-

ternational agreement on climate and one of the main points of discussion between two political and climate giants, the U.S. and China. The United States is accused of being primarily responsible for the problem of not respecting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) signed in 1992, which calls on western countries to be the first to reduce their emissions. China is likewise called upon for a greater commitment, seeing as it is the second-largest world economy, by now far from the economic conditions that existed in 1992 and those prevailing in most developing countries today. Until now, the choice between adhering to the Kyoto protocol and that of creating a brand-new agreement among the interested parties has often paralyzed the negotiations. In Cancun, the choice was made to continue work already on the table parallel to the Kyoto Protocol and the Long-term Cooperative Action and, at the same time, to insert all the commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a new document, which will hopefully become a single pact to fight climate change. With regard to the European Union, energy and environmental policies are not exclusively the responsibility of the Member States, but must be imple-

Will Sanders/GalleryStock

Over the last century and a half (150 years or, just by chance, the period of time that historically parallels the Unification of Italy), the average global temperature (measured as a combination of air temperature over the continents and the surface temperature of water in the oceans) has shown an upward trend, with some periods of several decades of stagnation or slight decline. In recent years, the temperature has settled to steady values which, however, are among the highest ever reached in the whole monitoring period. 2010 was one of the three hottest years ever and the second in terms of natural disasters. Kevin Trenberth, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado and among the leaders of the Intergovernmental Panel of Experts on Climate Change (IPCC), not only rebuts the allegations, facts in hand, of those who deny the existence of global warming but claims that in recent years a good deal of energy has been trapped as heat in the seas and oceans of our planet. We are talking about 0.9 Watt/m2. A well-known study by J.M. Lyman and other researchers, published in “Nature” in May 2010, confirmed the thesis of Trenberth, calculating the heat of the layer of ocean water that goes from

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mented taking into account the guidelines and objectives agreed upon at the EU level. Therefore, if Italian politics seems affected by chronic contradictions, perhaps the greater determination of the European framework is a reason to look to the future with optimism. Specifically, we are talking about the “Europe 2020 strategy.” Its objectives include a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% as compared to the 1990 levels, to reach a 20% production of energy from renewable sources with regard to the final consumption and a 20% increase in the level of energy efficiency. Among the documents produced by the Committee on the implementation of this strategy are two that outline the key actions to curb the rise of global warming: the first is the plan for a lowcarbon economy (reducing greenhouse gas emissions generated in Europe by 80 to 95% by 2050); the second is carte blanche for transport, to aid urban, inter-urban and long-distance mobility. The effects of global warming are already evident and the awareness of the problem is becoming more ingrained. A wise policy cannot help but exploit these years of relative calm in order to become better equipped to face the changes in habitats and habits that await us in the next 150 years.

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OXYGEN N°13 English Version  

150 years of energy, science and techonology

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