Passions are eventually good for something…

As is evident from this website, I have always been a person of multiple interests. I’ve never focused on a single object. I need to vary, to wander. For me, doing the same thing is a bit like being in prison. Clearly, those who focus all their energy on one subject have a lot of chances to succeed in that field. I’ve always criticized myself for dispersing my energies on so many things without ever making a really good one. Then someone pointed out to me that there are also pentathletes and decathletes. It’s a personal trait. And nowadays I have to say it’s been my luck…

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My two (2) cents on viruses

The word virus comes from the Latin term for poison. I mean, that’s not a good start. Most people don’t believe that viruses are a life form. In biology, living things are divided into 5 kingdoms: bacteria, protists, fungi, plants, animals. Viruses are not included because they lack a fundamental characteristic of living beings: the ability to reproduce by themselves. Put a virus on a table and don’t let it get in contact with anyone and it stays there without moving or changing. But in contact with the right cell, there it “animates”, reproduces and spreads. Then it can be trouble. But the luck lies in the fact that viruses are extremely specialized: a given virus only attacks certain types of cells of certain living beings. And it can also be useful to human beings…

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La Terra ha un mantello fatto di uranio? Sarà per questo che fa caldo prima di un terremoto…

A friend of mine once shared me a link to a press release from the webpage of the Italian edition of Scientific American. The source was the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN). The headline: “Geoneutrinos confirm that we are resting on a mantle of uranium and thorium.” I imagine any geologist would frown a bit at this statement. Why? Because the mantle is not made of uranium and thorium. Plus, this research had not found out that the mantle is composed of uranium and thorium. The research confirmed that most of the Earth’s internal heat comes from the decay of radioactive elements widespread not only in the crust (as already well known) but also in the mantle. Geoneutrinos are subatomic particles, a byproduct of radioactive decay (while neutrinos come form stars for fairly similar reasons).

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Inertial frames of reference

inertialI have very fond memories about my high school maths and physics teacher. He is the one responsible for my love for science and the first who tried to teach me how to use my own brain and think freely.

He stressed the subject of inertial frame of reference, a kind of “independent observation point”, quite a lot. Think of when your sitting in a train and the train next to you moves: you have the impression that the train you’re on is moving. From the inertial frame of reference of the guy on the platform, it is clear which train is moving. My high school teacher loved to bring up Galileo’s struggle to convince his contemporaries that the Earth was revolving around the Sun, not the opposite, as most believed at those times.
My physics teacher argued that they were actually both right, both points of view had their own reasons based on physics if you observed them from the correct inertial frame of reference.

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The greatest long-term threats facing humanity

Can we actually say anything about the far future? If we can’t predict when it will rain next month, forecasting billions of years hence might seem impossible.

However, not everything is as chaotic as the weather: even predictions very far ahead are sometimes possible, especially in astrophysics and cosmology. We can be confident that there will be a total solar eclipse in the UK on 23 September 2090 because the Moon, Sun and Earth move in stable, predictable orbits with very minor disturbances, and the laws of gravity are now well-tested. Similarly, we can use known astrophysics to predict what will likely happen across the Universe as it expands.

Continue reading on BBC Future

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

“…For many people, the idea of a “garbage patch” conjures up images of an island of trash floating on the ocean. In reality, these patches are almost entirely made up of tiny bits of plastic, called microplastics. Microplastics can’t always be seen by the naked eye. Even satellite imagery doesn’t show a giant patch of garbage. The microplastics of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch can simply make the water look like a cloudy soup. This soup is intermixed with larger items, such as fishing gear and shoes.”

Read the entire article on National Geographic