Showing posts with label science. Show all posts
Showing posts with label science. Show all posts

22 May 2014

Recensione: Il mappamondo con la Cina al centro (2007), di Margherita Redaelli, ****

Matteo Ricci in Cina
Sinossi

Confrontarsi con la Cina: una sfida dei nostri tempi? L'impresa non è nuova se già quattrocento anni fa Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), gesuita e missionario, vi riuscì con risultati sorprendenti, utilizzando tecniche di gestione della diversità culturale che hanno ancora oggi molto da insegnare.

Il libro analizza il contenuto di queste tecniche e la ragione del loro successo. Rintraccia le idee filosofiche e scientifiche della cultura occidentale che Ricci divulgò in Cina e mette a confronto per la prima volta i suoi scritti con i classici greci e latini ai quali faceva riferimento. Si fa chiaro, allora, che la cultura umanistica del Ricci, ricostruita qui attraverso nuove ricerche d'archivio, gli permise di farsi mediatore tra due grandi civiltà.

Tra i tanti contributi del gesuita alla società che lo ospitò, spicca quello geografico. Infatti Ricci produsse la prima carta geografica del mondo per l'imperatore Ming, ed in questa carta la Cina appariva, come è logico, al centro.

clicca qui pervedere il mappamondo in dimensione originale
Il mappamondo con la Cina al centro di Matteo Ricci
Recensione

Originalissimo libro di una studiosa italiana su uno dei più importanti contatti tra Europa e Cina al tempo della dinastia Ming. Ricci era un gesuita ma anche un uomo di scienza e come tale fu accolto ed apprezzato alla corte di Pechino. Curioso che, mentre Ricci insegnava geografia ed astronomia in Cina, a Roma Giordano Bruno veniva messo al rogo e Galileo obbligato a rinnegare la propria scienza.

La parte più interessante del libro è la seconda, che racconta del Ricci in Cina. La prima, forse troppo lunga (62 pagine) è sulla sua formazione in Italia.

Contributo centrale del Ricci è il metodo dell'inculturazione tramite il quale egli si integra culturalmente nelle alte sfere della civiltà cinese senza però cadere in trappole sincretistiche. Ricci non solo imparò il cinese, ma studiò il confucianesimo ed il buddismo per trovare punti di contatto tramite i quali perseguire l'opera di proselitismo.

Il libro contiene anche ricche appendici documentative. Quello che purtroppo manca è una descrizione più dettagliata della vita del Ricci in Cina, dei suoi problemi quotidiani, dei suoi contatti con la corte imperiale.




Trovi qui in questo blog la mia bibliografia sulla Cina.

You can read an English bio of matteo Ricci here.

02 March 2012

Bodyworlds exhibition


Carrying your own skin is possible
Today I have finally visited Bodyworlds, in Rome. An idea of Gunther von Hagen to display plastinated human bodies.

It took me some time. The first couple of attempts I made when the exhibition was in Belgium failed miserably when I was too impatient to stand in line for hours as long lines of waiting viewer snaked around the building where the plastinated bodies were on display.

This time it was easy. Few people and almost empy halls. A perfect afternoon to look at how we are made inside.

Many exhibits, and they change all the time in different cities. Plastinated men and women displayed in many everyday poses and performing normal activities that look altogether different in this context.



Couple mating
Playing cards
Football
Fascinating to find out that the total length of our blood vessels is some 96,000 km, more than twice the earth's circumference at the equator, and almost all of that is capillary veins and arteries which are much thinner than our hair.

As I walk out I am thinking it might me interesting to be plastinated, though I felt a bit queasy at the end, when a plastinated man was encouraging volunteers for his job from a wall board:

"I was like you are now: alive. You will be like I am now: dead."

Strongly recommended, the visit if not necessarily the volunteering. The exhibition tours the world, you will find its calendar here.


12 January 2012

Book Review: The Skeptical Environmentalist, by Bjorn Lomborg, *****

Pollution in the Maldives
Synopsis

Lomborg, an associate professor of statistics in the Department of Political Science at the University of Aarhus and a former member of Greenpeace, challenges widely held beliefs that the world environmental situation is getting worse and worse. Using statistical information from internationally recognized research institutes, Lomborg systematically examines a range of major environmental issues that feature prominently in headline news around the world, including pollution, biodiversity, fear of chemicals, and the greenhouse effect, and documents that the world has actually improved. He supports his arguments with over 2500 footnotes, allowing readers to check his sources.

02 October 2010

Recensione: Tecnosciamani, di Carlo Pizzati, ***

Sinossi

La spiritualità può coesistere con le macchine? Gli androidi sono il nostro futura o sono già tra noi? I robot possono provare il piacere del sesso o possono solo essere programmati per simularlo? Perché un uomo applica sui denti dei propri pazienti dei granuli bianchi per curare il mal di schiena? "Tecnosciamani" è un iranico ed esaustivo libro che cerca di dare delle risposte a questi e a molti altri quesiti, perlustrando il mondo alla ricerca di luoghi dove la tecnologia e la spiritualità s'intersecano. La forza motrice è la ricerca di una cura per il mal di schiena cronico dell'autore, che lo tortura da vent'anni. Armato di un taccuino e della sua lunga esperienza di reporter, Carlo Pizzati, con la mente e il cuore aperti a qualsiasi cura, incomincia il suo viaggio nell'ambulatorio di un posturologo di Vicenza; la curiosità lo spinge a girare il mondo, in una specie di ricerca medica picaresca post-moderna che lo porterà dalle Cinque Terre all'India.



Recensione

Originalissimo l'approccio dell'autore, a metà strada tra il curioso, lo scanzonato ed il dissacratore trasgressivo, che però non perde la sua lucidità quando si imbarca in avventure al limite del credibile.

L'essenza del libro è in due citazioni che appaiono a pagina 71:

"L'Esistenza è infinita, quindi non può essere definita", di Lao Tzu.

"Il misticismo è una scappatoia. Se trovi che le teorie della fisica e della matematica sono troppo difficili, ti rivolgi al misticismo", di Stephen Hawking.

A queste io ne aggiungerei una terza: "La scienza non è un illusione, ma un'illusione sarebbe cercare altrove ciò che essa non ci può dare", di Sigmund Freud.

Se la scienza non può curare il mal di schiena, è futile cercare rimedi altrove, ed il libro snocciola racconti di una serie di incontri, divertenti quanto inconcludenti, dell'autore con guaritori, sciamani, medici alternativi e millantatori vari. Alla fine è la tecnologia a risolvere il problema del mal di schiena, in modo razionale, semplice ed economico...







26 September 2010

Book Review: Land of a Thousand Atolls, by I. Eibl-Eibesfeldt, ***

When this book was published in 1965 it must have been a ground breaking achievement. Very little was known then of the Maldives and underwater life in the atolls. Many photographs (of good quality given the technology of the time) complete an exhaustive description of the animal and plant life in the reef.

16 August 2005

Book Review: Longitude (2005), by Dava Sobel, *****

 (Testo italiano di seguito)

 Synopsis

Sobel has done the impossible and made horology sexy – no mean feat

New Scientist

Anyone alive in the 18th century would have known that ‘the longitude problem’ was the thorniest scientific dilemma of the day – and had been for centuries.

Lacking the ability to measure their longitude, sailors throughout the great ages of exploration had been literally lost at sea as soon as they lost sight of land. Thousands of lives, and the increasing fortunes of nations, hung on a resolution.


01 January 2001

Today the new Millennium starts

Today is the start of the new millennium.

Some, like Dick Teresi, have argued that this is the result of a number of errors in year counting committed in the past, in the middle ages in fact. There never was a year 0, we went from 1 B.C. to 1 A.D. He says there should have been a year 0 however between those two years, just like there is a year 2000 between 1999 and 2001.

However, others argue that because years B.C. are counted starting from -1, there is no room for a year zero, just like on a Carthesian coordinate system, where zero is a point, not a time interval.

Be that as it may, we are stuck with that, unless we decide to renumber all years from 1 B.C. backward, so that 1 B.C. becomes the year 0, 2 B.C. become 1 B.C. and so on.

Since we are likely to stay with the current counting system for a while... pop the Champagne today!

26 July 2000

Book review: Zero, the Biography of a Dangerous Idea (2000) by Charles Seife, *****

Synopsis

The Babylonians invented it, the Greeks banned it, the Hindus worshiped it, and the Church used it to fend off heretics. Now it threatens the foundations of modern physics. For centuries the power of zero savored of the demonic; once harnessed, it became the most important tool in mathematics. For zero, infinity's twin, is not like other numbers. It is both nothing and everything.
In Zero, Science Journalist Charles Seife follows this innocent-looking number from its birth as an Eastern philosophical concept to its struggle for acceptance in Europe, its rise and transcendence in the West, and its ever-present threat to modern physics. Here are the legendary thinkers—from Pythagoras to Newton to Heisenberg, from the Kabalists to today's astrophysicists—who have tried to understand it and whose clashes shook the foundations of philosophy, science, mathematics, and religion. Zero has pitted East against West and faith against reason, and its intransigence persists in the dark core of a black hole and the brilliant flash of the Big Bang. Today, zero lies at the heart of one of the biggest scientific controversies of all time: the quest for a theory of everything.




Review

A fascinating book for the non-mathematical minds like mine. I was mostly struck by the philosophical implications of the concept of zero. I would never have thought that a number could have had such impact on religion, politics and indeed our way of life. The main concept I came away with is that zero, the twin brother of infinity, was not recognized as suchin antiquity. In fact it was expressely rejected by most ancient civilizations, and remarkably so by Aristotle: his theory of a "prime mover" of a finite universe (God) was taken up for two millennia by priests of various religions and catholic popes. To reject Aristotle and accept Giordano Bruno (there may be, indeed, there probably are other worlds and the universe is not finite) was heretical: there was no need for a prime mover any more and, ...might there be other popes besides the one on earth? Giordano Bruno paid with his life for defending infinity and, therefore, zero.

We have obviously and luckily moved beyond that by now, but zero has not yet become a familiar concept for most of us. Most people, if asked, will start counting from 1, though 0 is the first number. Most celebrated the new millennium one year early, on 31 December 1999, because they were unaware that there was no year 0, but the 3rd millennium began on 1 january 2001. And 0 is placed after 9 in the keyboard of my computer, and not before 1, where it should be.

This is not a heavy math book, but a pleasure to read for the scientifically minded, especially if you have a propensity to look for the root causes of philosophy and politics.


01 January 2000

Today is not the start of the new Millennium!

To see when the new millennium actually starts, go to my post of 1 January 2001!

Much of the world celebrates the new Millennium today, but it will actually happen in a year's time.

The year 2000 is the last year of the XX century, not the first year of the XXI, and thus also the last year of the 2nd millennium AD...