Monday, January 30, 2017

Nice movies, bad for women

I would like to draw a comparison between two great movies, namely Hichcock's Vertigo and David Lynch's Lost Highway. The analogies are so strict that it's difficult to imagine Lynch did not deliberately reference the Master of Thriller's masterpiece.

In Vertigo there are two women, a blond irresistible woman that turns out to be a deception, and and a real humble woman with brown hair. The latter woman's death is due to the lack of self assurance of the man she loves. The blonde woman appears in the first part of the movie, in which the deception unfolds, the brunette woman in the second part of the movie.

In Lost Highway the situation is similar but reversed. The real brunette woman appears in the first part of the movie at the end of which she's killed by the man she lives with because he cannot deal with his jealousy. In the second part of the movie a dreamlike blond woman appears, but the desception ends with the final distruction of the male character.

In both movies both women, the blonde and the brunette, are impersonated by the same actress.

Both movies deal with male insecurities and are fine artistic representation of how personal imbalance, immaturity and lack of psychological stability (recall that Hichcock's movie title is Vertigo!) can be harmful to other people and to the person itself.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Light speed

Often it's said that Relativity doesn't allow any information to travel faster than the speed of light.

That's exaggerate and not true.

It's been shown that quantum entanglement allows information to travel faster than the speed of light. If a system is entangled, meaning it's a superposition of two states, when an interaction causes the system to fall into one of those two states, that happens instantly everywhere irrespective of how big the system is.

So, for example, if two photons get entangled and then one of them is sent to a nearby galaxy, afterwards the system comprising the two photons stretches from our galaxy to the nearby one, and, irrespective of that, an interaction with the local photon can cause an instant change in the distant one located in the another galaxy.

So information can move instantly whatever the distance.

I think, but I'm not going to prove it, that the limitation due to the speed of light regards only energy and momentum, not information.

That is not surprising, because it can be shown that the fact the laws of physics are the same everywhere causes energy and momentum to be conserved during the evolution of a system. So energy and momentum are deeply connected with the structure and geometry of spacetime, in a way that their transfer is subject to the geometrical laws of spacetime (of which the speed of light is just an aspect).

Information instead, and who knows what else, can move instantly.

In the above example, sending the photon to the nearby galaxy is a transfer of energy, that's why it's subject to the speed of light limit. But once energy is in place, that limit doesn't apply to information transfer.

So, if I may end on a sci-fi note, one may imagine harvesting photons entangled from the beginning of the universe to send information instantly to every corner of it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

New Horizons getting to Pluto

The New Horizons spacecraft will get to the Pluto-Charon system next July. How does Pluto and the Sun look from Charon? I tried to picture it using Celestia:

For comparison, here's how the Earth and the Sun look from the Moon:

So from Charon Pluto looks quite bigger than the Earth from the Moon, and it must be quite a spectacle. The Sun instead looks not much larger than a pin from Pluto. From the Moon it isn't so big either. In fact as it is well known it's about half a degree in angular size, the same angular size as the light disc a few millimeters across in the picture above seen from a few decimeters far.

I personally perceive the the Sun much bigger than this, but it must be just a psychological illusion.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


I'm very fond of Lucio Battisti last records.  I think they mark the greatest achievement
in his musical career.

I was curious about the creative process behind these songs. We know pretty well how Lucio worked with Pasquale Panella. In the last records the lyrics were composed before the music.

Instead, we know less about how the songs came to take the form we can listen to now. So, I tried to ask Robyn Smith, who arranged "Don Giovanni" and "L'Apparenza" and he was so kind to reply:

Ciao Carlo, 

I have not listened to the album for a while now. I just did - oh, it is so magical. The harmonies are mainly all Lucio’s. He demoed the songs with a very simple keyboard with his voice. What was so wonderful was that he just let me arrange everything as I wanted and he seemed to like everything. 

The relationship of the sound and the atmosphere relevant to the lyrics and the meaning was most important. At that time drum machines were widely used and the use of rhythmic keyboards gave it this feeling of almost unemotion. This is what he wanted - the empty change… the appearance. 

It was so easy and so enjoyable to make. I had already arranged Don Giovanni so I knew how Lucio worked and he knew how I worked. It was great and he is greatly missed.

Many thanks for bringing back such wonderful memories. 


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Curiosity Rover Navigation Pics

I created a Python script to make movies out of the NASA Curiosity Rover navigation camera pictures. Here's the script and a sample movie:

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Rebecca vs Madeleine, Mrs de Winter vs Judy

There are some similarities between the plots of the two Hitchcock's movies Rebecca and Vertigo, often considered amongst his best (the latter often as the best of all movies, actually).


In Rebecca Maxim loses her wife. We never see this woman but she is described as an extremely beautiful, intelligent and educated woman. In Vertigo Madeleine appears as an extraordinarily charming and elegant woman, whose loss Scotty, as Maxim with Rebecca, isn't able to go beyond.

In Rebecca, Maxim's new wife, who appears of humble origin, so humble we don't even know her name, struggles to bear the comparison with Rebecca, and it appears at first that Maxim is still bound to Rebecca's memory. The same happens in Vertigo: when Scotty meets Judy, he's struck by the girl resemblance with Madeleine, and Judy has to undergo the humiliating process of becoming Madeleine.

In both movies there is a deception. In the former movie we discover that Rebecca was actually an
indifferent woman incapable of love, in the latter we discover that Judy was actually posing as Madeleine to prepare the stage for a homicide.

In Rebecca Manderley, Maxim's rich and isolated residence, is crowded with high towers, while the tower of an isolated mission is the place of  turning point events in Vertigo.

In Rebecca the housekeeper, Mrs Danvers, a very strict and severe woman, sets Manderley on fire. Mrs de Winter is able to flee safely for a happy ending. In Vertigo instead, a nun suddenly appears at the top of the tower, and Judy, trying to run away, falls down and dies. A sort of nun is intrumental for the end of both movies.

Finally, the acting styles of Joan Fontaine and Kim Novak bear some resemblance to each other. When they express anguish because the man they love appears to be bound to a woman they feel they can't compare to, they express it in a similar way. It may be be that Novak took inspiration from Fontaine while learning acting.

Sigmund Freud


If Hitchcock went over to the same themes twice, well, maybe it was because they were near to his heart.

These themes allow a psychological interpretation. The first woman is a man's mother. She's the beautiful, young, overwhelming woman a man meets just after birth. The latter woman is a real woman, humble and perfectible.
Alfred Hitchcock

The connection between the eyes, vision, and the early image of one's mother emerges in Scotty's acrophobia (vertigo), which is clinically thought to emerge because of an excessive prevalence of vision over the other senses. I should recall that Oedipus, as a self-punishment for killing his father and marrying his mother, blinds himself with two pins, as if vision were to be blamed. I also remark that Hitchcock, in one of the his last interviews, said he felt particularly happy and calm when looking to a clean horizon without the tiniest cloud, again stressing the role of vision in his mood, a vision of perfection without defects.

I may add that the isolated tower stands for male penis, and the meaning is that the incestuous relationship goes into troubles when it comes to sex. In Rebecca the towered isolated residence is destroyed at the end, meaning that Maxim gives up his screwed attitudes to accept life with a real woman (also in Vertigo there is a moment when it appears that Scotty and Judy may live happily together, but the chance is lost when Judy wears the necklace that reveals to Scotty the deception he was caught in).

The nun symbolizes that the obstacle to the improper relationship is of moral nature.

Finally, the deception may mean that maternal love, at least as it is seen and felt from the perspective of a child, is actually a deception, and that lingering too long on it, leads to troubles. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Lesser minds

I would like to express my impression after reading the book "Ingegni Minuti - Una storia della scienza in Italia" ("Lesser minds - A story of science in Italy") by Lucio Russo ed Emanuela Santoni. I say impression because the authors don't put forward any hypothesis, they just describe facts, but sometimes facts speak for themselves.

The book is characterized by a remarkable historical depth and wealth of documentation. It goes over the full history of science in Italy, starting with the appearance of the first texts about the abacus and the rediscovery of classical science in the Renaissance, through the decadence of scientific investigation in Italy with the end of the XVII century, till the partial reprise the occurred after the unification and after the Second World War.

A thesis that underlies the whole book is that scientific investigation is greatly impoverished and can't flourish if it's separated from the technical and economical needs of the society in which it occurs.

Recovery after WWII

Coming to the point. After the Second World War, Italy recovers with surprising vigor. It's a period of great vitality in many areas, from cinema to literature, from industry to scientific research.

CNRN (Comitato Nazionale per la Ricerca Nucleare), later renamed CNEN (Comitato Nazionale per l'Energia Nucleare) is among the institutions that lead the technical and scientific endeavors. It is directed by Felice Ippolito. The ISS (Istituto Superiore di Sanità), directed by Domenico Marotta, takes Italian Biology to the forefront of international research.

Enrico Mattei
In the meantime, in the sector of energy sources, Enrico Mattei leads a campaign to search for oil and gas sources under the Italian soil and sea. At the same time it strikes direct contracts with producing countries in the Middle East, bypassing foreign established Corporations (the Seven Sisters).

Last but non least, Italian industry enters the most advance sectors, such as electronics. In 1959 Olivetti produces the first Italian computer, called Elea 9003.

A series of startling facts

At the beginning of the sixties, various unexpected events take place. Between 1962 and 1964, both Ippolito and Marotta are accused of fraud and discredited. On October the 27th 1962, Enrico Mattei dies when the airplane he was flying on is hyjacked and crashes. 

In 1964 Olivetti sells its Divisione Elettronica to General Electric, giving up the chance of competing in a scientific/industrial area then in frenetic expansion.

Buzzati Traverso
During that year, in April, Buzzati-Traverso writes on the newspaper L'Espresso:
"A new witch-hunt has been let loose in Italy, putting discredit on the hole scientific community and thus compromising a sector that, after many difficulties and struggles, was recovering well, and that, on the other hand, is essential for the country. What is being sought? That Italy remains outside of the great world movement of the scientific revolution? That the best scientists leave the country?"

In 1973 Giuliano Toraldo di Francia, a physicist, sums up the situation of science in Italy in these terms: "Italy is regressing instead of developing [è un paese in via di sottosviluppo, a humorous sentence difficult to translate]".


So, the impression I have after reading these facts, is the that at the beginning of the Sixties a deliberate policy was adopted to hold back Italy, far from the front line of scientific research and crucial industrial sectors, cutting the link between research and production, necessary for the health of both. Besides, it is not difficult to imagine the this unfortunate choice was born outside Italy, as other obscure events in the history of the country in those years. Who should Italians thank?