Il momento della svolta?

Vivere all’estero ed essere italiano porta a strane domande con ben più strane risposte.
Le domande sono come fate ad avere al governo Berlusconi, le risposte sono assai rocambolesche.

La cosa interessante, come viene fattto notare sull’articolo del ilPost è che a Milano c’è la possibilità di vincere la città come Centro Sinistra sostenendo Pisapia, visto che il PDL ha candidato la Moratti (sindaco inetto, Civati ne ha paralto diffusamente).

Ora io non vivo in Italia e non posso votare a Milano. Non ci ho mai vissuto e non potrò far campagna elettorale sul campo. Però posso fare una cosa. Ho fatto una piccola donazione per la campagna elettorale di Pisapia.

Lo sò che sembrerà una cosa allucinante, tuttavia visto e considerato che posso donare 10 € per una causa che potrebbe migliorare la situazione nazionale, lo considero più come un investimento, che una donazione a fondo perduto.

Retroffiting with style:the cinquino elettrico

Pietro Cambi is the president of the Eurozev, an association which promotes the conversion from endothermic engine to electric. He converted his own ‘cinquino’ to an electric car, manteining a lot of the original specs (like for example the clutch!)

cinquino picture

Cinquino and the kitegen prototype in the back. At the right side of cinquino Pietro Cambi, at the left side Massimo Ippolito, the kitegen's inventor


There is a video on youtube when the cinquino hit the 100 Km/h (the endothermic cinquino was never that fast 🙂

This is pretty cool and I think the way to go.

Best LaTeX editor: Gedit on steroids

Looking for a really powerful editor in GNOME is one of my constant research.

However it seems now it’s close to an end and it need just a small tilt to achieve perfection.
Right now I’m using Gedit with LaTeX plugin . It works amazingly and it does it jobs. The spellchecker is available and everything works properly.
I’m using Evince to actually check the complied PDF instead of the third panel, but that is a preference thing.

However the best tool out there to enjoy creative writing is definitely Scrivener. The main features of Scrivener is the ability to completely shiedl the user from the managing of the files and names, giving the possibility to focus on:

  • the status of it’s work (todo, draft, revision…)
  • the ability to shuffle and reorder the pieces of work as it best fit.
  • the main idea to use scrivener, or autonomous chunk of text which can be combined in an easy way

Writing books or big documents from scientific papers to PhD thesis it’s a main effort, which need constantly the main vision, but also the attention to details. Some parts will be ready before others, some pieces have a different evolution than others. The chunked text is the best way to go and I think it will really make the users’ life easier while battling with writing massive document.

The main problems with Scrivener are three according to me:

  • is available only for Mac and Windows, although there is a not supported version for Linux
  • the way the references are managed is not ok for scientific papers (BibTex does a perfect job)
  • not able to control easily the results of the compiled files.

This is the impression I’ve got when I used it for a really small period of testing. Although the User Interface is amazing.

Therefore we should create our own Scrivener, where the three points over stated should be addressed.

Gedit is a very good candidate to evolve, due to use of plugins, to a similar User Experience. Using the LaTeX plugin is already possible to holds and manage complicated text and notation and have a top-notch quality results.

What we are missing is the managing of the files a la Scrivener, where each file is a just a chunk of text which can be a subsection, a section up to even a chapter. Each file should be indexed and the metadata of each file should be tracked, like the revision status and the part status. A project manager, which will holds all this file and it will open them and make them always available to the user. The best would be to have a project manager which holds all the files, and a third panel where the status of the file and the type of the file is tracked properly.

Any chunk of test should be written in LaTeX and could be combined according of the order in the Outline, using the  input command.

Unfortunaly I’m not too familiar with Gedit from the programming point of view, however if there is anyone who thinks is a good idea and want to give a try I’m happy to be a beta tester and give an hand.

If interested, leave a comment, or send me an email. There is a starting (hopefully) discussion also on the Gedit ML

Terna joins the Desertec project


Terna, the Italian Transmission and System Operator, has joined the Desertec project. I got known the DESERTEC project some years ago and I was really excited about it for two reasons:

  • the possibility to harvest a great amount of energy from the sun, in a more efficient way than the photovoltaic1
  • enhance the collaboration within the countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the European Union, where the south countries, like Italy, Greece, France and Spain have to play a really particular and important role.

In my idea Italy should lead this effort, given the geographical position. To achieve that we need to create a culture that is able to integrate with the other, in a way of respect, with the possibility to be free to like or dislike.

One interesting initiative on this line was the Adriatic Festival, happened in Ancona.

1 The photovoltaic panel are the right solution for roofs, however under a certain latitude the concentrated solar power should be preferred due to the better performance per land unit use, the buffer ability and the bigger output.

Research as a way to advance society

This morning I had a really interesting conversation with a friend of mine on the bus to work.
Then I read this post from Luca De Biase about the Japanes law of Science and Technology which was in good agreement with my position.

Sometimes Science and Research is seen as a tool to achieve a better handling of technology. That’s a really narrow way to look at it and it’s not the main point.

I think Research regarding both humanistic and scientific topics, is a way to improve society. The better we understand the world and ourself, the better we can live on this planet and have a better society.

Japan has passed in 1995 a law called: “Science and Technology basic law“, this is the first article

Article 1
The objective of this law is to achieve a higher standard of science and technology (hereinafter referred to as “S&T”), to contribute to the development of the economy and society in Japan and to the improvement of the welfare of the nation, as well as to contribute to the progress of S&T in the world and the sustainable development of human society, through prescribing the basic policy requirements for the promotion of S&T (excluding those relevant only to the humanities in this law) and comprehensively and systematically promoting policies for the progress of S&T.

The real deal is to improve society and to create a sustainable way to do it. It is not about the money, is about the vision of the society and about building a better one for the future.

This is way, I signed the petition on science is vital, and I’m going to the rally on Saturday.

People should not be mistaken, this is not scientists calling for more money because they are fearing to loose the job, they can always do another job.

This is scientists calling the whole society to understand that research is a way to build a better society and to build a better future. The rally is happening in UK, but this is a worldwide issue.

Empowering people

On ted there is this very good talk about empowering people, connecting them and try to boost innovation to make the world better.

[ted id=955]

It is a very inspiring talk, which actually points you in the right way. Times are gonna be complicated and we need to sparkle innovations to improve the world and make it better. Is not a job that can be undertaken just by a bunch of guys but actually we need a distributed approach where everyone can find his/her niche and share back to the world, on a two ways system.

I have to say that when you look out of the window, sometimes you think that the crowd is too stupid and that there will be no possibility to improve.

However I believe this is not true, and this is just a sampling problem. You need a bigger sample, and then there will be the right answer for any questions, or at least a possibility to share a path together towards better conditions.

Empowering people, all of them and make them choose. A new blend of democracy?

The delta. Why we are modelling.

Medium Spiny Neuron. 3D representation made using Neuronvisio.

Model of Medium Spiny Neuron. (3D representation made with Neuronvisio)

Disclaimeir: This is a long one. Get a cup of coffee and ten solid mins of your time, otherwise leave now 😉

When I meet new people and I’m asked to introduce what I do, it usually takes at least 3 minutes to give a proper overview. Usually, if the person is interested, I’ll go deeper and deeper, using an onion strategy to explain dive in the details of my subject’s research, going from a very simplified explanation to a more and more precise one.

The interesting thing is the recurrent question which arise at the end of my explanation: Why? What is the reason behind that?

I think this is a very interesting question and I have a personal answer, which I will tell you in no time. However, before that, let me introduce you a bit my research so we are on the same page. Then I will take a risk and try to generalize this to the whole modelling world.

In my Ph.D research I’m modelling the Medium Spiny Neuron of the Basal Ganglia. If you want to know why this is interesting and you want more detailed information about it just go on my academic page, otherwise here let’s just say that I’m investigating how the memory works, trying to shade some lights on the complicated business of memory and learning. In computational neuroscience we have a lot of different data, from physiology spanning to morphology to biochemical pathways. However, all this data usually belongs to quite well defined different area of expertise and they are not integrated. I’m trying to develop a coherent theory which integrate all these areas, which then we can use as a tool to understand the system.

The system I’m studying is not linear, which means a lot of different and concurrent processes influence each other, with different magnitude and at different times dynamics. The network of relations is intricate, and the different delays makes really difficult to have a static representation which can explain the situation.

This is why modelling is useful, and in my case is quantitative modelling. One of the way to try to understand this system is to create a model where we can simulate what’s going on, then run it to try to catch the emergent properties of the system and isolate them. If this approach is successful it will give us the knowledge about how the Medium Spiny Neuron should work in physiological conditions at least about some precise situation.

So what? I heard you said. Well, we have a good representation of what is going on. Which is the main idea of basic research. But there is more, so keep reading.

Let’s say the systems (in this case the Medium Spiny Neuron) can be found in pathological and then in normal conditions.

If we know how to simulate the physiological conditions and the pathological conditions then we have the possibility to understand the difference between the two. This difference or the Δ (delta) Δ = physiological - pathological, as I like to think about it borrowing a classic mathematical notation, is what differentiate the system in the two conditions.

This can be done also from an experimental point of view. You can replicate the two states using experiments, but given the fact the system is very complex, you can use a lot of different method to force the system into pathological conditions. Usually the system acts like a black box: you know what you put in, you can read what you’re getting out, but you don’t know what’s going on inside the box. In other words you don’t know the Δ, or said in another words you don’t know why the two conditions are different.

Therefore the job of the model is try to open the box.

Now, if you know what is the Δ and why it exists you have also a good indication of what is going wrong in the pathological conditions, what is missing or what is overproduced or, in more general terms, what is the bit you lack between the two systems. Then you have a starting point where to look to patch it.

I think this doesn’t apply only to computational neuroscience, but to all the models that deals with complex systems.

That’s why I think modelling is important. It will be cool to know what are the thoughts of mine 25 readers if they made up to here. Comments are open, as usual.

Beware of ℵ0 (aleph zero)


Volevo segnalare la rubrica di matematica tenuta da Maurizio Codogno sul post.

Oggi la storia è su ℵ0 e l’albergo di Hilbert. Se l’argomento vi incuriosisce c’è sempre Wikipedia per approfondire.

Se la trattazione matematica non vi suscita grandi emozioni allora pensatelo in maniera letteraria, attraverso il capolavoro di Leopardi.


Sempre caro mi fu quest’ermo colle
E questa siepe che da tanta parte
De’ll ultimo orrizonte il guarde esclude.
Ma sedendo e mirando interminati
Spazi di là da quella, e sovrumani
Silenzi, e profondissima quiete,
Io nel pensier mi fingo, ove per poco
Il cor non si spaura. E come il vento
Odo stormir tra queste piante, io quello
Infinito silenzio a questa voce
Vo comparando; e mi sovvien l’eterno,
E le morte stagioni, e la presente
E viva, e’l suon di lei. Così tra questa
Immensità s’annega il pensier mio:
E’l naufragar m’è dolce in questo mare.

Heads up

Il 26 marzo succede questa cosa quà:

Il 26 marzo 2010 ognuno di voi avrà in mano un libro, una storia che considera bella, dei personaggi che ha amato. Avrà ciò in mano, nella propria borsa o dove volete. Il 26 marzo 2010 voi prenderete questo libro e lo regalerete ad una persona a cui non avete mai parlato. Sì, proprio uno di quelli che vedete tutti i giorni. Alzerete il vostro culo, schiarirete la vostra voce e metterete qualsivoglia infondata vergogna da un’altra parte. Prenderete quest’infuso di rivoluzione e lo donerete ad un vostro compagno. Lo guarderete negli occhi e sorriderete.

Più info qui:

Io sta cosa la faccio 🙂

Una delle piccole mosse per la rivoluzione pigra

Vota Marino

Questo è Marino:

Questo è Civati, uno della squadra di Marino

Questi siete voi che dopo averlo scoperto lo dite a tutti quanti!

“Sono convinto che un fiocco di neve pesa poco ma unito a tanti altri fiocchi può spezzare un ramo” (cit di Ottavio Raimondo)

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