Harvard Cosmologist Illuminates New Frontiers of Physics in Trieste

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by EH

Anticipation is running high for one of the marquee events at the eighth edition of the Festival Scienza e Virgola, orchestrated by the Interdisciplinary Laboratory of SISSA and directed by the acclaimed writer Paolo Giordano. Tomorrow, the festival will welcome an exceptionally distinguished guest: Lisa Randall, the esteemed Harvard cosmologist and theoretical physicist, often hailed as the successor to Stephen Hawking.

The event, titled “Knocking on Heaven’s Door. The Universe as We Have Never Known It,” is scheduled for 6:30 PM at the Teatro dei Fabbri. This marks Randall’s sole appearance in Italy, where she will engage in a thought-provoking dialogue with Barbara Gallavotti, a prominent figure in Italian scientific communication and host of the Rai 3 program Quinta Dimensione.

Randall, author of the influential book “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” published in Italy by Il Saggiatore, will delve into the complexities of the universe, shedding light on its mysteries and exploring the pivotal role of science in human history, from Galileo and Newton to Einstein and Feynman. The book, considered one of the foremost popular science works of our time, examines how contemporary research continues to push the boundaries of our understanding.

As a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, Randall’s contributions to particle physics and cosmology are well-recognized. Her groundbreaking research has enhanced the Standard Model of particle physics, supersymmetry, baryogenesis, cosmological inflation, and dark matter. Her work also spans the grand unified theory (GUT) and string theory. Notably, Randall was the first woman to hold a chaired professorship in Princeton University’s physics department and in theoretical physics at both MIT and Harvard, where she currently teaches. In 2004, she was the most cited theoretical physicist of the preceding five years. Randall has been honored as a science icon by Seed Magazine (2005), listed by Newsweek as one of the most promising theoretical physicists (2006), and named among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people (2007).

The day’s events will commence at 2 PM with a poignant initiative at the “Ernesto Mari” Correctional Facility in Trieste. There, the festival will introduce “Advocacy for Mental Health: A Practical Guide for Citizens, Associations, and Institutions,” published by Il Pensiero Scientifico Editore. Edited by Benedetto Saraceno, Rebecca De Fiore, and Giovanna Del Giudice, the manual explores advocacy in mental health, aiming to promote the rights of individuals with mental disorders and reduce stigma. The discussion, moderated by Agnese Baini of SISSA, is expected to resonate with family associations and mental health professionals alike.

The festival will culminate at 8 PM with “Galileo (R)evolution – The Path of Science,” a scenic conversation at Teatro Miela. Organized in collaboration with the AIRC Foundation, this event will feature Massimo Polidoro, a journalist and scientific communicator, alongside AIRC researchers Pier Paolo Di Fiore and Anna Chiara De Luca. The discussion will explore the triumphs and challenges faced by researchers today. Following the conversation, attendees will be treated to a screening of “Galileo (R)evolution,” a docufilm by Berta Film/Kahuna Film in collaboration with the Galileo Galilei Museum. Directed by Carlo Borean, the film, supported by the AIRC Foundation, parallels Galileo’s legacy with the pursuits of contemporary scientists.

Massimo Polidoro, a founding member of CICAP alongside Piero Angela and an expert in pseudosciences, has recently co-authored “The Wonder of Everything” (2024). Anna Chiara De Luca leads the Biophotonics and Advanced Microscopy Laboratory at CNR Naples, and Pier Paolo Di Fiore, a professor at the University of Milan and director at the European Institute of Oncology, authored “The Inevitable Life” (2022).

As Trieste prepares for this convergence of scientific minds, the Festival Scienza e Virgola promises a compelling exploration of the universe, mental health advocacy, and the enduring impact of scientific inquiry.

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Edward Hunt
Edward is a defence consultant working independently for various companies and governments. He has lived in Trieste since 2017 after moving with his family from London. Currently he also writes articles for various aerospace industry magazines, works with flight simulator game developers and corrects erroneous opinions in the FT comments sections like a Boss.


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