«I dreamed that the visible universe is the physical person of God; that the vast worlds that we see twinkling millions of miles apart in the fields of space are the blood corpuscles in His veins; and that we and the other creatures are the microbes that charge with multitudinous life the corpuscles.»
Mark Twain, 3,000 Years Among the Microbes
«Twain drew upon contemporary scientific theories of disease, specifically, the new germ theory, which postulated that disease was caused by microbes, and spread through contact with infectious individuals. This discovery, rapidly adopted by the public, suggested what many already understood that the borders separating individuals, and nations, were unpredictably porous.»
R. L. Nichols, Infectious Imperialism: Mark Twain, Microbes and the Borders of the Citizen
you may have been wondering whatever happened to us? Maybe you were even relieved of not receiving this nuisance of a newsletter… But surprise: we are still here, and more virulent than ever!
Much like Treponema pallidum – one of the “spirits” that infested the stories we recently read and discussed about – after the first superficial outspurts, later this summer we went latent and installed into the body of Festivaletteratura. There we exploited the resources of our host organism, enrolled its cells, travelled through its arteries, tickled its lymphatic nodes.… Read the rest
[Unedited writedown from an interview to Bruno Latour @ Festivaletteratura 2018 on occasion of Scienceground 2, Mantova, Sunday September 9th, 2018. Edited Italian version on iltascabile.it]
[On the dispute with Sokal-Bricmont] A big one I had in a big theatre in the middle of London. Eight hundred people screaming, half of them against me and half of them against Sokal. Sokal is a nice guy actually, he was defending the last stand of the old epistemology. But now all of that is gone, actually Sokal wrote that we won. He was interrogated about climate skepticism, and everyone realized that the ones that were defending the scientists were us, and that the whole epistemological defense of science was no use against the big corporations and big deniers. So, the Sokal affair was the last ditch, so to speak, the last effort of the traditional epistemology to defend itself, and then we realized it was a very bad defense, because when you are attacked, seriously, by a denier of climate science, you need another version of science.
[On postmodernism] All of these disputes are 20th century. We’re in another century. Sokal is a 20th century question, postmodernism is a 20th century question.… Read the rest
The program of Scienceground 1.5 @Festivaletteratura 2019, Mantova 4-8 September. All the references are to the program of the festival, which can be downloaded at www.festivaletteratura.it.
Drawings by Andrea De Franco
A COMMON GROUND FOR EXCHANGING IDEAS ON THE SCIENTIFIC WORLD
Organized by Piccola Comunità Scientifica ExTemporanea
«When you try to observe microbes or viruses, you end up finding links that are part of what people call “society”. They are two sides of the same coin. This is why it is not necessary to get out of science to explain its social aspects. We need to enter into the various disciplines – and then it will be the connections between the scientific objects themselves to define society, for you and us.»
Bruno Latour, interview at Scienceground 2, 2018
If we had to rebuild Palazzo Te now and decide the subjects to depict, how would we fresco the walls? We could certainly dedicate one room to the microorganisms that populate our environment and bodies – even larger in number than our own cells! So, just as the rooms of Palazzo Te are dedicated to giants, emblems and metamorphoses, the Isabella d’Este high school will host THE BACTERIA HALL, THE MOULD ROOM, THE YEAST ATRIUM AND THE VIRUS CLOISTER.… Read the rest
«Microbes were doing things in the lab under [Pasteur’s] experimental skills which they didn’t do before. […] When you get into the science of microbes, or viruses, you get into associations which are part of what people call “society”. […] The next step in science communication is not to talk about rationality but to talk about these beings. And if you take bacteria you will develop the whole science and the whole society almost simultaneously»
B. Latour, extracts from an interview at Scienceground, Festivaletteratura, September 2018
the reason why you receive this stream of consciousness is that when it started flooding your mail out of the blue you did not dare oppose, or else that for mysterious reasons you spontaneously subscribed. Thanks! If you don’t remember what it is all about, read the first three episodes here. To unsubscribe, find below the proper button and you will be ANNIHILATED as fast as light travels in our neurocortical network – and after some random procrastination time. But please let us know what upsets you.
We are happy to announce that Scienceground 1.5 is going to take place at Festivaletteratura in Mantova, Italy, September 4th – 8th (the complete program of the Festival – in Italian –can be downloaded here.… Read the rest
Last month we launched our online book club, with the proposal of reading and discussing Semmelweis by L.-F. Céline. Now it’s time to start the discussion! It will be conducted in a mix of Italian and English language in the comment section of this post.
A similar live discussion will be conducted at the next Festivaletteratura in Mantova, September 2019. The material collected here will be precious. If in the long summer days you don’t know what to make of the lazy afternoon hours, consider helping us editing the discussion into a printable document for later reference…
«I was aware of many facts for which I had no explanation. Delivery with prolonged dilation almost inevitably led to death. Patients who delivered prematurely or on the street almost never became ill, and this contradicted my conviction that the deaths were due to endemic causes. The disease appeared sequentially among patients in the first clinic. Patients in the second clinic were healthier, although individuals working there were no more skillful or conscientious in their duties. The disrespect displayed by the employees toward the personnel of the first clinic made me so miserable that life seemed worthless. Everything was in question; everything seemed inexplicable; everything was doubtful. Only the large number of deaths was an unquestionable reality.»
Ignaz Semmelweis, The Etiology, Concept and Prophylaxis Of Childbed Fever 1
you receive this aperiodic newsletter because you’re still friend with a member of ExTemporanea, the crew that attempts to create a wormwhole through spacetime connecting elementary particles and social analysis. More about it here and here.
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We are preparing a rich and varied program of Scienceground-ish activities at the coming edition of Festivaletteratura, Mantova September 4-8, which was officially presented last Thursday in a public meeting in Mantova.… Read the rest
«One of the most neglected works of Louis-Ferdinand Celine is his first published one […] Semmelweis is by no means what one would expect today from a medical thesis. First of all, it is a purely biographical work that does not address Semmelweis’s theories from a medical or scientific standpoint.»
Ifri, Pascal A., A Reconsideration of Celine’s Semmelweis, from Questia
If you receive this aperiodic newsletter it means you’re still friend with someone who in the last two years worked hard to create Scienceground, a space-time for open conversations on science, technology, and society. You can hear its first wails here. At the very beginning we named ourselves “small temporary scientific community”. Yet we are still around, and growing in number… therefore we now like to call our community ExTemporanea.
If you feel we are being too invasive, our apologies: the unsubscribe button is at the bottom. But please let us know why you press it.
So, without further ado: look for it in your own bookshelf. Compulse your best friends’ bookshelf. Ask them to ask their best friends if they own it. If that doesn’t work, borrow it at the nearest public library. If they lended it out already, stroll to your favourite bookshop and ask the librarian.… Read the rest
«That the purified language of science, or even the richer purified language of literature should ever be adequate to the givenness of the world and of our experience is in the very nature of things, impossible. Cheerfully accepting the fact, let us advance together, men of letters and men of science, further and further into the every-expanding regions of the unknown.»
Aldous Huxley, Literature and Science
If you receive this mail it means you’re friend with someone who in the past two years worked hard to create Scienceground, a space for open conversation on science, technology, and society.
If you feel you don’t belong here, our apologies: at the bottom of this email you can find a button to unsubscribe. But please let us know why you decided to leave.
The first official release of Scienceground came to life in September 2018 at Festivaletteratura, the most important literature festival in Italy. Festivaletteratura takes place in Mantova yearly around the second weekend of September, and it features a rich and varied program – check it out!
Why science at a literature festival? Here is the easy answer. When scientists meet, they communicate the results of their scientific research by word-of-mouth: much like fairy tales are told.… Read the rest
As part of the activities organized around the visit of Gyorgy Scrinis, together with Centro di Salute Internazionale and Dipartimento di Storia Culture e Civiltà we have organized this focus group on corporate influence on the public health agenda.
December 6, 3:30 pm – Aula Capitani – Department of History and Cultures
BIG FOOD. CORPORATE INFLUENCE ON THE PUBLIC HEALTH AGENDA
The incidence of nutrition-related disorders such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cardiopathies is on the rise, as well as the concerns about the impact of ultra-processed food on our health. The multinational corporations of food industry, collectively known as Big Food, have answered to these concerns by shifting the attention from the quality of the food to the individual nutrients, identified as both the problem to solve and the answer to nutrition-related disorders. Ultimately, this strategy serves the purpose to shift the attention from the structural causes of the nutrition-related pathologies, including the role of Big Food itself in creating an unhealthy food environment via the production of ultra-processed and packaged food. In parallel, food corporations have used various strategies to influence the political and governance processes in order to create and maintain a regulatory environment that is favourable to their practices and the commercialization of their products.… Read the rest
“Science […] nowadays is beset by raids on its epistemological grounding from academia, a backlash from religion, an attack on its professionalism from free-market ideology, and scorn from those who think a simple life without technology is the only salvation for the human race. […] But science […] has the potential to provide an object lesson in how to make good judgments in a society beset by technological dilemmas. For more than three hundred years the old-fashioned values of science have seeped into Western societies like the air we breathe. Imagine a society without any place at all for the cultural authority of science. It would have surrendered all responsibility to politics, market forces, or competing modes of revelation, and it would be a dystopia—at least as anyone who prefers thinking things through to force would see it.
Harry Collins, Science as a Reflection of Society.
For the whole duration of Festivaletteratura a
temporary research group composed of university students, Ph.D.
candidates, university and industry researchers will occupy the
deconsecrated church of Santa Maria della Vittoria and give life to SCIENCEGROUND. In part a playground where you can play with probability, statistics and mathematical logic and in part a meeting point where you can understand the background and the dilemmas of those who do research, or study to become researchers.… Read the rest