Science, War, Society. Second meeting.

5th February, meeting with Jeff Halper

Genova, 02/05/20. Meeting with Jeff Halper, anthropologist and peace activist from Israel, author of War Against the People (Pluto press, 2015).

War as an international affair

This book comes out of my work on Palestine and Israel. I’ve been an activist for many years. I am the head of an organization called the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. We try to fight Israel’s policy of demolishing Palestinian homes. And the question that comes up all the time is: how does Israel get away with this? Why does the world allow Israel to have an occupation for more than fifty years, to violate international law, to repress an entire people? Not only does it allow it, but Israel gets more and more international support, its status goes up and up in the international community.

There are all kinds of explanations people think of, for example the strong jewish lobby in the United States. But that doesn’t explain the Italian support for Israel. It doesn’t explain support for Israel from countries where there are no jews: today India and China are two of the strongest supporters of Israel in the international community.

Then there is the idea of the guilt over the Holocaust.… Read the rest

The (modified) NIM game

«The game here discussed has interested the writer on account of its seeming complexity, and its extremely simple and complete mathematical theory. The writer has not been able to discover much concerning its history, although certain forms of it seem to be played at a number of American colleges, and at some of the American fairs. It has been called Fali-Tan, but as it is not the Chinese game of that name, the name in the title is proposed.»

Thus wrote the mathematician Charles L. Bouton in Nim, A Game with a Complete Mathematical Theory (Annals of Mathematics, Vol. 3, No. 1/4 (1901 – 1902), pp. 35-39). Which does not help in understanding what NIM stands for at all. maybe New Interactive Media? Or Network Interface Module? Probably we will never know…

NIM is a time-killer strategy game that many of us played on our school desktops. How it works is best explained in this unsetting sequence from Last year in Marienbad by Alain Resnais:

The winning strategy to play the NIM game has been clearly explained in this video:

Notice that in the original NIM game only odd number of elements are present in each file, and that one can remove any set of remaining elements in that file.… Read the rest

Stick to the science – an interview with Bruno Latour

[Unedited writedown from an interview to Bruno Latour @ Festivaletteratura 2018 on occasion of Scienceground 2, Mantova, Sunday September 9th, 2018. Edited Italian version on]

[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

SCIENCEGROUND 1.5 – Microbes

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

Drawings by Andrea De Franco


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

Big Food

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

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