Climate change: what to say and how to say it

Pubblicato su Science on the Net

According to the Special Eurobaromer 409, around one out of six Europeans think that climate change is the single most serious problem that the world is facing. The survey provides some measures on the perception of climate change in relation to other world problems and collected the opinions on who within the EU is responsible for tackling climate change. We had the great pleasure to speak about the usefulness of this important tool with Luca Mercalli (LM), President and Editor in Chief of the Società Meteorologica Italiana, and Sergio Castellari (SC), senior scientist at the Centro Euro-Mediterraneo per i Cambiamenti Climatici and at the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia.

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Germania: comunicazione e ambiente nel dibattito elettorale

Pubblicato su Rivista Micron

Berlino è la seconda città in Europa per numero di abitanti e rappresenta un vero e proprio laboratorio a cielo aperto, in continua evoluzione. La recente scelta di dismettere le centrali nucleari presenti sul territorio tedesco entro il 2022 ha riportato al centro della vita politica la discussione attorno a temi fondamentali per il futuro, fra i quali la transizione energetica verso le fonti rinnovabili, la lotta al cambiamento climatico, la protezione dell’ambiente e la sostenibilità.

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Internet of Things and Smart City in Italy

Pubblicato su Science on the Net

Recently, the Internet of Things Observatory of the Polytechnic University of Milan conducted an analysis of 116 cities (51 in Italy, 65 abroad) and 258 Smart City applications enabled by Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. The concept of IoT, proposed by Kevin Ashton in 1999, refers to uniquely identifiable objects and their virtual representations in an Internet-like structure. As reported by Gildo Seisdedos Domínguez, the Smart City concept essentially means efficiency, which is based on the intelligent management and integrated ICTs as well as the active participation of the citizens. One of the main findings is the gradual shift towards natively multi-functional projects, which can share their technology to many applications. More than 30% of the projects launched since 2012 touches at least two areas of application, 12% at least three. We had the pleasure to speak with Emanuela Pala, Research Fellow at the Internet of Things Observatory of the Polytechnic of Milan.

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A tour through European scientific governance

Pubblicato su Science on the Net

European research is fundamental for guaranteeing future competitiveness to our economies, as acknowledged by all EU member States that committed to reach investments in research and development equal to 3% of GDP. Up to date, however, the funds allocated by the 28 Countries of the Union remain below the 2% of GDP and on average do not exceed 0.7% (Fig. 1). Some Nations, however, are reversing their route. In 2000, Germany and France presented similar balance sheets; ten years later, Germany remains the only country that constantly increased public funds. Also Spain and Portugal registered an increase, whilst Italy, since 2007, showed a continual decrease.

It is not a surprise that our Country invests in research less than the European average. Much has been written about possible solutions and paradigm shifts. Increasing funds is doubtlessly the first step, but it is also essential to review our governance system, whose management is sub-divided among countless Ministries and Bodies, resulting in inefficiencies, additional costs and discontinuity. As this was not enough, the Italian system is affected by a chronic poor interest in result application and cooperation with industry that, from its side, invests little and find hard to link private research activity with the input coming from the public research centres. Disentangling the many knots that slow down the development of Italian research is challenging indeed because of the high complexity of the system, but the management of such a central sector in the knowledge society does not represent a problem for our Country only. Let’s have a look at some of our European neighbours to see how they have faced the same issue.

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Women and space: a gender gap issue

Pubblicato su Science on the Net

European women are currently underrepresented in the aerospace sector. In Italy, as reported by the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research (MIUR), more than 1200 students graduated (bachelor or master degree) in aerospace or astronautical engineering in 2012 but only 15% of them were female students.

We had the great pleasure to speak about this gender gap with Simonetta Di Pippo, the new Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), as well as President and co-founder of the association for Women in Aerospace Europe (WIA-E). UNOOSA is responsible for promoting international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space. WIA-E is working to expand women’s opportunities and to increase their visibility and leadership in the aerospace sector. We also contacted Cristina Valente, Marketing Strategist at Telespazio and coordinator of the WIA-E local group in Rome, founded in 2013.

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PLATO: looking for habitable planets

Pubblicato su Science on the Net

PLATO 2.0 (PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars) has recently been selected for European Space Agency’s (ESA) M3 launch opportunity (2022/24). It is a medium class mission within the framework of the ESA Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 program. PLATO 2.0 will discover many potentially habitable planets. Presently, more than 1700 exoplanets with secure identifications are known and many others are unconfirmed planet candidates. PLATO 2.0 consists of 32 telescopes operating in white light and two additional fast cameras with colour filters. This multi-telescope design will allow a large photometric dynamic range. The mission lifetime will be 6 years, with a possible extension of 2 years. In total, about 50% of the sky will be covered.

The involvement of our country, especially in the fields of electronic systems and optics, is very relevant. The Italian contribution is funded by the Italian Space Agency (ASI), which also provides a segment of the PLATO Data Center, managed by the ASI Science Data Center (ASDC). Italian researchers contribute to the PLATO Mission Consortium, providing the scientific coordination of two important elements of the Payload – the Telescope Optical Units (TOUs) and the Instrument Control Unit (ICU) – and participating to the Science Preparation Management (PSPM), i.e., the activities required for the preparation of the scientific programme and the assessment of the mission performance. Almost a hundred of Italian scientists, mainly working at the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF), are involved in the project.

We had the great pleasure to speak with Isabella Pagano (INAF Catania), member of the Mission Consortium Board (PMCB) and scientific responsible for the INAF participation in PLATO 2.0.

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Are we safe online? Looking for answers with Horizon 2020

Pubblicato su Science on the Net

In a world of 1s and 0s… are you a zero, or The One? Every year, as reported by the European Commissioner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes, 200 million of Europeans buy things online. Furthermore, the web economy generates a fifth of the growth in the European Union. Therefore, it is now important to apply the fundamental rights online as well as offline. Presently, the European Commission is seeking to develop trustworthy Information and Communication Technology (ICT) solutions, which can guarantee a secure and reliable digital environment in Europe. Funding is already available for cyber security and online privacy under Horizon 2020.

The European Commission will invest 85 million Euro this year and at least 500 million Euro until 2020. Six projects involving research institutes, SMEs and large firms are already helping people to be safe online. ABC4Trust works on personal credentials and test the Attribute Based Credentials (ABC) protection of privacy, which allow users to provide only the information required for authentication, but without revealing the full identity. SECURED is a project that aims to design antivirus, firewall and parental controls to protect the devices from online threats. HINT has the objective to make impossible to clone or modify the hardware of a device. PCAS tries to develop a device that allows users to store and share their data with trusted applications. Trust in Digital Life is a community that encourages industry to develop innovative and reliable technologies and that allows users to judge if their devices, applications and services are sufficiently reliable. Advanced Cyber Defence Centre is a pilot project that aims to develop a European centre focused on advanced cyber defence botnet.

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The Twitterfly effect

Pubblicato su Science on the Net

Do you remember A Sound of Thunder, a short story by Ray Bradbury published in 1952? During a time travel’s safari, the unintentional killing of a butterfly causes several changes at present-days. In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is a phenomenon whereby a minor change in circumstances can cause a large change in outcome. Today, after many years, we could probably speak about the Twitterfly effect.

According to the report Twiplomacy 2013, the governments of 78% of the 193 member states of the United Nations (UN) have a presence on Twitter: personal accounts of heads of state, heads of government and ministers of foreign affairs. Presently, 68% of world leaders have mutual connections with their peers. Microblogging is a formidable broadcasting tool and an indispensable communication channel for international organisations to amplify their messages to a global audience.

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Space. The final frontier is closer… to Europe

Pubblicato su Science on the Net

Space, the final frontier. The first series of Star Trek started in 1966, following the interstellar adventures of Captain James T. Kirk and his crew on board of the space ship Enterprise. Today, after almost 50 years, this frontier is closer to Europe. In fact, as reported by the Eurobarometer 403 survey, the majority of Europeans thinks the space sector is a source of growth and a contributor to scientific progress.

According to 58% of respondents, the space activities could contribute to employment and innovation in the EU. Investing in human space exploration could lead some medical progress (57%) and the space technologies could have a role in avoiding threats such as collisions with asteroids, comets and space debris (62%). Furthermore, energy sector (37%) and environment (33%) would be the areas where space activities will play an important role within the next 20 years.

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Which future for ICT?

Pubblicato su Science on the Net

Presently, the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector represents 4.8% of the EU economy. According to the forecasts, the investments in this field will increase by about 25% under Horizon 2020 compared to FP7. This year, for instance, more than 1 billion Euro will be available. Research and development (R&D) in ICT technologies can produce concrete benefits for the citizens.

Recently, a report highlighted the importance of Unlocking the ICT growth potential in Europe, especially as regards mobile broadband, cloud computing, Big Data and Internet of Things. As reported in the document, four scenarios show that ICT could be a major source of growth for the EU, which was estimated by The Conference Board in 2013, but also using the paper of van Ark et al. (2013).

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