Thursday, December 1, 2016

Meanwhile, at the Department of Physics @ Sapienza....

Random snapshots taken at the Department of Physics these this place!

1) Perci & the Ciclofficina
Roberto Perciballi used to work as the priceless "factotum" of the Physics Department. He was in charge of essentially any repair, construction, moving, removal in the institute. Besides being a celebrity among students, he was also so on the stage as the frontman and singer of Bloody Riot, one of the first italian hardcore-punk bands. "Perci" suddenly died last March, leaving behind two daughters and the sorrow of many fans and friends.

The members of the student association "Ciclofficina" (named after Perciballi earlier this year) paid homage to him with this emotional and spectacular painting, showing a younger (and possibly punker) Roberto Perciballi. The painting features the end of a hallway (below on the right) that is offered by the Department to the student association. The poles have been installed after the recent earthquake in Central Italy which, although mild in Rome, also left some damage to the building.

2) Fidel & Majorana
These days, many all over the world are paying homage to the controversial figure of Fidel Castro. In fact, the whole Sapienza campus is upholstered with the poster below. However, how many can show off Fidel right next to Ettore Majorana's statue in front of the classroom named after him (below on the right)?

3) < Yes | No > & the Italian Constitutional Referendum
Tomorrow, Full Professors of Theoretical Physics Giovanni Bachelet and Giorgio Parisi will lead a discussion on the hottest topic in Italian politics nowadays: the Constitutional Referendum to be held next Sunday.

Prof. Bachelet is a former member of the Parliament and supporter of the constitutional reform. Prof. Parisi is the founder of the recent initiative "Salviamo la Ricerca" (see his recent letter to the Nature) and will defend his criticisms on the reform. I am looking forward to seeing how the physics community of our Department will react and will definitely attend the debate.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

International Physicists Network is born!

Great news! A new network of young physics researchers is born!
International Physicists Network (IPN) is a new italian no-profit organisation with the aim of building a national and international network of young physics researchers, and with the goal to create fruitful collaborations within different physics areas.

IPN has been founded by 11 researchers and professionals with a general background but multidisciplinary specialisation in physics: Davide Pietrobon (president), Marina Migliaccio (vice-president), Giordano Cattani (treasurer), Emanuela Pusceddu (secretary), Fabio Agostini, Claudia Antolini, Marco Di Stefano, Giacomo Fragione, Lorenzo Pagnanini, Matteo Serra and Francesco Stellato.
The main projects of IPN are the organisation of the Young Researcher Meeting, an yearly multidisciplinary conference aimed at students and young researcher in physics, with the goal to foster discussions and exchange of ideas in an informal atmosphere, and the Dandelion project (in collaboration with Find your doctor), a platform which allows to complement the traditional top-down approach to the job-market with an innovative bottom-up mechanism.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Laura and Nicola are Masters!

This week, my first two master students, Nicola Franchini and Laura Sberna, have defended their theses, and obtained a master degree (MSc in Astrophysics and in Physics, respectively) at Sapienza with maximum marks!

Nicola's thesis is entitled "Constraining Black Holes with Light Bosonic Hair Using Quasi-periodic Oscillations", whereas Laura's thesis is entitled "Early-Universe Cosmology in Einstein-scalar-Gauss-Bonnet Gravity"

Little time to celebrate for them: Laura is moving to the Perimeter Institute to start a PhD with Neil Turok, whereas Nicola is already at the University of Nottingham and just started a PhD with Thomas Sotiriou.
Kudos to them and good luck!

Celebrating Laura's "laurea" in front of the Physics Building "Edificio Marconi" at Sapienza. 
Elisa (on the left) is next on the line to finish her thesis.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

NASA to rejoin forces with ESA to launch gravitational-wave space detector!

News was in the air since the LIGO discovery, but the 11th LISA symposium in Zürich made it official: after its dropout in 2011, NASA is ready to rejoin ESA in the effort to build the first gravitational-wave observatory on space. The effect of this dropout was not only to change the mission's name (from the original "LISA" to "eLISA") but also to drastically reduce its budget, resulting in a smaller apparatus and reduced science case.

The recent GW discovery has boosted this field and, after the announcement in February, it was immediately clear that the plan was to anticipate eLISA flight (initially tentatively scheduled around 2034). Now, it seems that eLISA could fly some years earlier (around 2030) and, most importantly, it will probably be build in its original LISA design, thanks to the joint effort of ESA and NASA.

eLISA is a triangular laser interferometer that will search for gravitational waves in space

After the LIGO/Virgo discovery, after the amazing success of the LISA Pathfinder, this is yet another great news for gravitational physics and science in general. Year 2016 will definitely be remembered as marking the birth of a new discipline.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Lectures on Gravitational Waves

This and next week I will be giving a series of lectures on "Gravitational Waves" at the Escola de Astrofísica e Gravitação (EAG8) at IST (Lisbon) and at the international school Invisible16 at SISSA (Trieste), respectively. The lectures at SISSA will be also recorded.

Some material related to the lectures (references, problems and notebooks) can be found here (this is still work in progress, since I am still preparing the problems and the Mathematica notebooks...)

The poster of EAG8

The poster of Invisible16

Saturday, July 23, 2016

GR21 @ Columbia + Workshop @ Caltech

In academia, summer is the period to attend conferences and workshops, since the term is over (typically between May and June, depending on the country) and researchers do not have teaching duties at this time. 

This year I attended the GR21 Conference at Columbia University in NYC, the biggest event (organized every 3 years) that brings together scientists working in all aspects of General Relativity. 

I was not super happy with attending this conference, since the conference fee (~$600) and the cost of staying in NYC were much higher than usual (GR20 was held in Warsaw and conference fee was about half the price). However, in this very special and exciting year for General Relativity, I couldn't miss this conference. Attending it, in fact, turned out to be a very good choice: the conference was great, I had the chance to discuss with a lot of colleagues and I've particularly enjoyed the talks at the parallel sessions. I gave two talks, one presenting the recent work discussed here at the Special Gravitational Wave Session, and another on tidal deformations at the Parallel Session on Perturbation Theory in General Relativity. 

The slides of my talks are available here and here, respectively, whereas some nice pics from the event can be found here; I'm not in any of them, though, so I took this one myself:

Heading to the morning plenary session (hence the sleepy face) at Columbia campus
The GR conferences are organized by The International Society on General Relativity and Gravitation, ISGRG. During the GR21 conference, Prof. Eric Poisson was elected new President of ISGRG and the venue for GR22 in 2019 was decided (it's going to be in Valencia).

After the conference, I went to Boston for a short visit and then flew to LA to attend the workshop "Unifying Tests of General Relativity", organized by Leo Stein and other members of the Caltech in Pasadena, CA.

After a conference like GR21 (where one passes most of the time scattering off the 600+ participants, chatting and discussing projects for which one usually doesn't even have the time to sit down and think about) attending a small workshop (~40 participants, most of which friends and long-standing colleagues) like the one at Caltech was really a relief. I've never been on the West Coast and Pasadena is a lovely town, everyone seems relaxed and I had time to sit down and talk to collaborators I usually see in person just a few times per year. Science-wise, the workshop was excellent in many aspects, and I left Caltech really excited and looking forwards to working again on some new projects (if any, this is probably the best outcome of a successful workshop!) Some pictures of the event can be found here and below:

Group photo next to the Keck Center at Caltech

Me discussing with Nico Yunes and Vitor Cardoso about our recent work on GW ringdown

I managed to break my glasses on the very first day of the workshop. The secretary was a a DIY-type lady and helped me fixing them. 
This was the result.... [pic taken by Thomas Sotiriou]