Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Meetings in Lisboa

Right before Christmas I visited Lisbon to attend a conference and a workshop held at the Instituto Superior Técnico. It was a great opportunity to come back to Portugal after almost one year and meet a lot of friends and colleagues there.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Visit to Shangai

Many things have happened in the last few weeks, including the Centenary of General Relativity. On November 25th, I wanted to write a post on this event, but I couldn't because I was visiting Cosimo Bambi's gravity group at Fudan University in Shangai and, as it is infamously known, Google products (including this webpage) are inaccessible from China. None of the standard workaround really worked for me so, as a part of my Chinese trip, I have experienced how one feels being without access to gmail, google maps, facebook, etc... (it turned out to be not that bad in fact..)

During the visit, we had a mini-workshop with astrophysicists Javier Garcia-Martinez (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA), Thomas Dauser (Erlangen-Nuremberg) and Matt Middleton (Cambridge) who are working on different aspects of the electromagnetic emission from accretion disks as a possible way to measure the black-hole spin.

Shangai's skyline as viewed from one of the skyscrapers of Fudan University. The city is simply ENORMOUS..

Friday, November 20, 2015

Recommended by us: Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity postulates explained by a teenager

Eighteen-year-old student Ryan Chester has just won US$400,000 for this video explaining Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity as part of the inaugural Breakthrough Junior Challenge - an international competition that aims to inspire the next generation of scientists and science communicators. And it’s not hard to see why. If you heard the words, "Einstein’s Special Theory of--" and tuned out because it’s all too hard, we have a feeling Ryan will change your mind.

 Original Sciencealert article here


Thursday, November 5, 2015

TAUP 2015 or On my first international conference

Mr. What and Mr. Why
Topics in Astroparticle and Underground Physics (TAUP), is an international biennal conference arrived at its XIV edition. It covers topics from cosmology and particle physics, to trans dark matter and neutrino physics and to continue with high energy astrophysics, cosmic rays and gravitational waves. Theoretical perspectives as well as experimental strategies and developments are included.
TAUP is born at the Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso (LNGS) of the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN) and we are equal in
age, besides that, because of the biennal frequency, it is a sparkling teenager. About me, well...  I am already a PhD student and I have attended the conference with a nice group of colleagues.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Visit to EGO-VIRGO

A meeting of the theoretical and experimental groups of the Italian Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN) working on the detection of gravitational waves and on theoretical aspects related to them was held at the European Gravitational Observatory (EGO) in Cascina, near Pisa.

The site hosts Virgo, a detector of gravitational waves which -in one year from now- will be ready to join its U.S. cousin Ligo in the decade-long search of gravitational waves from compact objects.

Me standing in front of one of the 3-km long arms of Virgo. Is the motion due to the passage of a gravitational wave? Hope not since the detector is still offline...

What is a gravitational wave?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Summer Reading

Last year was "Fifty shades of Grey". This summer --no matter if you are sunbathing, hiking or enjoying desolated cities-- if you start pondering about black holes, superradiance, and related subjects, we got you covered:

The book will be soon available on the Springer webpage and on Amazon. Hurry up to buy a copy containing the typo in Vitor's name before they fix it. Those copies will be priceless hundred years from now :)

The book will be available in August but can be already pre-ordered. It costs $60 in the U.S. and about 45 Euros in Europe and the authors get about the 10% of the profit. This means that each of the authors (Richard, "Victor" and I) will get about 3 Euros for each sold copy. Taking "50 shades of Grey" as a reference, a back-of-the-envelope estimate suggests we might become rich in ~10^9 years.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Workshop + Conference @ The Fields Institute

"The year of the 100th anniversary of the formulation of Einstein's General Relativity will be remembered as the least productive one for the general-relativity community."

This is what I've heard more than once during the time spent at The Fields Institute in Toronto these weeks :-)
The Institute is organizing a long Focus Program to celebrate the centenary of one of Einstein's greatest achievements, the formulation of a relativistic theory of gravitational interactions, General Relativity for short.

The reason for the pessimist statement above is that this is only one of the numerous events that have been organized around the world to celebrate this important discovery. Now that the term ended, scientists are more free to travel to conferences and workshops and, to save time and money, it's very common to go directly from one conference to another on the week after. This does not leave too much time to sit down and do "actual" work.

Last week I've attended a very interesting workshop on Perturbation Theory which was organized here at the Field Institute as part of the Focus Program. This week instead the Institute is hosting a conference on Black Holes which ends today. Speakers at the conference included Clifford Will, Saul Teukolsky, Robert Wald, Eric Poisson, Gary Horowitz and William Unruh, to mention a few. Personally, I found the workshop much more stimulating and useful than the conference, but it's certainly suggestive to take the opportunity to discuss with some of the fathers of modern General Relativity.

This coming summer will be very busy with other events, especially in July and August, so I tend to agree that year 2015 will not be the most fruitful one in terms of actual work done.

On the other hand, do not underestimate the importance for the community to gather together and discuss open problems and (possibly) crazy ideas! Peer discussion and new collaborations are at the core of the scientific process and they are a crucial part of the duties of any scientist.  For this reason I am positive that the discussions and the collaborations that originate during these meetings will certainly contribute to solve open problems in the field and, who knows, perhaps the next breakthrough is just around the corner in 2016!

Doing a short tour of Toronto with Helvi Witek. Helvi was Ph.D. student in Lisbon when I moved there 4 years ago and she is now postdoc at Cambridge University working on numerical simulations of black-hole systems.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

All roads lead to....

I didn't have much time to write lately. The reason is the map below, which shows the places i'll be visiting in the next 45 days... it's going to be a very busy period!

I'm flying tomorrow to Boston for 10 days, then I will attend 3 workshops (in Bremen, Toronto and Lisbon), a friend reunion in Barcelona, a wedding in my home town, Cagliari, and each time touching base in Rome (where all roads lead after all!). I am also co-organizing the NRHEP Meeting and will chair one parallel section at Marcel Grossman Meeting in July. Fortunately, these latter two will not involve any travel, since the venue will be Sapienza for both.

I'll try to report more or less constantly during this crazy schedule, especially from the conferences which looks very interesting and i'm pretty much looking forward to attend.

Jan Steinhoff @ Sapienza

Last week Jan Steinhoff from the Albert Einstein Institute visited our group in Rome, giving a seminar on "Effective action for compact objects and universal relations". Over the weekend, we went for some city sightseeing. Here, from left to right, Jan, Paolo and special guest Matteo are visiting the magnificient Caracalla's baths.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Recommended by us: A Cosmic Quest for Dark Matter

In the following I attached an article appeared two days ago in The Wall Street Journal about the DarkSide-50 experiment located in the Gran Sasso National Laboratory, in which I am deeply involved since I am a member of the collaboration. I was there in those days and for this reason I know also some funny behind the scenes :)

By the way, I was lucky enough to see even more snow than that you see at the beginning of the video, thanks to a big snow storm that happened just a day after the realization of the following interview.
I have attached also some pictures of my stay during the DarkSide General meeting.

Enjoy the read!

A Cosmic Quest for Dark Matter 

Scientists are hunting one of the biggest prizes in physics: tiny particles called wimps that could unlock some of the universe’s oldest secrets

Feb. 13, 2015 1:32 pm E.T.

A mile under Italy's Gran Sasso mountain, scientists are seeking one of the smallest objects in the universeand one of the most biggest prizes in physics: a wimp.

A wimp—a weakly interacting massive particle—is thought to be the stuff of dark matter, an invisible substance that makes up about a quarter of the universe but has never been seen by humans.

Gravity is the force that holds things together, and the vast majority of it emanates from dark matter. Ever since the big bang, this mystery material has been the universe’s prime architect, giving it shape and structure. Without dark matter, there would be no galaxies, no stars, no planets. Solving its mystery is crucial to understanding what the universe is made of.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Two Supposedly Fun Things I'll Never Do Again

Writing a review is like pregnancy (as far as I can imagine being pregnant and with due respect to real mothers...), one starts super-excited, then begins to realize the initial expectations were too optimistic and that the entire experience is going to be much tougher than originally expected; and while the "baby" is growing, everything becomes tougher and tougher, to the point that one starts looking forward to the delivery (and THAT is probably the toughest part).

This is why finishing two reviews (here and here) in the same week is pretty much like having a twin childbirth, and now I feel like one of those exhausted mothers who stares at their babies with extreme joy.

For those who missed the reference in the title, one of the best books ever..nothing less than a must-read! 

The first work is an overview on superradiance. [If you are curious about what superradiance is... well, read the book! Meanwhile, in very few words superradiance is a broad class of phenomena related to energy amplification in dissapative systems. Because of dissipation, in special kinematic configurations the energy stored in some body/medium can be transferred to another body or to radiation, thus producing a sort of amplifier].

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Century of Strong Gravity

The following is a popular science article that Richard, Vitor and I have written for the IST Physics Magazine "Pulsar" (here is the Facebook page) and that will also appear in the Portuguese Physics Magazine "Gazeta de Fisica". A pdf version is available here (in English), and here (in Portuguese).

1. One Hundred Years of Gravity

The latest Christopher Nolan's movie, Interstellar, is about a future human civilization able to undertake cosmic travels to black holes using special shortcuts, ``wormholes''. Science-fiction as it might seem, Interstellar screenplayers --who happen to be the Nolan brothers-- have worked side by side with Kip Thorne, a professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology and one of the fathers of modern General Relativity, the theory that explains what wormholes and black holes are and how they form in the Universe.

Thorne's contribution is to ensure that the movie --starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway among others-- doesn't contain scenes that would make Albert Einstein cringe.
Does this mean that travel agencies are about to sell (roundtrip!) tickets to a black hole? Not quite, but in a few years from now, theoretical physicists and astronomers will be able to study them as never before. The scientific payoff of these studies will largely overcome Interstellar's box-office, with all due respect to Mr. Nolan!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Visit to AEI

This week I was visiting the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (aka Albert Einstein Institute, AEI) in Golm, in the outskirts of Potsdam, in the outskirts of Berlin (this more or less reflects the number of connections that commuters living in Berlin have to take everyday). The location of the institute is really its only weakness because otherwise the place looks great.

Jan and I taking a selfie with Albert. The statue is located at the middle of a beautiful large indoor yard 
at the Albert Einstein Institute in Potsdam (Germany)

I was there to collaborate with Jan Steinhoff (see pic above) who was postdoc in Lisbon in the last few years and recently moved to the AEI to work in gravitational-wave group lead by the new Director of the institute, Prof. Alessandra Buonanno, a world-leading expert in gravitational-wave phenomenology (and also one of the key speakers of this upcoming workshop). While there, I gave a seminar on "Black holes as stong-gravity labs", presenting some recent results related to black-hole superradiance (a topic that I will cover in this blog soon). I've also took the opportunity to discuss with a lot of interesting people working at the AEI (and to have some German beers with Jan and Jordi Casanellas, who also moved to AEI from Lisbon).

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Workshop: "Compact Objects as Astrophysical and Gravitational Probes" at the Lorentz Center (Feb 2-6, 2015)

It's a pleasure to advertise the workshop  "Compact Objects as Astrophysical and Gravitational Probes", to be held at the Lorentz Center (Leiden, The Netherlands) from February 2 through February 6.

One version of the workshop's poster, the official one will soon appear in the official webpage.
Here young Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar and Albert Einstein are looking towards the most urgent questions in relativistic astrophysics, a field that has essentially emerged from their seminal works. The two young guys respectively symbolize the astrophysical and the general-relativistic communities that will gather together at this workshop, to share expertize and try to fill the gap between them
Last June, Enrico Barausse (at the Institut Astrophysique de Paris), Tamara Bogdanovic (at Georgia Tech in Atlanta), Vitor Cardoso (at CENTRA - Instituto Superior Tecnico in Lisbon) and Elena Maria Rossi (at Leiden University in the Netherlands) and myself have applied to an international call at the Lorentz Center to organize a workshop. We initially had in mind a small-size workshop with ~20 participants, but the proposal was selected for a large-size event. Thus, in less than one month, more than 50 world-leading experts in relativistic astrophysics will gather together in what will hopefully be a fruitful and exciting meeting (here is the program and at list of participants).