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Masiero, Sabrina (2010) Comunicare l'Astronomia. L'incontro con le stelle tra informazione e divulgazione. [Ph.D. thesis]

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Abstract (english)

Communicating Astronomy

1.1 Introduction

Physics and Astrophysics permeate our lives. Although few of us are familiar with the great theoretical discoveries of the science, almost all of us have encountered their technological applications that pervade everyday life (computers, mobile phones, satellite navigators), the strategic choices of countries (space missions, investment in nuclear energy) and our imagination (time machines, teletransport). Accordingly, physics and astrophysics are potentially fertile grounds for the application of the so-called «Public Understanding of Science» (PUS). This expression denotes an area of interdisciplinary study which concerns itself with the perception, understanding and attitudes of non-specialist audiences with regard to science and technology, as well as the practices by which scientific expertise is used, reworked or ignored in non-specialist settings.
The expression is also frequently used to refer to practical initiatives and activities undertaken by a variety of organizations in order to simulate public interest in science or to promote the image of particular scientific subjects or institutions.
Finally, perhaps improperly, the reference is sometimes extended to study of communication between experts and non-experts – although this should be more correctly termed the «Public Communication of Science» (Bucchi, 2003; Wynne, 1995).
As the European Commission stresses, science and technology increasingly influence at society large: «Every day, scientific and technological progress contributes new innovations essential to our quality of life. New discoveries in sciences, information technology, as well as in the physical world are strongly influencing the social, economic, political and ethical structures we are accustomed to» (European Commission, 2005).
European citizens have a certain interest in the activities and results of science, but at the same time they realize that they do not always possess the knowledge required to understand them. This shortcoming has only to some extent been remedied by actions undertaken in the past two decades.
The aim of the first Chapter is to survey some of the main studies and data available at national and international level on the general public’s perception of, and attitudes towards, physics and astrophysics. Also considered will be some of the most significant analyses of the potential and impact of the public communication of science through multimedia technologies, the Radio and the Internet in particular.

1.2 How interested are we in Physics and Astrophysics?

As shown by data set out in the European Commission survey Europeans, Science and Technology in their perceptions of science Europeans regard medicine and physics as the most «scientific» subjects, followed by biology, mathematics and astronomy (European Commission, 2005). Many of the technological developments deemed most interesting were connected with physics in various ways, although they did not arouse as much interest as medicine, which was the field of by far the greatest concern to Europeans. The environment, which come second, can be considered a sector which partly involves physics, but some of the interest it arouses may be due to its implications for health (European Commission, 2005).
The interest of Europeans differs according to socio-demographic characteristics: the Internet, space exploration and nanotechnologies mainly attract young males who are still studying, while medicine is of greatest interest to women and persons aged over 55, with low education levels, who work at home or are retired. Genetics are instead most interesting to women and higher-educated people still studying, while interest in economics and social sciences is more equally distributed among the categories of subjects (European Commission, 2005).
Overall, one may conclude that areas pertaining to physics and its applications are of greatest interest to young educatede males.
Comparison between the data furnished by the Eurobarometers of 2001 and 2005 – considering the same base of 15 member states in order not to alter the comparison by introducing 10 new countries – highlights an increase of interest in developments in physics.
The most significant increase concerns astronomy, which in recent years has achieved major discoveries receiving wide coverage in the media. «Nanotechnologies, although remaining at the lowest rate among all the proposed items, have seen their score more than double since 2001 (from 4% to 9%), and are aperhaps slowly becoming a wider theme of interest for Europeans» (European Commission, 2005). The general trend is an increased interest in science and its achievements.
The expectations of Italians (regardless of whether or not they can be fulfilled) reside in three scenarios centred on physics (Table 1): the discovery of clean and unlimited energy sources, which receives around one-quarter of preferences; the use of intelligent robots for domestic work; and the first manned expedition to Mars.

1.3 How much do we know Physics and Astrophysics?

The Eurobarometer data also permit evaluation of the level of scientific knowledge among Europeans. The respondents were asked to decide whether a series of scientific statemements were true or false, or to declare their ignorance of the topic («Don’t know»). The average of correct answers to the statements about physics, chemistry and medicine was 66%, a figure which indicates that Europeans have a quite good knowledge of science (European Commission, 2005). The country with the highest level of scientific knowledge was Sweden, while the one with the lowest was Cyprus (Figure 3). Italy occupied a central position in the table, just below the European average. It is also possible to classify the countries of the European Union according to their percentages of citizens with a very good knowledge of science: «The Nordic countries, above all Sweden, as well as the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Slovenia, have the highest number of respondents» with very good scientific knowledge (above 50%) while numerous countries of Eastern Europe record low percentages (below 30%) (European Commission, 2005). The rate for Italy is between 30% and 40% for respondents with good scientific knowledge.
The topic about which Europeans were best informed (Figure 4) concerned «macroscopic physics» (the structure of the Earth and its rotation around the Sun, the constant movement of the continents), while knowledge about «microscopic physics» exhibited more evident gaps (the structure of atoms, how lasers work, and the nature of radiactivity). But a disconcerting finding was that more than one half of European citizens did not know how to answer the question about the relative size of electrons.

Broadcasting Astronomy:
«The Stars meet on the Radio»

In the first part of the PhD Thesis we describe our project «Tutti Dentro – Le Stelle si incontrano in Radio» («Come in Everybody – The Stars meet on the Radio»), a format programme about space for Italian radio broadcasting. The format involved celebrities, young astronomers and a network of 96 FM and Web radio stations during the period July 2007 – January 2009. We will explore its structure, the language and the strategies adopted, along with the technical instrumentations and the software for recording sessions and editing. Finally we will describe the responses of celebrities, radio stations and listeners. Our results could be a useful reference for creating new radio programmes to spread astronomy to a wider audience, especially during The International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009).

2.1 Introduction

Our project «Tutti Dentro – le Stelle si incontrano in Radio» («Come in Everybody – The Stars meet on the Radio») started on April 2007, after previous successful experiences as astronomy communicators using the Web and Italian local radio stations. Our aim was the planning and the subsequent production of a new weekly radio programme involving celebrities, young researchers and everyone interested in space. In contrast to previous broadcasts, we decided to avoid the «old formula» based on the scientist talking and teaching to people in a vertical communication path, but we preferred to follow the horizontal connection between the speakers and the listeners typical of commercial and private radio broadcasting. Once these guidelines were established, we made up the contents, selecting the topics, writing the texts and sending e-mails to contact celebrities and fix dates for the recordings of the telephonic interviews. In each issue, a «star» of music, sport or television talked about his/her feelings for the Universe, his/her opinion about the current topic and other space subjects. In the same issue a young astronomer talked about his/her work, the technological side of space exploration, and his/her professional and private life.
From July 2007 to January 2009, we produced 52 issues which were broadcasted by a network of 74 FM local radio stations, covering more than half of Italy, and by 22 Web radio stations.

2.2 The Format: Language, Music and Structure

Our format was the result of the following three basic requirements: to aim at a wide audience, specifically the listeners aged 20 – 60; to establish a horizontal communication connection with them and be as near as possible to the «stationality» (i.e. the personality) of each radio station. The third requirement was essential to not break the distinctive «flow» of the daily radio program and be part of it. To meet these requirements given the large number of radio stations involved, each one with its own proper stationality, we adopted a «generalistic» approach essential for the integration of dialog and music. We used a simple and informal language, neither too popular nor too intellectual or scientific, with jingles and songs for a break and to keep the rhythm up. The play list included a selection of songs from the 1980s to avoid musical identification with a specific generation. The structure of each issue, whose length was 35 - 40 minutes on average, was divided into a sequence of five subsections called «modules», each one 8 to 10 minutes long. The five modules were:
a) A small introduction and a song to present the weekly topic;
b) The first part of the interview with the celebrity to promote his/her works and activity;
c) A song or a jingle as a break to introduce the second part of the interview with the celebrity dedicated to the topic of the issue, and other space subjects;
d) A musical break and an interview with the researcher or scientific journalist;
e) The last part where we sometimes read funny questions and answers collected from our listeners on our Web site and «Yahoo Answers Italy».
The a), d) and e) modules were for the most part based on texts: we wrote them using astronomical books, scientific articles and our personal knowledge. Almost all the celebrity interviews were the results of no written questions, so as to give a spontaneous feel.

2.3 Format Strategies

- Spicing the topic: a question introduced the topic, sometimes in an argumentative fashion. For example: «The sacrifice of animals in the 1960s for the conquest of space: an unavoidable choice or a violation of rights?»;
- Talking to everybody: following the «infotainment» philosophy, we did not explain or teach, but we gave information in an entertaining context. In a sense we returned to the traditional triad «to educate, inform, entertain», born with the BBC public radio by John Reith in the 1920s;
- Changing the popular image of the astronomer: young researchers played the leading role of representing a new, dynamic and current view of space sciences, in contrast with the classical image of the old astronomer tied to his telescope, watching the stars and totally uninterested in ordinary life and people;
- Updating the popular image of astronomy: when possible, we underlined the application of space technology in everyday life – mobile phones, satellites for telecommunications, x ray scanners etc.;
-Involving celebrities: for over a year we involved Italian celebrities in our programme such as the singers Riccardo Fogli and Mario Biondi, the actor Carmine Scalzi, who was with us from the first issue; the international Chef Gualtiero Marchesi, and many other famous people. Their popularity attracted the attention and curiosity of radio listeners, and of course of radio managers themselves.

2.4 Technical Instrumentation and Software

Recording sessions were made in our private home studio, composed by two Behringer cardioyd microphones (B 1 and C 1 models); a mixer Behringer Xenyx 1622FX; a multiprocessor Behringer Composer Pro MD 2600 (with functions of: compressor / limiter / de esser and peak limiter). An external sound card UCA USB connected the mixer to a table pc for recording.
In order to obtain the better results during the recording sessions, we adopted the following techniques:
- A back to back position of the two microphones to avoid leakeges;
- An appropriate distance of them from the walls to reduce echoes;
- The use of the enhancer function (a light noise gate) available on the Composer to suppress background noises and microphone self noises.

We recorded in wave format, 44 Khz, 32 bit float. The files were edited using the audio editor Audacity, to cut, paste, mix and normalize the volume. The free encoder SCMPX was used for mp3 conversion at 192 Kbps, stereo, 16 bit. We divided every issue into two mp3 files, so that every radio station could insert their jingles and spots in between. Files were published on the Web, free to be downloaded by the network of radio stations. A striking example of convergence between new and traditional media.

2.5 Responses and Results

A few days after the press release announcing the development of the project, 30 radio stations contacted us for further information. In a few months, 76 FM radio stations joined us. They were fascinated by the format involving celebrities, stars and planets, with an informal but, at the same time, professional language. In January 2009 we counted 96 local and Web radio stations, with an FM coverage of more than half of Italy and about 30 000 listeners a week. The majority of local FM radio stations (36%, see Table 3) broadcasted «Tutti Dentro» in the middle of the morning (from 9 to 12 o’clock), the typical time slot dedicated to information, news and talk. A small fraction (14%) broadcasted us in the early afternoon (from 15 to 17 o’clock), and only two local radio stations in the mid afternoon, the time slot dedicated to the younger listeners, especially teenagers. It was evident they considered our programme as an information product addressed to adults (30–55) and middle-aged people (55-65). Our target was the age range 20-60: we missed the 20-30 range but hit the 30-60 range right in the middle.
A large number of the radio stations included our photos and professional information in their own Web sites as if we were members of the staff. At the same time, listeners wrote e-mails or phoned the local radio stations instead of writing directly to us. This confirmed our insertion in the flow of each radio program, as was our aim.
Our sole regret was the lack of synchronisation with radio communities, impossible to establish without a «live broadcast». However, the pre-recorded format was the only way to be broadcast by dozens of radio stations and reach a wide audience.
Every week we published the current issue on our public Web site available at http://www.tuttidentro.info (Figure 5), reporting about 100 downloads a week.
In 2008, we opened the “Tutti Dentro” Blog (Figure 6) at http://tuttidentro.wordpress.com: with 1800 hits a week, it became a place for discussing topics we could not talk about during the programme, due to time constraints and format requirements.
Some months ago, we also created a group on Facebook, with over 100 fans in 5 days and 20-30 hits a week. Soon it was clear that radio listeners, bloggers and the Facebook group formed three different communities: listeners preferred to listen and write to their radio stations, bloggers preferred to download the issues from our Web site and then surf the Blog looking for other interesting topics, while Facebook followers just wanted to be informed about space research news. In other words: different media, different communities, different needs.
Last but not least, the celebrities: we discovered that many of them were very interested in space travel, science fiction and astronomy in general. In their childhood, some of them had dreamt of becoming astronauts, some had flown with imagination on other planets. Our interviews often revealed unknown and introspective sides of their life, giving an unusual and original feeling compared to the classical television and radio interviews. In many cases their words, together with their enthusiasm for space, became spots to promote scientific research in general. That was a strong result.
On December 2008 «Tutti Dentro» won the «eContent Award Italy», in the «eScience» Category, as the best content in digital format (Figure 7).

2.6 Conclusions

Communicating Astronomy using new technologies and radio broadcasting was the main goal of our project, avoiding the «old formula» of radio science programme based on long interviews to a scientist, and destroying the traditional image of the expert who teaches science to the people.
We adopted a new originally formula and came close to the modern radio language, extremely youthful and spontaneous, to insert our product in the radio flow.
Our experience confirmed that radio is a great media to spread astronomy to a wider audience in new and non-traditional venues.
We hope the format, strategies and results described in this paper could be useful to everyone interested in science radio broadcasting and involved in future astronomy radio programmes.

Communicating Astronomy throught Comics

3.1 Introduction

In 1992, the astronomer Carl Sagan, protagonist of countless public appearances, as well as the author of twenty books translated worlwide, an enormously successful television series, «Cosmos», and the movie «Contact», was denied membership to the National Accademy of Sciences. In fact he was not able to raise the required two-thirds vote from its members. Director of the Laboratory of Planetary Studies at Cornell University, Sagan has distinguished himself for the calculation of the greenhouse effect on Venus, for his studies on the surface of Mars and on the oceans of Titan, Saturn’s large moon. Too many colleagues turned up theirs noses at his tireless activity in spreading scientific news, which had made him, perhaps the most famous scientist in the United States, and one the most vibrant defenders of science in the world.
Two years later the National Accademy of Sciences reconsidered its vote, honouring him with the Public Welfare Medal. Sagan had brilliantly challenged two important prejudices which besiege scientists that choose to communicate with the general public: the idea that scientists who do are distracted from the «real» work – research – and the idea that scientists are not able to express themselves clearly, as if their mental universe were so far from the common man that at the very least they need a «translator».
There have always been scientists dedicated to disseminating their own work, the first being Galileo, who the Church never forgave for his choise to write in vulgate rather than in the more obscure Latin. Over the years, however, their willingness to do so has changed.
The Nineteenth century was one of the most propitious, especially in England. Beginning in 1826, and for over twenty years, Michael Faraday described the latest developments in science every Friday evening, during extremely crowded lectures held at the Royal Institution.
Yet, in the first few decades of the Twentieth century scientist’s enthusiasm for popularising science was already greatly declining. Only in the 1980s was there a large scale resurgence of public engagement with the world of research.
Today, however, most of the best popular books on science are not created by «translators» but by scientists.
Increasingly more scientists are deciding to try out this new job. In fact, everyone, to different degrees and with different roles, may be asked to discuss or comment on his or her own research or research in their field. The reasons are varied many: s(he) may need to respond to a journalist’s or Editor’s request, assist with an exhibit or a television show, present a degree, speak with lobbies or spokespeople for interest groups, present their own activities to industry, local institutions or other possibile financers, or simply collaborate effectively with the press office of their own institution.
In this PhD project will be analysed two different astronomical and educational products: «The Lives of Galileo» and «Introducing Relativity». The first was written by the Swiss artist and author Fiami in collaboration with astronomers and historians, scientists and teachers, and the second by the cosmologist Bruce Bassett of the South African Astronomical Observatory in collaboration with the mathematician and cartoonist Ralph Edney.

3.2 «The Lives of Galileo»

The second part of this PhD Project is dedicated to the translation into Italian of the «The Lives of Galileo - A Journey Through the History of Astronomy» (Figure 8), the official cosmic comic book by Fiami published for the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009).
Fiami lives in Geneva (Switzerland). He is neither a scientist nor a historian, but graduated with a degree in architecture and has been building educational comic projects for over the past ten years. To complete «The Lives of Galileo», Fiami surrounded himself with astronomers, physicians and historians in order to obtain a true taste of the wonders of the Universe.
In science, communication is inevitably being professionals, and it should be that way. However, the active involvement of scientists remains indispensable, because they are the first link in the chain of communication.
Everybody is familiar with the name of Galileo. But what do we know about him? What is astronomy?
Artist and author Fiami decided to answer these questions in an accessible way by creating a well-illustrated and factually accurate comic providing a tour through the history of astronomy across Babylon, Alexandria, Kusumapura, Venice, Greenwich and a classroom in 2009.
For the first time astronomy and Galileo are presented in an historical, teaching and humoristic comic book. It is organized into six chapters where Galileo plays different roles through the ages of great astronomical discoveries.
- In Babylon (568 B.C.) Galilosor learns how to write in clay and how to read the sky. «Galilosor, the sky belongs to the Goods! Don’t try to touch it, kid!»
- In Alexandria (197 B.C.) Galileos measures the circumference of the Earth alongside Eratosthenes using the shade of a stick. «I knew that in Syene, at noon on the summer solstice, the Sun shines down on the bottom of a well…»
- On the Ganges (499 A.C., Figure 9) in Kusumapura, the city of flowers, Aryabhata explains to Galilala that the Earth rotates around a central axis. «Galilala, astronomy is the most noble of all knowledge. It lifts up our souls and brings us closer to the Almighty!».
- In Venice (1609, Figure 10) by observing the sky with his telescope, Galileo make more astronomical discoveries, including the mountains of the Moon, the satellites of Jupiter and the myriads of stars that make up the Milky Way – all immediately published in the «Starry Messenger» (Sidereus Nuncius) in 1610. «Sagredo, my friend! Come and see what I’ve been observing for some nights now… Four planets revolve round Jupiter!»
- In Greenwich (1664) Galileo mixes with Newton and Halley (and the famous Halley’s comet). In the last chapter (2009), Galileo is back to show us the purpose of modern astronomy. «The movement of comets is determined by gravitation… Gravitation is universal, as much on Earth as in the sky.»
-In the last chapter (2009), Galileo is back to show us the purpose of modern astronomy (Figure 11). «Galileo’s discoveries have had an enormous impact… It’s also thanks to Galileo that we know the Earth isn’t the centre of the world».

3.2.1 The «adaptation» and translation of «The Lives of Galileo» into Italian

At the end of 2008 the IYA2009 Segretariat offered «The Lives of Galileo» as educational product for the participants in The International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009). It was a unique opportunity to have this comic translated into their own language.
At that time the comic was available only in French and English. After my requirement, The IYA2009 Coordination Assistant Mariana Barrosa made me in contact with the Swiss author Fiami. My work began.
The Italian version of «The Lives of Galileo» derived from the French original text, and by the comparison with the English version. It was not only a translation but an «adaptation» of the comic into Italian .
The first goal was to get into the various historical eras and gather information on the habits of the Babylon, Greek and Indian civilizations. For a good translation, the culture, traditions and the scientific knowledge in each epoch were fundamental to know and understand.
Extremely important books in that sense were «History of the Planetary Systems from Thales to Kepler» by J. L. Dreyer for the first, second and third Chapters; «Sidereus Nuncius» by Galileo Galilei and «Galileo» by Stilman Drake for the fourth episode; «Isaac Newton» by Enrico Bellone for the fifth Chapter and my background in Astronomy for the last episode.
Beyond the historical aspect, all protagonists must be studied in accurate details. They were different each other. It became necessary to write with great incisiveness their dialogues into Italian in order to be very close to the original idea of the author Fiami. Typical French expressions have sometimes been translated into a slightly different way. For example:

«Moi je dis que Aryabhata s’est mis le doigt dans l’oeil en faisant tourner la Terre!».

The French terms «finger» and «eye» have become the English «knock» and «head», respectively:

«I tell you, Master Aryabhata has knocked his head while making the Earth turn!».

In Italian, the expression: «Master Aryabhata has brought a crab» can be used. It means that Master Aryabhata has made a blunder:

«Ti dico che il maestro Aryabhata ha preso un granchio nel far girare la Terra!».

This IYA2009-endorsed comic has enjoyed much success of late. It is now available in English, French, Dutch, Finnish, Galician, Thai and Italian since September 2009, by CLEUP Editrice.
Fiami’s work is even being used by the Musée d’Histoire des Sciences de Genève. Their Galileo exhibition, running since 13 May 2009 until 31 January 2010, features large poster boards of Fiami’s illustrations and text, adding and additional layer to the more conventional exhibits.
On September 26, 2009 Fiami and I presented the Italian version at the XLII Workshop of the «Gruppo Astrofili Italiani» in Padova (Italy). Two new presentations will be held in Orvieto and Acquapendente (Italy) on May 2010 with the author. I have just presented the comic at «Gruppo Astrofili Salese – Galileo Galilei» on 7 January 2010. A second presentation will be held at «Planetario di Padova».
On November 17, 2009 Fiami has been interviewed for a Swiss Italian channel and he has been spoken about the Italian version.
Swiss TV have also seized the opportunity of using «The Lives of Galileo» to educate a wide audience. On December 2009 they showed six broadcasts adapted from the comic, «Dessine-moi les étoiles». Three chapters has been published in the local newspaper, «La tribune de Genève».
«The Lives of Galileo» shows that the history of science is about sharing knowledge across the Earth over the centuries. The sky and astronomy have no owners; we belong to the sky and not the other way around.
«The Lives of Galileo» shows this in a humorous yet educational way.

4.1 «Introducing Relativity»

It is now a century since Einstein’s theories of Special and General Relativity revolutionized our view of the Universe. «Introducing Relativity» by Bruce Bassett and Ralph Edney plots a visually accessible course through Einstein’s thought experiments that have given shape to contemporary physics. Scientists from Isaac Newton to Stephen Hawking add their unique contributions to this story. Einstein’s legacy is reviewed in the most advanced frontiers of physics today – black holes, gravitational waves, the accelerating universe and string theory.

4.1.1 Bruce Bassett and his Comic «Introducing Relativity»

To complement the quantitative and qualitative findings of the survey, I decided to interview a specialist in Cosmologist and Communication of Science, Professor Bruce Bassett, of the South African Astronomical Observatory, to ask him a series of questions about communicating Astrophysics through comics. His is the author of the comic «Introducing Relativity», published by Icons Books in 2002.

When and how was the idea of «Introducing Relativity» born?

I was contacted around 1999 by the editors of the Introducing Series to enquire if I would be interested in authoring the book. They had already conceived the idea of the book (since they had many already on quantum mechanics, Einstein, Hawking etc….) and simply asked me to decide what material to include and to write it.

How long did you spend on writing the comic book?

The process was quite long, as we wanted to do a very good job. I think it was about six months to have the initial draft. I then would send copies to the illustrator and editor, get feedback and we met several times to work on more subtle points, before producing the final version.

Do you think that a comic book can help improve the perception of Physics and Cosmology to general people?

I certainly hope so! One of the most important things that a cartoon or comic book achieves is presenting material that normally would be very intimidating or exclusive, in a form or medium that the general public feel very comfortable with. Comics are relaxed, informal, funny, light and not serious in general. Bringing this to heavy, serious subject matter like relativity gives people permission to tackle it and the confidence to believe that they could understand it.

What are the main difficulties faced by sector specialists in writing a comic book?

There are a lot of unanswered questions you have to try to answer for yourself. Can every concept be written in a way that is understandable by the general public with no special knowledge? What can the author assume the reader knows? Who is the average reader of the book going to be?
In addition as an author one has to balance the goals of the book which are both to inform and to entertain the reader. If one tries to teach too much the reader will get bored. If there is too little content on the other hand, the book will be unsatisfying for the reader who honestly wants to learn the subject.

To whom do you suggest the book (children, young people, adult or everybody)?

I think it is too advanced for most children below the age of about 13 or so. This is primarily because the concepts are advanced and subtle, no matter how much one tries to simplify them. However, for everyone else I hope it could be accessible. Whether it is of interest to them is another matter. I think I would only recommend it to people who have a real interest in science and a desire to understand what Relativity is and why Einstein is so highly regarded, as well as an urge to understand the current developments in our understanding of gravity and cosmology.

Do you remember one of the most difficult concepts to explain or illustrate (for example, the curvature of space, the scale of theUniverse, the expansion of the Universe, ect.)?

I remember struggling with a few issues. One was how to explain what a tensor was. I needed this in order to actually write down the Einstein field equations, which is a goal I set myself. Other tricky things were trying to explain what four (or more) dimensions means and also how explain the concept of the metric, which is used to measure distances between points and tells us about the curvature of space. Finally I struggled with the notion of the quantum spin of a particle (which in the end is not in the book because it was too hard to explain clearly).

Popular physics books frequently use elements tied to the imagination and fiction in order to illustrate theories and results in more accessible manner.
In our immagination the time machine is a simple way to represent past, present and future.
For example, in “Introducing Relativity” the famous Newton’s Law, F = ma, is engraved on a rock to illustrate that space and time were considered absolute and immutable before Einstein’s Relativity.
This is a very good explanation to illustrate a complex theory.

Abstract (italian)

Comunicare l’Astronomia

Nel primo Capitolo della presente Tesi di Dottorato viene analizzata la realtà della comunicazione scientifica nella sua duplice funzione, quella di informazione e di divulgazione; la percezione della fisica e dell’astrofisica e l’interesse che riveste sul grande pubblico.
La comunicazione scientifica, nella sua accezione più vasta, ha sempre avuto nel tempo proprie caratteristiche, come atto di scambio e di diffusione nell’ambito della comunità scientifica dei risultati acquisiti e delle scoperte raggiunte, per facilitare e consentire il coordinamento per ogni ulteriore progresso nei rispettivi rami di ricerca. Si parla a tal proposito di «informazione scientifica».
A questa funzione primaria, se ne aggiunge una seconda non meno importante, che è quella della divulgazione scientifica, diretta a raggiungere con un linguaggio più semplice un pubblico molto ampio, con caratteristiche culturali disomogenee, come quelle che possono riscontrarsi nel mondo politico, nel mondo industriale, in quello della scuola e così via.

Come sottolinea la Commissione Europea, la scienza e la tecnologia influenzano in maniera crescente la società: «ogni giorno il progresso scientifico e tecnologico fornisce innovazioni essenziali alla nostra qualità di vita. Le nuove scoperte nelle scienze, nella tecnologia dell’informazione, così come nel mondo della fisica, stanno influenzando fortemente le strutture sociali, economiche, politiche e etiche a cui siamo abituati» (Commissione Europea, 2005).
I cittadini europei risultano in parte interessati alle attività e ai risultati della scienza, ma nello stesso tempo percepiscono di avere una preparazione non sempre adeguata a comprenderli. Questo divario è stato solo in parte colmato attraverso le azioni sviluppate nel corso degli ultimi due decenni.

Oggi la cultura astrofisica, nonostante la curiosità che spinge i più ad interessarsene, non è abbastanza valutata dall’opinione pubblica, perché è diffusa la concezione che essa non sia utile ai fini della vita di ogni giorno. Poca considerazione, da parte dell’opinione pubblica, si ha quindi dell’utilità della ricerca astronomica; si ha l’idea che essa sia fine a se stessa. In realtà, la ricerca astronomica ha riscontrato delle importanti applicazioni soprattutto nel campo industriale e medico, che ora vengono considerate molto utili.
I mezzi di comunicazione di massa presentano spesso dei servizi dedicati all’Astronomia, ma non tutti risultano attendibili. Spesso viene privilegiata la notizia clamorosa, a volte addirittura non del tutto conforme al vero, rispetto a una più pacata e seria spiegazione del fenomeno, che apporti un reale beneficio in termini di conoscenza. Coloro che vogliono comunicare l’Astronomia devono porsi di fronte a questo problema per rettificare eventuali inesattezze e guidare il pubblico interessato alla corretta interpretazione della notizia.

Alla fine del capitolo viene dato spazio alla radio come mezzo di comunicazione.

All’interno dell’abitazione, la televisione ha un ruolo centrale, specie nelle interazioni fra i vari membri del nucleo familiare, ma la radio si distingue come mezzo della fruizione individuale, nei vari ambienti della casa o sovrapposta alle pratiche quotidiane, con le quali, impegnando soltanto l’udito e non la vista, sviluppa un’ineguagliata compatibilità.
Nella fruizione in mobilità, nei luoghi di lavoro e negli ambienti collettivi (centri commerciali, grandi magazzini), la radio molto spesso non ha alternative e sviluppa così con larghezza una funzione di accompagnamento.
Il costo relativamente basso degli impianti di trasmissione e messa in onda, e dell’accesso alle frequenze, hanno favorito la persistenza di livelli di concentrazione bassi, rispetto all’assetto duopolistico del sistema televisivo e, dunque, la compresenza di un numero elevato di emittenti effettivamente ascoltabili in quasi ogni località del Paese; questo dato di sistema, congiunto alle particolari caratteristiche che ha l’ascolto rispetto alla più complessa fruizione audiovisiva, ha permesso alla radio di intercettare pubblici molto segmentati.
In radio, infatti, prevale la fidelizzazione, cioè la pratica di ascolto di emittenti riconosciute e abitualmente frequentate; la stessa tecnologia, ad esempio quella dell’autoradio, si è indirizzata più a garantire la continuità dell’ascolto nella mobilità (con il sistema RDS, radio data system), che la possibilità di continui cambiamenti di sintonia.
E’ significativo che anche nelle argomentazioni con cui è stato promosso il DAB (digital audio broadcasting) un posto centrale spetti alla possibilità di meglio assecondare la fidelizzazione degli ascoltatori alla loro emittente. La radio è, quindi, un mezzo capace di costituire nicchie di pubblico e, da tempo, si è messa in grado di sviluppare con loro rapporti intensi che superino la monodirezionalità propria del broadcasting.
Ciò si è realizzato con l’uso del telefono nelle trasmissioni, assai più felice in radio che in televisione grazie alla parità dei mezzi a disposizione tra l’ascoltatore che telefona e il conduttore in studio; una caratteristica accentuata dall’uso dei cellulari e degli SMS.
Il telefono ha consentito alle radio forti economie nel reperimento di personaggi da far intervenire nei programmi (senza il vincolo della loro presenza fisica) e, in varie emittenti, ha favorito l’apporto degli ascoltatori nella produzione e nell’aggiornamento delle informazioni: ad esempio, di quelle del traffico.
La rete Internet ha accentuato queste caratteristiche, che tutte insieme consentono alle radio di svolgere originali funzioni identitarie, partecipative e connettive.
Con la prima, le emittenti danno voce a particolari identità di gruppi legati da interessi comuni musicali, religiosi, sportivi, culturali o politici; la funzione partecipativa è invece garantita dall’azione di integrazione sociale e di interscambio informativo promossa da ciascuna radio. Si parla di funzione connettiva in quanto la radio permette a tutti di mantenere una connessione con la società.

L’affermazione dell’information and communication technology porta con sé la convergenza multimediale; non più un consumo che si distribuisce su vari media, ma la possibilità che contenuti e pratiche sociali diverse, media domestici e media collettivi, dal vivo o riprodotti, si intreccino generando contenuti «multipiattaforma», compatibili con un ventaglio ampio di mezzi grazie alla comune adozione di tecnologie digitali.
La radio partecipa alla convergenza sviluppando una forte sinergia con Internet, dovuta alla facilità con cui i file audio transitano sulla rete, rispetto ai più pesanti file video, ma soprattutto alla comune natura di media personali e interattivi.
Le tecnologie di streaming (che permettono di diffondere una radio via web) hanno permesso anche alle emittenti radio di effettuare un narrowcasting via Internet, e di costruirne nuove espressamente dedicate alla rete.
Con tale forma di accesso, un’emittente locale, ricevibile soltanto in una piccola valle, può essere ascoltata in tutto il mondo riconfigurando il rapporto fra locale e globale; ma può anche costruire la propria programmazione prelevando da altre emittenti o agenzie in rete parte dei contenuti.

Nei capitoli II e III viene analizzata la possibilità di fare comunicazione dell’astrofisica attraverso la radio in Italia, citando un caso concreto. Si tratta del progetto «Tutti Dentro» programma radiofonico dedicato all’astronomia e all’astronautica, incentrato sui due volti del Cielo: quello romantico e suggestivo, raccontato dalle «stelle» della musica, dello spettacolo, del cinema e dello sport e quello più sconosciuto, svelato dall’entusiasmo dei giovani ricercatori che lo vivono per professione. Per più di due anni, «Tutti Dentro» è andato in onda in quasi 100 radio locali italiane con l’obiettivo di coinvolgere gli esperti della cultura e dello spettacolo e i ricercatori e affrontando con loro alcuni grandi temi della ricerca scientifica e della comunicazione, quali per esempio: le missioni sulla Luna, il sogno della conquista di Marte, il pericolo asteroidi, l’acceleratore di particelle LHC, l’astronomia nei «Simpson», gli animali sacrificati durante i primi voli spaziali, il fumetto dell’Anno dell’Astronomia «Le Vite di Galileo», i cambiamenti climatici, ecc. Col mio collega Luca Nobili, che dal 2004 realizza «Urania», il Notiziario di Astronomia e Astronautica per l’Istituito Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF), il progetto «Tutti Dentro» ha avuto inizio nel luglio 2007 ed è continuato solo con qualche pausa fino a gennaio 2009 con un totale di 52 puntate settimanali di circa venti-trenta minuti ciascuna.

Dai grafici ricavati risulta che quasi il 40% delle emittenti ha scelto un orario mattutino di messa in onda del programma «Tutti Dentro», il 23% un orario pomeridiano, un 13% in orario serale e solo un 3% in orario notturno. Sia le emittenti in FM che quelle Web (e di conseguenza la totalità di radio) hanno scelto un giorno feriale di messa in onda. (da un 69% di radio in FM e da un 78% di Web Radio). Se teniamo conto dell’andamento dell’ascolto nel corso della giornata, il prime time della radio è il mattino, con un picco massimo tra le 7 e le 9, la fascia in cui la radio svolge una funzione informativa essenziale anche per chi poi non l’ascolta più nel resto della giornata. In questa fascia (che, comunque, non rientra nel caso di «Tutti Dentro») gli uomini sono più numerosi delle donne, mentre nel corso della mattinata il rapporto si inverte, fino all’ora di pranzo, quando l’ascolto totale cala verticalmente a favore della TV. Nel pomeriggio molte casalinghe tengono accesa la TV o comunque non riaccendono la radio, mentre nel pubblico maschile, più consistente anche a ora di pranzo, si registra una ripresa maggiore fino a ora di cena, quando il prime time televisivo riduce ai minimi termini l’audience totale. Le differenze per sesso sono anche il risultato del fatto che nel complesso gli uomini trascorrono più tempo fuori casa e in automobile e di conseguenza ricorrono alla radio anche per funzioni che in ambito domestico sono svolte dalla TV, di tipo sia informativo sia di compagnia e intrattenimento (Fenati & Scaglioni, 2001).
Si può dedurre da questo fatto che al mattino sono soprattutto le donne a seguire o ad aver seguito «Tutti Dentro», nel pomeriggio e di sera gli uomini. Si tratta in genere di un pubblico adulto, dato che per i teenager è soprattutto la scuola a definire i ritmi di vita e quindi i tempi di fruizione della radio e ovviamente manca il fenomeno importantissimo dell’ascolto in auto.
Oltre allo straordinario picco mattutino in coincidenza con il primo drive time, l’ascolto ha una piccola impennata all’ora di pranzo (e qui si colloca «Tutti Dentro» per un 23% delle radio), quando chi non può guardare la TV sente le ultime notizie alla radio e alle 19, in coincidenza con il secondo drive time, quando chi rientra dal lavoro in automobile sceglie spesso programmi di informazione anziché musica e intrattenimento (un 13% delle emittenti ha mandato «Tutti Dentro» tra le 18 e le 24).

Nel IV capitolo viene presentato il progetto relativo al Blog di «Tutti Dentro», che nasce ufficialmente nel gennaio 2008, dall’esigenza di far continuare le parole dette in radio anche sulla rete, al fine di creare delle community che continuino a discutere, confrontarsi, raccontarsi attorno ai temi introdotti dalla trasmissione radiofonica.
Dopo la fine della messa in onda della VI serie, il Blog ha continuato a vivere e a prendere una direzione leggermente diversa da quella iniziale, di sola raccolta degli intervistati. Ascoltatori affezionati, da una parte, e colleghi dall’altra hanno sottolineato l’importanza di estendere questo scopo primario di completamento delle interviste ad una comunicazione dell’astronomia, che non fosse solamente un semplice resoconto di fatti, ma una spiegazione semplice e chiara di alcuni concetti astronomici e la diffusione di un’immagine dell’astronomia e dell’astronomo più giovane e realistica, allontanando lo stereotipo dello scienziato tipicamente vecchio che punta l’occhio al cannocchiale. In questo modo, il Blog è diventato un luogo di dibattito delle principali questioni astronomiche ancora aperte. Non solo: è diventato sempre più un Blog di Astronomi professionisti, con dottorandi e ricercatori che intervenivano lasciando non solo risposte ma anche pubblicando articoli. In particolare, con il collega Giovanni La Mura è nata una collaborazione quasi costante nella pubblicazione dei post; altri colleghi, come Gabriele Umbriaco, Andrea Macco, Martina Dorigo, Roberto Caimmi, Altavilla Giuseppe, Marco Castellani e alcuni astrofili o amici, come Amedeo De Marchi, Flavio Chinellato, Prasanna Deshapriya dell’International Year of Astronomy 2009 - Sri Lanka (IYA2009 Sri Lanka) hanno dato un contributo notevole al Blog con suggerimenti, commenti e post. Due astrofili conosciuti su Facebook, Joseph Marteleur, Presidente della Fédération Francophone d’Astronomie Amateurs de Belgique (FFAAB), e Antonio Bruno Umberto Colosimo, Promotore d’arte in Pramantha Arte hanno quotidianamente linkato le pagine del Blog «Tutti Dentro» sulla loro Home Page di Facebook. Un astrofilo belga, Eric Soucy di Ohain ha apprezzato molto la possibilità di pubblicare le sue foto astronomiche sul Blog «Tutti Dentro».

I risultati e le considerazioni future che riguardano il progetto vengono riassunte nel V capitolo.
La comunicazione dell’astronomia, con l’uso delle nuove tecnologie multimediali in radio, è stato il principale obiettivo di questo progetto, evitando di seguire la vecchia formula dei programmi scientifici, basati su lunghe interviste allo scienziato, tentando di superare allo stesso tempo lo stereotipo dell’esperto che insegna la scienza al popolo poco istruito.
Si è adottata una nuova formula utilizzando il linguaggio radiofonico più semplice e immediato al fine di inserire il programma nel flusso della radio. Questa esperienza conferma che la radio è un grande mezzo per diffondere l’astronomia a un vasto pubblico in un modo nuovo e non tradizionale.
Ci si augura che il format usato, le strategie adottate e i risultati descritti possano essere utili a coloro che sono interessati alla scienza in radio. Il risultato ottenuto con «Tutti Dentro» può essere un buon riferimento e, in alcuni casi, un punto di partenza per creare nuovi programmi radiofonici per la comunicazione dell’astronomia e dell’astrofisica, non solo nell’Anno Internazionale dell’Astronomia 2009.

Nel capitolo VI vengono presentati i riconoscimenti ed i premi ottenuti dal programma radiofonico.
Il 10 agosto 2007 in occasione dell’annuale evento delle «Lacrime di San Lorenzo», il TG3 Veneto delle ore 14 e il TG1 delle ore 23 hanno mandato in onda un servizio dedicato a «Tutti Dentro».
Mercoledì 3 dicembre 2008 presso il Centro Congressi Nuova Fiera di Roma, «Tutti Dentro» è stato premiato da eContent Award Italy classificandosi al secondo posto nella categoria eScience per il miglior contenuto in formato digitale.

Tra le varie esperienze sviluppate all’interno del programma e dell’Anno Internazionale dell’Astronomia 2009 un progetto, in particolare, ha avuto uno sbocco ulteriore nell’ambito della comunicazione, raccontato e analizzato nel capitolo VII.
Si tratta dell’adattamento e traduzione in italiano del fumetto ufficiale dell’Anno Internazionale dell’Astronomia «Le vite di Galileo» dello svizzero Fiami, che si è circondato di astronomi e storici per realizzarlo.
Non si è trattata di una semplice traduzione ma si è dovuti andare oltre, compiendo un vero e proprio recupero delle fonti storiche, l’analisi delle citazioni, uno studio delle varie epoche storiche e delle conoscenze scientifiche dell’epoca, oltre ad una cura dettagliata dei personaggi del fumetto. Un lavoro che si è concluso dopo un anno di lavoro con la pubblicazione nel settembre 2009 da parte della Casa Editrice CLEUP di Padova.
Il fumetto è stato presentato ufficialmente al XLII Congresso Nazionale dell’Unione Astrofili Italiani (UAI) con una presentazione che Fiami ed io abbiamo tenuto presso il Palazzo Moroni (sede del Municipio di Padova), il 26 settembre 2009. Una seconda conferenza si è svolta il 7 gennaio 2010 presso il Gruppo Astrofili Salese «Galileo Galilei» di Santa Maria di Sala (Venezia); altre due (con l’autore) sono in programma per il 7 – 8 maggio 2010 a Orvieto e Acquapendente, grazie al contributo dell’Associazione Scientifica Astronomica «Nuova Pegasus». Al momento, una conferenza resta ancora da fissare con l’Associazione Marchigiana Astrofili di Ancona e con il Planetario di Padova.
Dopo aver lasciato una copia del fumetto a Massimo Lombardi, Direttore Responsabile di RadioOndaUno, sono stata invitata negli studi della radio il 30 dicembre 2009 per registrare una puntata speciale dedicata al lavoro di Fiami e al mio, di traduzione e adattamento in lingua italiana. La puntata è stata mandata in onda il 12 gennaio 2010 alle ore 14:00 e in replica alle 22:20.
Grazie ai numerosi post sul Blog «Tutti Dentro» e ai link nella mia Home Page di Facebook, l’interesse per il fumetto di Fiami è stato ben accolto anche da Prasanna Deshapriya, dell’Università di Peradeniya di Kandy, Sri Lanka, Coordinatore nazionale per l’IYA2009 che ha espresso il suo desiderio di realizzare una versione in cingalese. Le trattative sono ancora in corso. Una pagina speciale alla copia in versione inglese del fumetto è stata dedicata da Prasanna Deshapriya nel suo Blog «IYA2009 – Astronomy Sri Lanka» e su YouTube con un video, con un ringraziamento particolare per il mio contributo alla diffusione della notizia.
Joseph Marteleur, Presidente della Fédération Francophone d’Astronomie Amateurs de Belgique (FFAAB) mi ha richiesto una copia in francese tramite Facebook, dopo aver visto i numerosi link al fumetto. Da quanto si può concludere, la Web Radio, Facebook e il Blog «Tutti Dentro» si sono rivelati ottimi mezzi di diffusione delle iniziative proposte all’interno dell’Anno Internazionale dell’Astronomia 2009.

Il fumetto di Fiami, «Le vite di Galileo» è un esempio significativo in cui la comunicazione della scienza viene fatta coinvolgendo esperti di vari campi per ottenere un’opera educativa con un notevole riscontro a livello internazionale, con edizioni in sette lingue e oltre 26.500 copie diffuse in Europa e Asia.
La comunicazione dell’astronomia viene fatta anche da ricercatori stessi, che hanno deciso di cimentarsi con questo nuovo mestiere in misura e con ruoli differenti per avvicinare i giovani alla scienza, in particolare all’astrofisica. Nell’ultima parte del capitolo VII è riportata la testimonianza e il lavoro svolto dal Professor Bruce Bassett, cosmologo del South African Astronomical Observatory, per realizzare «La relatività a fumetti» (pubblicato in Italia nel 2008 da Raffaello Cortina Editore).

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EPrint type:Ph.D. thesis
Tutor:Bertola, Francesco and Vietina, Stefano
Ph.D. course:Ciclo 22 > Scuole per il 22simo ciclo > ASTRONOMIA
Data di deposito della tesi:UNSPECIFIED
Anno di Pubblicazione:25 January 2010
Key Words:Comunicazione, Radio, Fumetto, Anno Internazionale dell'Astronomia 2009
Settori scientifico-disciplinari MIUR:Area 02 - Scienze fisiche > FIS/05 Astronomia e astrofisica
Struttura di riferimento:Dipartimenti > pre 2012 - Dipartimento di Astronomia
Codice ID:2440
Depositato il:20 Sep 2010 10:24
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