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March 11th, 2012

Story from another world

Three of us drove up to Pisa on Friday morning to open an exhibit being held in the Blue Palace (Palazzo Blu), on the banks of the Arno, called "Storie Dall'Altro Mondo". It's your standard astronomy exhibit, very nicely done in this case, with pretty pictures, meteorites (my work -- including our latest acquisition, Equel, to answer the question asked in my last post byselidor) historical instruments and old books.

Two things make it stand out. First, it is being co-sponsored by an interesting group of folks: along with the Specola Vaticana, they include the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics (who have a bunch of space experiments and a gravity wave experiment in progress), the department of physics at the University of Pisa, and the Archdiocese of Pisa. And second -- going along with the first -- there's a special room dedicated to a former archbishop of Pisa, Cardinal Maffi, who was both a scientist, historian of science, past president of the Vatican Observatory, and of course a Cardinal.

The story I heard is that around 1910 he proposed that the Church should build a monument to Galileo, who of course was a native of Pisa and studied at the university there, but the mayor at the time turned him down because it didn't fit in with the prevailing anticlerical bashing of the church as being anti-science.

Finally... proof that I really was there. Yes, I know it looks photoshopped... but it's just straight from my iPhone. It is still odd to think that I just live four hours' drive from this place...



(Edited to correct the spelling of Cardinal Maffi's name.)

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