Genoa and Atomlandia

I’m on the way back to London from Genoa now, after an enjoyable visit to the Festival della Scienza. I was giving a talk to help launch the Italian edition of Atom Land/A Map of the Invisible, (Atomlandia, published by Hoepli, who organised the trip).

The talk was in the Doge’s Palace, definitely one of the grandest venues in which I have banged on about particle physics (I am more used to pubs, to be honest). It was also my first time being simultaneously translated. It was a challenge for me to speak slowly and clearly, and even more of a challenge for the translators when I failed. As you can see towards the bottom of this cartoon, they just about managed to keep up, to applause from the audience:


Being translated is weird, especially when you make a joke and you have a second or two pause while it is translated before the audience laughs. Sometimes.


The nervous wait to see if the hall will fill up. (It did.)

The cartoon was drawn live during the even by two very talented illustrators who were doing this for all the lectures. You can see more of their work at the   #traccedifestival hashtag on twitter.

The Genoa science festival is quite a big deal. It is advertised all over the city and local press, and the audiences were really engaged (and numerous). In the evening, prominent Genovese families invite the speakers to their homes for dinner parties; both the ones I attended were in houses with a splendid view over the busy port.

I like the fact that the science festival is not only embedded in the middle of Genoa, with its amazing mix of history and architecture, but is also surrounded by other cultural events. I saw two other exhibitions while I was there: one of Italian art in the 1920s seen through the lens of the disturbing politics of the time, and one on the work of the renowned artist, (illustrator, set-designer and more), Emmanuele Luzzati. I didn’t recognise the name, but it turns out I recognised lots of the work, as well as the style. It reminded me of the work of Quentin Blake, and of the Monty Python animations of Terry Gilliam.

In a link between the two exhibitions, Luzzati, a life-long Genovese, had to leave his home town for Lausanne in the forties because of the racial laws introduced by the fascists (he was jewish). He returned after the war and lived in Genoa until his death in 2007.

Talking of disturbing politics, I was a bit nervous of flying to Italy on November the first. But luckily, Brexit was delayed again, so the trip turned out to be very well timed. On the one hand, flights were not disrupted and I didn’t need to get separate travel insurance etc etc, and on the other hand I was out of the UK for the devastating Brexit riots. I hope you’ve all managed to clear up the mess by now.




About Jon Butterworth

UCL Physics prof, works on LHC, writes (books, Cosmic Shambles and elsewhere). Citizen of England, UK, Europe & Nowhere, apparently.
This entry was posted in Arts, History, Physics, Science, Travel, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.