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In search of the triple point

In search of the triple point

The festival will begin on Wednesday 26 May in Trieste Semicolon for scienceDedicated to discussing and understanding scientific issues after a year in which these issues became the protagonists of public debate and even everyday conversation. The festival runs until May 31 and also hosts meetings in Udine and Pordenone: its fifth edition “So you start with a desire to come back to discuss whether knowledge can help us understand the world, in spite of everything, and how it can be.” The festival’s artistic director is the writer Paolo Giordano, who since the beginning of the pandemic has been one of the most competent and attentive commentators on scientific, cultural and humanitarian questions that have been raised in recent months: his articles have been collected in an e-book by publisher Einaudi (in a new series called amounts), The things I don’t want to forget, Of which Giordano wrote an epilogue that represents a partial final equilibrium.


The Covid crisis was, and still is, a knowledge crisis as well. With each episode of the epidemic, it took time for science to come to strong enough convictions, to find ways to translate these beliefs into a shareable form, and for institutions to ultimately act on those new beliefs. If some delays, especially from the scientific side, were inevitable – we studied an unprecedented phenomenon as it appeared before our eyes – then the obstacles to communication and institutional response were largely the result of a lack of willingness to listen to scientific topics. We were ineffective because we were out of practice with the science, and out of practice in understanding it and even earlier in welcoming them into public debate.

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It must be recognized that the set of skills needed to deal with the epidemic in an organic manner has proven daunting from the start: microbiology, general medicine, epidemiology, statistics, economics, psychology, communication sciences, diplomatic sciences and much more. Each question seemed closely related to the others, and the interrelationships between the fields were very numerous. Different perspectives led to mixed conclusions. Amid these tensions, the media did their best to account for everything, but they often resorted to a tried and tested opposition scheme: For each opinion, leave space for the opposite opinion as well. It is unfortunate that for people with a strong artistic footprint, not all opinions have the same value, not even the same right to exist.

The multiplicity of the present suddenly appeared before us as a whole. We were all unprepared. We lacked concepts, lacked words, and lacked Form Suitable for thinking complex and complete. Whoever says today that they understood everything from the beginning, and that they expected everything, is a liar. Because if the epidemic, a The pandemic, which many had imagined, was not the countless difficulties it caused to our lives, personal and collective. Writing, over the course of this year and a few months, it was my personal attempt to keep up with a reality that was constantly presenting itself as new and surprising. I needed it first and foremost for myself, because understanding, in my case, never precedes writing, but comes, if it happens, in the very act of writing.

Today I feel like a different person than the person who wrote the first articles. And therefore Being a different person, but I still don’t know how. I also know this is an incomplete book, about an unfinished crisis. The situation in India has accelerated in recent days, and although the tragedy is occurring “in a faraway place”, the quiet indifference to which we are bound, will worry us sooner or later. The news continues as our “normal” life continues to change, and who knows for how long. Above all for this I chose the most intangible and updateable shape ever, an ebook.

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The articles, which individually and on the day of their publication were of a specific urgent nature, it seems to me that re-reading them in sequence constitute the direct account of the understanding that is gained, week after week, month after month. Scientific awareness that gradually absorbs new words – “erre-con-zero”, “lockdown”, “turning point” and “variables” – and alongside it an emotional awareness that begins in the sheer confusion of February 2020, goes beyond dread. Last spring, he arrives with cautious hope at the start of the vaccination campaign a year later.

It remains unclear that this consciousness is destined to become a profound consciousness, it was talked about abstractly from the start, but nothing proves that at the moment. For my part, I’d be willing to narrow my ambitions a lot. It would suffice for me if I remain at least the memory of the complexity we have indulged in from all this path, because it will be a similar complexity that characterizes many of the challenges of the future. It suffices that this experience gives us the impetus to move from a “separate” idea to a “conditional” idea, which is more open, polluted, and curious, which unifies knowledge rather than dividing it.

For water, as with other substances, there is a special thermodynamic condition called the “triple point”. It is a combination of pressure and temperature values ​​in which the three states of matter coexist: gaseous, liquid, and solid. Only at this point are steam, liquid water, and ice together. Over a year ago, I realize now, I have done nothing but search for it: the “triple point” of the pandemic, the precarious state in which science, communication and politics can coexist in equilibrium. Or cause, emotion, and behavior, if you look at a different scheme. Maybe I got close to it, maybe not, but today I’m sure, as I was on the first day, that there is that triple point somewhere.

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