All author's publications are listed below.
In four steps – from Renaissance to the dawn of the 20th century – this issue explores some aspects of the history of book sciences, as research and popularisation instruments also playing a role in economy. Adrian Johns speaks about the origin of science books in the Renaissance. Then, through the papers respectively by Bruce Lewenstein and Paola Govoni, the focus moves to science books in 19th-century America and Italy. They demonstrate that, in both countries, science books were a stimulus to the establishment of a national scientific community. Finally, Francesco De Ceglia exemplifies the role played by agrarian catechisms in the process of spreading farming skills among landowners.
In Europe, much effort has been devoted to explore the causes of the decline in number of university matriculations of science students and to identify gender differences in career choice. Yet, the problem extends to the fulfillment of career plans: given their professional expectations and their attitudes when choosing a career, girls are much less likely to pursue scientific careers such as engineering or physics. Evidence of this is provided by the social research carried out within the framework of the GAPP project (Gender Awareness Participation Process). The Gapp project is intended to investigate differences between girls and boys in their perception of science careers and to propose a range of innovative and concrete participatory activities involving scientists, engineers and professionals from the public and private S&T sectors. In this letter, we report a synthesis of the results of the social research conducted as first step of the project: exploring how the perceptions of science professions affect interest, motivation and subject choice at school, at the university and consequently in their career.
Within just a few months, new releases in the world of publishing have seen two books dealing with science and The Simpsons, one published in the US and the other in Italy: last spring, What's science ever done for us? by Paul Halpern (John Wiley & Sons, New York 2007) and, this autumn, La scienza dei Simpson by Marco Malaspina (Sironi Editore, Milano 2007).
The first step of the SEDEC project has been a survey on teachers and pupils perception of science, scientists, and the European dimension of science. Different research actions have been organized for the different targets, and have been held in the six countries involved in the project: Czech Republic, France, Italy, Portugal, Poland and Romania. This article will present the results of a questionnaire distributed between European teachers. A research on the scientific imagery should have an opposite perspective to the one of a teacher at school; whereas the latter, the keeper of a knowledge, has the usual task of transferring and checking the knowledge in their students, a researcher has to record and describe their interior world relating to science – the information, but especially the images, the expectations, the emotions related to it.
Exploring public attitudes towards science helps investigate the images of science and what the social representations of science are. In this regard, science communication plays a crucial role in its different ways of addressing different publics.
Compared to expert-to-expert - or peer-to-peer - communication, the language of popular science is characterised by a wider use of figurative devices. This applies to all forms of verbal and non-verbal communication. Specialized texts are characterised by a restricted and rigorous lexicon both in spoken and - even more so - in written language. Namely, a widespread use of terms which are monosemic, unambiguous and non context-dependent terms, and a minimum amount of natural linguistic choices. The few polysemic, ambiguous and context-dependent words encountered in a scientific text are highly functional, since meaning is mainly conveyed through field-specific terms. The same rules apply to the iconography of a scientific text, where most pictures are graphs, diagrams or schemes. Their purpose is to give the reader a visual photo-like equivalent of the concepts discussed in the text. These images are all the more effective thanks to the use of colours, external references, highlighting and other devices, which make them functional to their explanatory purpose.
Popularising mathematics requires a preliminary reflection on language and terms, the choice of which results from underlying dynamics. The aim of this article is to start an overall analysis of the conditions influencing this linguistic choice.
Ever since Galileo's time, scientists have been interested in how to create a perfect language capable of supporting communication at a horizontal level i.e. within the scientific community, and at a vertical level, i.e. between scientists and the public. Special attention will be spent on the mathematicians' role, especially Giuseppe Peano's. The Italian mathematician played a leading role in the creation of a perfect language, both at a horizontal and a vertical level. On the one hand, there is his successful attempt to introduce a standard logical and symbolic system of notation, which became essential for communication among mathematicians. On the other hand, there is the complete failure of his ambitious Latino sine flexione (Latin without inflection), a perfect language which died with its creator.