Notes from the first world-wide conference on the "Future of Science" (Part two)
Venice 21-22-23 september 2005
by Luisa Spairani
Politicians, jurists, economists, entrepreneurs, philosophers and scientists agreed the charter of Venice which has four principal objectives:
The objective of the conference is bound up with starting the construction of a bridge that allows research to converse with public opinion, and for public opinion to understand that without science neither civil nor social progress are possible.
We resume the second part of the notes; on right side the abstracts of several ofthe participations are available. The second day of the conference has been subdivided into parallel sessions on Energy, ICT, privacy and life sciences, taking research into cancer, AIDS, and on OGM as examples . The note only partly cover energy and ICT. The last day has been focused on the relationships between philosophy and science and the relationships between politics and science. We record some short note on politics and science while the conference on philosophy has been closely focused on neuro sciences and the problem of free will, confirming the fact that, in spite of the experimental demonstration that strictly couple neurotransmitters and choices, the awareness of having reacted automatically to stimuli anyway allows to us to express exactly our free will.
The important points of Carlo Rubbia (Nobel Prize Winner for physics):
Therefore the problem of deficiency of coal/oil with CO2 emission is insoluble. Moreover the greenhouse effect caused by the presence of CO2 molecules in the atmosphere has a multiplying effect 1-> 100.
The prescription of Kyoto is not effective; even if all nations followed it, we would obtain a slowing down of the exhaustion of energetic resources (oil) of 7 years against the forecast 43 years.
Serious alternative sources: solar energy and nuclear.
The exploitation of solar energy will not be significant until the next decade (Spain is ahead at present ). Innovation is mandatory. Here the most interesting observations emerged from the round table.
The production and the demand for energy in the underdeveloped nations can be met in various ways:
Today the alternative energy sources are not an alternative.
Of course option B is not suitable (no energy= poverty).
By 2015, ready the first fusion plant will be ready, and in the 2030’s,fusion should become commercially viable . Why is all the effort being at nuclear fusion and not at fission, which is available, and today is ensuiyred with “ breeder” techniques? The problem of waste is soluble, but civil management of tritium must be separated from the military nuclear industry. Since fission reactors can be used for military purposes, their technology is denied to countries like India and China - but these countries will be able to build fission power stations independently within 7 years.
The increases of the cost of oil (1 Billion $ per day) are causing a slow down of the Iter plan for a demonstration nuclear fusion reactor on which will be spent in 20 years what has been spent in 2 days for the increase of the price of oil). In the Iter plan we are not calculating the necessary time (for oil there remains at least 43 years of production).
For the Swiss scientist Grätzel the geothermal energy is tiny and neglected, but could give a contribution equal to 10%. However it must focus on photovoltaic cells. There is a shortfall in photovoltaic technology-> it is necessary to find other techniques in order to construct photovoltaic cells: the objective is a cost of 1$/m2. There are new favorable technologies with respect to the silicon cells (e.g. Kamarka : windows that produce energy) planned in Korea Australia China, Germany. Moreover there are technologies based on the sensitivity of pigment to light. In China an electrical battery plant working withPhotovoltaic cells is under construction
Solar space energy.
This is a Project based on 1300 W per m2 ( with 50%efficiency) with transfer to Earth via radio or microwaves. Rubbia declares it problematic and requiring with very long developmental timescales . Problems include estimation of safety of beamed energy, what to do if the satellite moves even just a bit from its orbit? This has put the discussion into the realms of science fiction. The serious problem of energy must be resolved with simple solutions.
Raw,an Indian physicist does not think it is science fiction , but we are far from a realistic plan (to activate public opinion and young people on the problems of energy).
Energy from biomasses.
Today they represent 8% of the energetic resources; also, thanks to genetically modified cultivars, they will grow to 15% or 20% upto to having powerplants that produce 4TW. Rubbia: biomasses obtained from agriculture and trash will gain in importance (there are many possible sources of biomass from vegetable, convertible to ethanol or methanol - see Brasil ) It is Possible to use waste more efficiently . India and China must move in the direction of alternative technologies.
Are there aids/dependencies/programs also from Worldwide Bank institution? There are obstructive Interest. The future usage of energy must be monitored so that in countries like China or India no replica of the western consumeristic model of the western model (2 cars for family..) arises.
Venice Conference abstracts (download)
a Future for Science and a Future for Faith
science the only path to knowledge?-Peter Atkins
The Demographic Revolution and Science - SP Kapitza
Science and Faith: Is the Alliance Possible? -Giuli Giorello
The cultural value of science- Edoardo Boncinelli
Legal Restraints on the Freedom of Science - John H. Barton
and Law - a Fascinating Interaction
Is Science Dangerous? - Lewis Wolpert
Climatology and human societies -Pascal Acot
Energy Production in the Developing World - Predhiman Kaw
Air Pollution, Global Dimming and Global warming: Dilemmas for the Developed and the Developing Nations - V. Ramanathan
Renewable Energy - Michael Grätzel
The Potential and Limits of Hydrogen Energy Technologies - Louis Schlapbach
Sources Of Energy For Mankind
Internet and Pervasive Networking- Vinton Cerf
Information Security and Privacy - Adi Shamir
Information and communication technologies (ICT) and their implications -Maurizio Decina
From Rice Genomics to Agrobiotechnological Application- Xing Wang Deng, Daniel C.
Biomedical Genetics: Miracle or Mirage, Prediction or Predicament?- Kenneth M Weiss
A case study on the impact of science communication on society: food safety and biotechnology- Bruce M. Chassy, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
of Human Life Span-
Understanding cancer, molecular genetics of cancer-Pier Paolo Di Fiore
Cloning by Somatic Cell Reprogramming
Future of Cancer Therapy
Is Freedom of Research Jeopardized?-Aron Goldhirsch
Freedom of science and philosophy- Claude Cohen-Tannoudji
Evolution, Freedom and Society- Daniel Dennett
Neuroscience and Free Will - Philip Pettit
L’Epistemologia della Complessità -Prof. Mauro Ceruti
Market Effects on Scientific Productivity
Philosophy and Technology - Emanuele Severino
Science and Economic Power - Franco Malerba
Market Economy, and the Scientific Commons
SCIENCE AND DEMOCRACY- Alberto Martinelli
and Politics.- Kathleen Kennedy Townsend
can be extracted by enzymes/biological methods can give greater
efficiency than electrolysis,according to the latest research. One
view is To select hydrogen as the energy choice for
trasnportation; but there is another opposite school of thought
which supports the use of Hydrogen for use in buildings and
factories ( heating houses, electricity.)
ClF increases the atmospheric greenhouse effect x 100 times more than a CO2 molecule. The planet has been become darker by 14 W/m2 in Europe and "The smog protects India from the solar heating". It is the solar light that favors rains (this is not a model. but a real observation ). A Raised temperature of the Indian ocean + rains means increases drought in the sub-Saharan area.
The brown clouds (from pollution) result partly from the melting of the glaciers, but they also intercept the solar light, creating a shadow that dampens the overheating. Should we work therefore more on the greenhouse effect than on Pollution? We must proceed in equal measure against both CO2 and on polluting waste products. New technological sciences are being defined: as an example, Geo engineering (e.g. putting iron into the ocean in order to reduce the absorption of CO2 etc but we still do not yet know to estimate correctly the impact).
In summary, the political world should remember the principle of F. Bacon that " Knowledge is Power" but also that Power must be based on Knowledge.
From the EU Commissioner - here is an example of ignorance of Power: the discussion on prions inside the European Parliament; antiscientific decisions were taken and thousands of cows were killed for nothing (the political decision was mistaken because the parliamentarians have not understood the nature of prions).
The EU position on research. The agenda of Lisbona (conference EU 2000) predicted that if more was not spent in R&D between 2000 and 2010, the EU would lose the economic competition between USA and Japan.
From the States comes the witness of K. Kennedy, former governor of Maryland: in the USA there are problems for research on stem cells but we should be optimistic because:
American lobbies can spend in order to create concern over UK and Korea parallel work
In any case politics must act with the consent of the population; politics are found to mediate between:
Today, knowledge, science, and information have the values that once a time were belonged to property. Politics must favor a model of society based on science.
[Editing by Franco Pallavicini, English revision by Michael Martin-Smith]
[031.LS.TDF.2005 - 19.11.2005]