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:


to create an alliance for science,


to restore the primacy of the humanistic, tolerant and anti absolutist vocation of science,


to favor the institution of a multidisciplinary and independent Authority for Science, with the aim of establishing objectives and setting the limits of scientific progress, to reflect on the future of civilization and to formulate next concrete proposals for Society.

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.






Politics and Science


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.

Energy - Energy means pollution

The round table on energy has been particularly stimulating. We outline hereafter the main concepts.

The important points of Carlo Rubbia (Nobel Prize Winner for physics):


The future progress of mankind without renewable energy is impossible.


The problem of explosive increase of population + 90 M every year.


Electric power, and biomass are interesting as energy sources for the poor countries are essential for a decent life - but "no electricity=poverty"

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:


Increase of consumption +40% in the 2100


Stagnation; economic savings can be made over the world


Alternative energies with meaningful movements in percentages.

Today the alternative energy sources are not an alternative.

Of course option B is not suitable (no energy= poverty).

Nuclear Energy

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).

Photovoltaic energy

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.

In Italy
Energetic research receives 0,3% contributions of the state. Rubbia has asked for a contribution equal to 1% of the taxes paid on oil; this would change the situation completely but "the short-term displaces important longterm concerns ". The Political problem is that politicians are always running for election, and therefore they do not invest in long term plans. The media are worse because they do not insist for more than one week on a argument.

Venice Conference abstracts (download)

Between a Future for Science and a Future for Faith
- Amos Luzzatto

Is science the only path to knowledge?-Peter Atkins
University of Oxford, UK

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

Science and Law - a Fascinating Interaction
Amedeo Santosuosso

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

Future Sources Of Energy For Mankind
- Paolo Milani

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

Prolongation of Human Life Span-
Leonard Guarente

Understanding cancer, molecular genetics of cancer-Pier Paolo Di Fiore

Animal Cloning by Somatic Cell Reprogramming
- Teruhiko Wakayama Ph.D.

The Future of Cancer Therapy
- Professor J Gordon McVie, IEO, Milan

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

Job Market Effects on Scientific Productivity
- Paula Stephan

Philosophy and Technology - Emanuele Severino

Science and Economic Power - Franco Malerba

The Market Economy, and the Scientific Commons
- Richard R. Nelson


Science and Politics.- Kathleen Kennedy Townsend


Hydrogen,which 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.)
Why is Wind energy not discussed?


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).

Politics and Science

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:


Resistance to Change


Reduction of the gap between research and innovation, research and young people (this is a weak link in Italy)


Global approach (internationalisation ) to the research. Access to knowledge can be considered a new unit of measure: e.g. the Luxembourg country consumes more Internet bandwidth with 400k inhabitants than all of Africa.

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]