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I have taken note of Carlo Rovelli’s cultural recommendations.


Born in 1956 in Verona, Italy, Carlo Rovelli is a theoretical physicist known for his work in the philosophy of science. He has written several books, including the popular Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, The Order of Time, and Helgoland, which have been translated into over 40 languages. Rovelli leads the quantum gravity research group at Aix-Marseille University in France and is also an adjunct professor at the University of Western Ontario’s philosophy department in Canada. His most recent book, White Holes, was published by Allen Lane and is now available. He will be discussing his work with Dara Ó Briain at a Guardian Live event at London’s Cadogan Hall on Monday, October 30th.

A book cover of Why Empires Fall by Peter Heather and John Rapley.

1. Essays

John Rapley and Peter Heather’s book “Why Empires Fall” discusses the various factors that contribute to the decline and downfall of empires.

When I was young, I read [Theodor] Mommsen’s well-known book about the decline of the Roman empire. However, this essay has altered my perspective on both the past and the present. Rapley and Heather have summarized a decade’s worth of research on the fourth century. They argue that the Roman empire did not collapse due to weakness, but rather because it was a time of great expansion, causing the periphery to become wealthy and creating a power imbalance that Rome could not handle. Their argument is convincing and applicable to the current state of the western world.

2. Film

Oppenheimer (Christopher Nolan)

Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer.

I attended the New York premiere of this film and participated in a panel discussion with Christopher Nolan and other individuals. The film focuses on the Manhattan Project and the development of atomic bombs, with Oppenheimer serving as the project director. Personally, I felt that the film portrayed Oppenheimer in an overly glorified manner as he was a prominent scientist but not necessarily one of the greatest of his time. However, the film’s message remains relevant as we are currently facing the threat of nuclear disaster and the only solution is through international cooperation rather than conflict. It was also refreshing to see the communists portrayed positively for once.

3. Photography

Sagittarius A*

The first image of the Sagittarius A* black hole.

This is a well-known image of a black hole captured by multiple radio telescopes across the globe. It marks a significant milestone for humanity, as the discovery of black holes alters our understanding of the world. Personally, it holds a special significance for me as I have been researching black holes since my university days when their existence was doubted. We used to believe that the universe was a vast expanse of space, but now we know it contains holes. However, we still have limited knowledge about the inner workings of these holes, with only theories and scientific explanations to guide us.

A book jacket for Collected Poems of Lenore Kandel.

4. Poetry

The complete works of Lenore Kandel in poetry form.

As a child in Italy, I was captivated by the beat-hippy scene in California, with figures like Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. However, I only discovered this specific poet by chance in recent times. She is truly remarkable and deserves more recognition. While her topics are diverse, she caused controversy in the late 60s with her bold, explicit depiction of sex and celebration of the beauty and sacredness of female desire.

5. Cultural institution

The Berggruen Institute

Last June, I received an invitation to attend a conference in Venice. The event was hosted by the Berggruen Institute, an organization that focuses on global political matters and aims to promote the common good rather than division. The conference brought together politicians, intellectuals, economists, and historians to discuss ways to govern the planet and prevent potential disasters in the 21st century. The institute’s purpose is to generate ideas and solutions that have the potential to make a positive impact on the world. While it may be a challenging task, I believe it is crucial for us to work towards living together harmoniously in this century.

6. Music

Classical music on YouTube

Wilhelm Furtwängler conducting in Berlin in 1942.

I have been exchanging emails with an Italian classical music singer named Erik Battaglia for over a year. Despite not meeting in person, we discuss music and he shares YouTube recordings with me. The quality is decent with good headphones. In the past month, I have been listening to excellent classical music with him as my guide. This includes Beethoven’s symphonies conducted by Furtwängler during wartime, with the 1943 seventh symphony being particularly impressive. I have also enjoyed hearing Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau sing Schubert’s Im Abendrot and Bach’s Kreuzstab cantata. It has been a enlightening experience for me.

Source: theguardian.com