March 1st, 2023
Happy Birthday Venera 3!
42 years ago, on March 1, 1982, when I was only 11 years old, the Russian Venera 3 rocket landed on Venus, our neighbor in the solar system and sent, for the first time in human history, sounds from another planet. Together with its twin probe Venera 4, only five days older, they made history.
The pre-landing sounds, loud, cataclysmic, dazzling in their confusion of rocket burning, stop at the thud of landing. Then, the silence of the white noise, followed by the notes of the Venusian wind, alien sound. Seeing without looking, a soundscape that offered the emotion of extraterrestrial exploration through sidereal music.
The poetic sense of the event in no way detracts from the scientific value of the enterprise. After all exploration is curiosity, not only scientific and intellectual but also emotional, primitive, like the one of the newborns. The dualism between rationality and emotional sensitivity in the scientific world is only one of the consequences of the revolution that happened several hundred years ago but, if we look beyond, the scientific inspiration arises from the admiration for the beauty and complexity of the natural world that surrounds us, pure emotional force.
I have often asked myself the problem of how to translate scientific results that involve complex analyses and concepts that are not always easy to grasp at a first attempt for non-experts. This is even more important to me lately, since I started working on the issue of climate justice. Because the beauty of nature is opposed to the violence of human actions that transfigure this beauty and hurt the weakest populations.
One of the answers that I have often given myself and which has created a common thread in recent years is linked to my mother. When I wrote about the results we found, when I thought about how to explain the dynamic and complex processes of the atmosphere and the Arctic, I always imagined I was talking to her, always curious to learn new things, despite not having received a robust academic education. After all, science, especially climate science, must be at the service of people and the right to knowledge must be guaranteed beyond academic benches.
Therefore, if I have sometimes used a term deemed "inappropriate" by my colleagues or I have had to simplify some concepts to make them clearer, I have always thought that the right to know is one of the cornerstones of a truly democratic society, even more so today. My reputation is worth less than this right.
Nevertheless, this right is associated with the duty to be as rigorous and up-to-date as possible on the subjects I discuss, drawing from different but always robust sources based on the scientific method, whose principles of reproducibility of results and satisfaction of standards - based not on a person who tweets the news of the moment but on a multitude of colleagues who test the hypotheses and results before, during and after me, letting filter only what survives through tests of resistance, like a well forged work.
This duty to provide correct information is inseparable from the right to freedom which means that it is empathy towards my listener that guides my conversation, and not the rigor of numbers, perceived by me as a faithful friend but by many as a puzzle with no solution.
Like Venera 3 41 years ago listened to the wind of Venus, day after day we hear not only the voice of the planet which is changing under the evil spell of carbon dioxide but also that of the people who live on this Earth and who pay a very high price to due to the changing climate, although they are not responsible for it.
My mother, today, is gone, disappeared in August of the past year. Today would also have been her birthday but her wind continues to blow in my thoughts and choices just as the wind continues to blow on Venus, despite the fact that the microphones of the Russian probes have been turned off.
Happy birthday and good luck everyone!