by Giovanni Banelli

Hi everyone, my name is Giovanni Banelli and I’m the last student joining the AMVA4NewPhysics network. I will be based in Munich (Technical University) and formally I’m the only theorist among the ESRs; hence I will be working on the theory/phenomenology side of the use of advanced statistical tools in searches for New Physics.

When people told me that I would have to contribute to this blog I felt a little embarrassed since it is the first time I would do something like this. It’s not because I’m shy – on the contrary, I always say that I love to dialogue with people about anything. However, for quite a while now I’ve always taken words written on paper (or on a computer, as it is more convenient today) very very seriously! Hence my excitement of coming out about myself.

Supposing that most of the readers of this blog are physicists or related scientists, well, I would compare this to the experience of publishing texts on journals: as you know, arguments have to be well-grounded because the reputation of a person is in play.

Sounds crazy to read this about blogs, but I’m not joking! And given that blogs are known primarily for being “democratic means of expression” of one’s “thoughts”, I’m clearly alluding to a point that is very dear to me in the last times, which is the following:

It is a widespread idea today that opinions about things in society are just opinions and all equally valuable, while only natural sciences deal with concepts such as correctness and truth. I don’t agree with this at all. To say it shortly on a topic that is otherwise extremely deep and complex, any claim made using a certain language (in the broadest definition) is subject to its rules and limitations, and thus can always be checked in its consistency and validity. It turns out that the scientific method is in fact a very general category that encompasses every dimension of the human being, and not just the discussions about physical nature. How much pseudo-science are we hearing around us every day then, huh?!

Because of that I’m not so keen on writing on blogs (or publishing any social-network post), they are too short and fast to elaborate seriously on something; on the other hand, I’m aware that it is important to become able to convey some well structured ideas in a simple way, which is different from writing simplified “opinions”. It’s also true that this blog in particular is meant mostly as a somewhat “dry” (opinion-free) report of our activity in the network, or as a collection of entry-level summaries of scientific ideas which otherwise are notoriously very well described in literature, but I took this new chance also to point out a characteristic of myself that I consider very important for an authentic self-presentation.

So yes, I would define myself first of all as an intellectual, i.e. a general purpose scientist; and I see this role in the act of constantly criticising the existent, starting from myself, my way of expression and my life situation. It may turn out to be annoying sometimes, but if done honestly I think it’s the only way to keep a real scientific attitude at the end… 🙂

Another common idea that I like to challenge is that our society is advanced because it promotes diversity. Is it really true? My view is that the claim holds only if such a diversity is harmless, i.e. useful to consolidate a certain social regime or its profitability. Sure, also this is a big topic that would need a wider argumentation, but since here I’m supposed also to summarise something from my CV I will tell you about my experience.

In primary school I was quite good at maths. I was extremely quick in doing any kind of computations with perfect results, but there was a problem. When during the process of computing I was correcting any mistakes, I used to draw big black spots on my sheet of paper. This was unacceptable for my teacher, who thought well to suppress my performance… in favour of cleanliness! Also as a side consequence of this traumatic event I later enrolled in a humanities-based high-school, where few space was left for natural sciences.

Today I’m very happy of that choice, since it allowed me to discover the philosophical thought that takes a vital part in my way of reasoning. However, from those years, due to the fact that since early childhood I was also a successful accordionist, I remember very well the harsh criticism of my professors when from time to time I decided to skip some school days in order to study music for my concerts and competitions! I was not respecting the institution they said, even if later I was among the few who graduated high school with full scores…

Full of confidence after a successful completion of high school and looking for new challenges, I decided to study physics. The decision was quite simple, since I was lacking a serious natural science education which should be definitely part of the culture of a general purpose scientist (of course here I assume physics as the mother of all natural sciences; moreover I will not elaborate on the close ties of natural science research with philosophy).

But that was clearly not enough: to make it more difficult, apart from continuing the music study at an academy of music, I started the university in a very different country, with its own language and education.

Oh yeah, as a side note, I forgot to tell: for sure reading my name you thought I was Italian, which is true, but things are a little more subtle. I come from Friuli, the very north-east of Italy, bordering with Austria and Slovenia, an autonomous region with different autochthonous ethnic communities.

My father speaks the Friulan language, my mother Slovene, which I studied together with Italian at primary school, but not at high school. I completed my physics bachelor in Ljubljana, and at the same time my music bachelor in Trieste. Then, wishing to explore also the “extreme” west of Europe, I chose to go to Amsterdam for an English-taught particle physics master.

Looking back to this path from the point where I stand now, I would certainly define it as hazardous. Despite the fact that it offered me an enormous amount of experiences, from the perspective of a professional career in physics research, which is what I’m approaching now, for sure the educational system itself didn’t have anywhere any mechanism to encourage and support my original enterprisingness in different countries and also across different areas (by the way, for some reasons, in the meantime I also learned quite well three other rather uncommon languages and got to know the related cultures, which is something really too off topic to discuss in this blog…).

I will not list here all the various situations I have lived in, but I can say that if I managed to reach this point, it is also due to some individuals who at different moments in these years believed in the seriousness and steadiness of my work and in my motivation.

Among all the beliefs that I consolidated with these experiences, indeed one of the most important is the value of work, i.e. of time spent working, which I believe is always yielding results. In the age of wannabe-ism and Instagram, which has unfortunately affected also science, I don’t forget and appreciate a lot the activity of those many people who day by day, in silence, strive to give their little contribution to the expansion of knowledge at the best to their ability. This communal sense of progress, based on the trust in each individual’s commitment, is what I will try to bring forward in any further step in my career, at any level.

For these reasons I thank those who allowed me to continue my study path in physics, I will take on this privilege with great responsibility and I hope they will be proud of me one day. I recently already had the opportunity to meet my fellow ESRs of the network and I must say that I’m really pleased to share a part of my study with such a diverse but very skilled group of people.

As far as the physical content of the post is concerned, I will care of reverting the current average with the next publishings! 🙂