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On this day September 29, 1954

Eleven countries signed a convention establishing the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), currently the world’s largest particle physics laboratory.

Blue founding members

Blue founding members

The acronym CERN originally stood, in French, for Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (European Council for Nuclear Research), which was a provisional council for setting up the laboratory.

The organization was established by the following 11 European governments; Belgium, Denmark, West Germany, France, Greece, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Netherlands and United Kingdom.

Today the organization has twenty European member states, and is currently the workplace of approximately 2,600 full-time employees, as well as some 7,931 scientists and engineers (representing 580 universities and research facilities and 80 nationalities). Read More…

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On this day May 23, 1498

Girolamo Savonarola is burned at the stake in Florence, Italy, on the orders of Pope Alexander VI.

On May 13, 1497, the rigorous Father Savonarola was excommunicated by Pope Alexander VI, and in 1498, Alexander demanded his arrest and execution. On April 8, a crowd attacked the Convent of San Marco.

A bloody struggle ensued, during which several of Savonarola’s guards and religious supporters were killed. Savonarola surrendered along with Fra Domenico da Pescia and Fra Silvestro, his two closest associates. Savonarola was faced with charges such as heresy, uttering prophecies, sedition, and other crimes, called religious errors by the Borgia pope.

During the next few weeks all three were tortured on the rack, the torturers sparing only Savonarola’s right arm in order that he might be able to sign his confession. All three signed confessions, Savonarola doing so sometime prior to May 8. Read More…

On this day May 15, 1252

Pope Innocent IV issued the papal bull ad extirpanda, authorizing the use of torture on heretics during the Medieval Inquisition.

The bull argued that as heretics are “murderers of souls as well as robbers of God’s sacraments and of the Christian faith…”, they are “to be coerced—as are thieves and bandits—into confessing their errors and accusing others, although one must stop short of danger to life or limb.” The following parameters were placed on the use of torture:

  • that it did not cause loss of life or limb (citra membri diminutionem et mortis periculum)
  • that it was used only once
  • that the Inquisitor deemed the evidence against the accused to be virtually certain.

The requirement that torture only be used once was effectively meaningless in practice as it was interpreted as authorizing torture with each new piece of evidence that was produced and by considering most practices to be a continuation (rather than repetition) of the torture session (non ad modum iterationis sed continuationis). Read More…

Nuclear Security Summit

President Barack Obama open the 47-nation Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.  The president says he wants new commitments to secure weapons-grade plutonium and uranium to prevent nuclear terrorism.

With concerns about the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea a major backdrop to the conference, this is the biggest U.S.-sponsored gathering of world leaders in more than 60 years.

The New START treaty was signed on April 8, 2010 in Prague by U.S. President Obama and Russian President Medvedev and Iran will hold the Tehran International Conference on Disarmament and Non- Proliferation, 2010, announced on April 4, 2010 and to be held April 17–18, 2010.

The Summit is the largest gathering of heads of state called by a United States president since the 1945 United Nations Conference on International Organization. Delegations from forty-six governments plus the United States are attending, thirty-eight of which are represented by heads of state or government. Read More…

Eurozone growth lowered to zero

According to revised official figures, the economy of the eurozone, the sixteen European countries using the euro, did not grow at all in the final quarter of last year. Eurostat reports that the number was revised from an initial figure of +0.1%.

Eurozone 2010

Meanwhile, the eurozone’s lost more than 2.2% in a year-on year comparison, more than the initial estimate of 2.1%.

According to the numbers, Ireland saw an output drop of 2.3% in the last quarter of 2009, while Greece, the country in the eurozone with the most debt, had its economy contract by 0.8%. Italy was down by 0.3%, Germany saw no gain, but France posted a 0.6% quarterly growth.

The Associated Press reports the stagnation was unexpected by analysts, and will only reinforce expectations that the European Central Bank will keep the key interest rate at one percent for most of 2010.

On this day February 17, 1600

Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno, best-known as a proponent of heliocentrism and the infinity of the universe, was burned at the stake as a heretic by the Roman Inquisition.

giordano_brunoIn addition to his cosmological writings, he also wrote extensive works on the art of memory, a loosely-organized group of mnemonic techniques and principles.

He is often considered an early martyr for modern scientific ideas, in part because he was burned at the stake as a heretic by the Roman Inquisition.

Bruno was deeply influenced by magical views of the universe inherited from Arab astrological magic, Neoplatonism and Renaissance Hermeticism.

Other recent studies of Bruno have focused on his qualitative approach to mathematics and his application of the spatial paradigms of geometry to language. Read More…

On this day February 11, 1929

To help settle the “Roman Question”, Italy and the Holy See of the Roman Catholic Church agreed to establish the Vatican City as an independent sovereign enclave within Italy.

The Roman Question began when Rome was declared Capital of Italy on March 27, 1861, and ended with the Lateran Pacts between Mussolini’s government and Pope Pius XI. After the capture of Rome on 20 September 1870, the popes considered themselves (in the words of Pope Pius IX) “prisoners in the Vatican”. Read More…