Sicily and science. Since the dawn of time, this binomial has characterized our island. The desire to discover and go beyond, in this way knowledge becomes real. I interviewed Pietro Calandra for Sicilian Secrets, he’s a chemist and physicist from Palermo. An astonishing career, an endless passion for research and scientific divulgation.
Who said that talking about science is boring or complicated? I met Pietro Calandra at CNR in Rome and, quoting one of his books, we started a conversation that sounds half-serious and philosophic.
Chemist and physicist. But even writer and expert in scientific divulgation. The first question is about his passion: how was it born? And how did it become his job?
«My passion was born when I was at the high school, thanks to a special professor», he said. «She made me love biology at the third year. And then everything was clear: I chose to study chemistry and never had a doubt. It happened the same for the Ph.D. and the second degree in physics. I am lucky because my job is the one that I always wished».
Try googling Pietro Calandra and when you read his resume, don’t spend too much time on technical words but on his job as an expert in scientific divulgation. Science means sharing, what’s the secret to make it in the proper way and allow even the amateurs to get closer to these topics?
«What a good question! It’s not important to give many elements: each of us, just with a smartphone, can download tons of information in a second. Stop to boring and long books that only professionals can fully understand. Nowadays, scientific divulgation should be able to instill curiosity. It’s crucial to stimulate people’s mind. There’s nothing better than humor and irony. Media continuously bombard us, so only in this way it’s possible to catch the attention of young people (and not only) and impart interest for any scientific phenomenon».
Pietro Calandra and Sicily. Your life is now in Rome, but how does being Sicilian affect your job?
«Not a lot, above all because I deal with people coming from all over the world. Origin doesn’t matter: that’s the best about scientific community. We communicate and work to discover and don’t care about gender, race, education. Everything changes in my extra-work environment: I like saying that I’m Sicilian and seeing people that say something like “Oh, I love Sicily! What a beautiful sea…food is delicious…nice people”. Well, being Sicilian doesn’t affect a lot my job, but gives me the opportunity to have great conversations! ».
What’s your relationship with Sicily? What do you bring inside from your land?
«My relationship with Sicily is controversial. At the beginning of my career I taught chemistry-physics at the university of Caltanissetta. I created a great bond with the students and I hope to have left them a seed of love for science. Then, both to follow my heart and for bureaucratic reasons, I have been almost forced to move to Lazio. Our land is fantastic and rich. We have economic, cultural, intellectual, environmental resources…so, when I have a few days of vacation, I go there».
Before saying goodbye, we talked about his future. Several dreams for Pietro Calandra: to write many books and make young people interested in science. It’s fundamental to create a better society. But above all, a baby, for sure this is the most important and ambitious project!
And after I congratulated, I asked him to conclude our interview for Sicilian Secrets with a quote. He thought two seconds and then mentioned Hippocrates and some words that sound very modern:
«There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance».