Friday, January 29, 2010


The first complete Italian dinosaur is a new-born one of a new species and genus – and perfectly conserved. Up until now no scientist had ever even seen the liver and intestines of a reptile that lived more than 110 million years ago.
The Neapolitans have already named it Ciro, but its scientific name is Scipionyx samniticus, a dwarf species only 50 centimetres in length that weighed no more than 500 grammes; perhaps a distant relative of the Velociraptor, it fed on small lizards and insects. In addition to the intestine and muscles in the chest and base of the tail, also conserved are the nails covering the bony claws. (...)
The dinosaur’s amazing conservation is due to rapid burial in marine sediments at the famous Pietraroja fossil deposit in Benevento Province, which sediments normally contain plentiful fish and marine invertebrates. And herein lies an important reason for interest in the tiny dinosaur, which changes the picture of the Mesozoic as relates to the central Mediterranean. Italy in the Cretaceous must no longer be thought of as just a vast expanse of ocean dotted by some rare coral atolls, but rather in terms of a more complex reality where emerged land must have been more extensive than previously believed. As just observed, where now the peninsula is found was once an ocean called Tetide where, as Leonardo wrote, “great schools of fish used to dart about”, marine molluscs such as ammonites roamed about, and corals and Rudistae built their islands just below the sea surface.
[...] Up to now, in Italy only few traces of dinosaurs have been found and the one discovered in Pietaroja is the first dinosaur with unique characteristics in the world. But the real exceptional aspect of this discovery of the century in vertebrate paleontology is that this is actually a young carnivorous “teropode”, belonging to a group of small-sized dinosaurs (such as the “velociraptor”) and it is the only dinosaur in the world with internal organs still in place. Indeed, the skeleton has been found fully intact except for part of the tail and the rear legs. The most interesting part of the animal is the ventral part where it is possible to observe the whole intestine passing behind the pelvic canal. This could be real useful in the field of dinosaur paleobiology because offers a lot more informations about “parenteral” studies. Since this was a young animal (two or three weeks old), with a rather short snout and a rather big eye-socket, we can suppose that the carnivorous dinosaur’s cubs were already able to hunt few days after birth. All this will enable us to get also many more informations on “parental care” (the attentions paid by parents to their children). This little dinosaur will also give us informations on other dinosaurs and will enable us to revisit italian mesozoic paleobiogeography suggesting that, 130 million years ago, Italy was covered by the ocean. The presence of land animals, like dinosaurs, would prove that dry lands were present much earlier.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Telescopic study come of age in 1837, when Wilhelm Beer and J.H. Madler published their extremely accurate map. At the same time, there was a revival in fantastic literature and the description of trips to the Moon began to acquire modern characteristics. In 1835 Edgar Allan Poe published 'The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall'; in 1857 Ernesto Capocci, the director of Naples Observatory, published his novel 'On the First Voyage to the Moon Made by a Woman in the Year 2057'; in 1865 Jules Verne published 'From the Earth to the Moon', followed five years later by its sequel 'Around the Moon', describing the trip to the Moon by three men on board a shell launched by a 274-metre-long cannon; and in 1901, H.G. Wells published 'The First Men in the Moon'.
[...] Ernesto Capocci (1798-1864) at the Naples Observatory, wrote a letter to the Royal Academy of Sciences in Brussels, Belgium, read at a meeting 02 November 1850, that contained the first published description of a mercury mirror telescope, but Capocci did not pursue the idea.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


The Alfa Romeo story began when the "Società Italiana Automobili Darracq" was founded in 1906 to produce low cost cars. That company quickly ran into difficulties as the car market that had boomed since its creation at the start of the century now faltered so that car sales flagged. The factory that had been built in the Portello district of Milan was initially sold to a group of Italian car enthusiasts who called themselves "Alfa Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili" which then went into liquidation before being taken over in 1915 first by the engineer Nicola Romeo and then by his company "Accomandita Ing. Nicola Romeo e Co.".
Nicola Romeo was born in S. Antimo near Naples in 1876. He graduated in engineering in 1900 and spent some years gaining work experience abroad. He then returned to Italy where in 1911 he founded the company "Ing. Nicola Romeo e Co." to manufacture mining machinery and equipment.
In 1915 that company purchased the Portello factory and began manufacturing military equipment; World War I had started and the Italian government had increasingly urgent need of trucks and engines.
When the War ended in 1918 the company changed its name to "Società Anonima Ing. Nicola Romeo & Co." having taken over a number of smaller firms.

Monday, January 4, 2010


One of the most interesting of the reports on the august 18th fireball is that Tiberius Cavallo (1749-1809), another Fellow of the Royal Society.
Cavallo [born in Calvizzano, a village in the neighbourhood of Naples], a natural philosopher and physician who was involved with electrical studies and experiments, relates that he watched the fireball from the Windsor Castle north terrace (...)
Cavallo remarks that they had a perfect view of the fireball (meteor of the august 1783) and that everyone of the company contribuited something to his account: Some flashes of lambent light, much like the aurora borealis, were first observed on the northern part of the heavens, which were soon perceived to proceed from a roundish luminous body, nearly as big as the semidiameter of the moon, and almost stationery in the abovementioned point of the heavens (...)
This ball, at the beginning, appeared of a faint bluish light, and soon began to move, at first ascending above the horizon in an oblique direction towards the east... and movin in a direction nearly parallel to the horizon, reached as far as the S.E. by S. where it finally disappeared... A short time after the beginning of its motion, the luminous body passed behind the above mentioned small cloud, so that during this passage we observed only the light that was cast in the heavens from behind the cloud... but as soon as the meteor emerged from behind the cloud, its light was prodigious.