Ricerca scientifica e tecnologia L’incerta alleanza

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Il Mulino

Volume 22

Ricerca scientifica e tecnologia L’incerta alleanza

By Sergio Carrà Il Mulino - September 2013

Science and technology follow distinct paths and have different purposes. The former, in fact, is mostly intended to satisfy the curiosity and makes use of abstract models and paradoxes, while the latter is animated by the intent of freeing mankind from its needs, by modifying some behaviours imposed by nature itself. In the second half of the last century, however, a close connection matured between scientific research and technology: this   link has been widely applied in public and private research institutions due to the presence of outstanding characters, such as John Von Neumann, Enrico Fermi, Giulio Natta, John Bardeen, Charles Townes and other ones, able to operate on both fronts - on pure science as well as on technology. From this union derived some of the most significant achievements so far produced, such as computers, atomic energy, polymers,  transistors,  lasers and other.

At the beginning of this century emerged the problem, as discussed in the December 2010 issue of Science, if science still constitutes an endless frontier for taking note that there are still significant challenges, particularly regarding biology, in an outburst that also involves physics, chemistry, mathematics and engineering. This, not only in terms of health, but also to address the challenges that will affect the future of humanity as well as the depletion of resources, energy supply and economic development.

The mentioned aspects are considered by deepening the effectiveness of  the linear approach going from scientific research to its applications, by taking into account that technologies often anticipate the corresponding scientific discoveries.

Sergio Carrà is professor emeritus of physics and chemical engineering Thermodynamics Chemistry at the Politecnico di Milano. He is member of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, and the European Academy. With Il Mulino has published "The energy sources' (2008).