Because Italy is more than a geographic expression..

Alessi S.P.A. US

Friday, July 23, 2010

Old Meet New World

Well the old world may be dead
Our parents can't understand
But I still love my parents
And I still love the old world
Oh, I had a New York girlfriend
And she couldn't understand how I could
Still love my parents and still love the old world

Old World, Jonathan Richman

As I roamed around Amenduni Nicola S.p.A., a company specializing in olive oil processing, I thought about the lyrics above. Yeah, I know. I'm weird.

Still, it's interesting to see an activity dating back centuries like the production of olive oil meet the new world like it does.

It's a little painful reading the English translation of Italian websites but I think we get the gist of what they do. At some point, I imagine, Italian companies and their webistes will have to invest in proper translations.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

FIAT Workers: Work Harder

Sergio Marchionne continues his Fiat revolution demanding a stronger work ethic from his employees.

K-Way Motus Drops Out Of X-Prize Competition

Sorry to hear this but once again, the Italians at least are in the discussion when it comes to green car technology.
The K-Way Motus (I keep thinking about my old windbreakers) is a three-wheeled electric car.

Hopefully they'll perservere.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Niccolo Fontana Tartaglia: Forgotten Mathematics Genius

I remember reading years ago about Niccolo Fontana Tartaglia and his work on the trajectory of cannonballs. As it turned out, he ended up being an important firgure in the development of mathematics and engineering.

Read more about this remarkable, albeit forgotten, person here.

Oh before I forget. He was born and died poor.

"In the Renaissance Italy of the early 16th Century, Bologna University in particular was famed for its intense public mathematics competitions. It was in just such a competition, in 1535, that the unlikely figure of the young Tartaglia first revealed a mathematical finding hitherto considered impossible, and which had stumped the best mathematicians of China, India and the Islamic world.

Niccolò Fontana Tartaglia was a poor, self-taught mathematician, often referred to as “The Stammerer” for a speech defect he suffered due to an injury he received in a battle against the invading French army. He was an engineer known for designing fortifications, a surveyor of topography (seeking the best means of defense or offense in battles), and a bookkeeper from the Republic of Venice.

But he was first and foremost a mathematician. He distinguised himself by producing, among other things, the first Italian translations of works by Archimedes and Euclid from uncorrupted Greek texts (for two centuries, Euclid's "Elements" had been taught from two Latin translations taken from an Arabic source, parts of which contained errors making them all but unusable), as well as an acclaimed compilation of mathematics of his own.

Tartaglia's greates legacy to mathematical history, though, occurred when he won the 1535 Bologna University mathematics competition by demonstrating a general algebraic formula for solving cubic equations (equations with terms including x3), something which had come to be seen by this time as an impossibility, requiring as it does an understanding of the square roots of negative numbers. In the competition, he beat Scipione del Ferro, whose had coincidentally produced his own solution to the cubic equation problem. Although del Ferro's solution perhaps predated Tartaglia’s, it was much more limited, and Tartaglia is usually credited with the first general solution."

Lodovico Ferrari, along with Geralamo Cardano, were also an important individual in the development of modern mathematics. Both, incidentally, were engaged in a feud with Tartaglia. From Story of Mathematics:

"Tartaglia’s definitive method was leaked to Gerolamo Cardano, a rather eccentric and confrontational elder mathematician. Cardano published it himself in his 1545 book "Ars Magna" (despite having promised Tartaglia that he would not), along with the work of his own brilliant student Lodovico Ferrari. Ferrari, on seeing Tartaglia's cubic solution, had realized that he could use a similar method to solve quartic equations (equations with terms including x4).

In this work, Tartaglia, Cardano and Ferrari between them demonstrated the first uses of what are now known as complex numbers, combinations of real and imaginary numbers of the type a + bi, where i is the imaginary unit √-1. It fell to another Bologna resident, Rafael Bombelli, to explain, at the end of the 1560's, exactly what imaginary numbers really were and how they could be used.

Although both of the younger men were acknowledged in the foreword of Cardano's book, as well as in several places within its body, Tartgalia engaged Cardano in a decade-long fight over the publication. Cardano argued that, when he happened to see (some years after the 1535 competition) Scipione del Ferro's unpublished independent cubic equation solution, which was dated before Tartaglia's, he decided that his promise to Tartaglia could legitimately be broken, and he included Tartaglia's solution in his next publication, along with Ferrari's quartic solution.

Medical Technology Leads To Robotic Hand

It's certainly a breakthrough for medicine. We're not quite at replacing an entire hand like how it happened for Luke Skywalker but important nonetheless!

Excerpt from Dallas News (link above):

"An Italian who lost his left forearm in a car crash was successfully linked to a robotic hand, allowing him to feel sensations and control the artificial limb with his thoughts, scientists said Wednesday.

During a one-month experiment last year, 26-year-old Pierpaolo Petruzziello said, it felt like his lost arm had grown back again, although the robotic hand was attached to his body only with electrodes.

"It's a matter of mind, of concentration," Petruzziello said. "When you think of it as your hand and forearm, it all becomes easier."

Though similar experiments have been successful before, the scientists who led the project say this was the first time a patient has been able to make such complex movements using his mind to control a biomechanic hand connected to his nervous system.

The Italy-based team said at a news conference Wednesday that it implanted electrodes into the nerves in what remained of Petruzziello's left arm, which was cut off in a crash some three years ago.

The prosthetic was not implanted on the patient, only connected through the electrodes. During the news conference, video was shown of Petruzziello as he concentrated to give orders to the hand placed next to him."

Robots Who Speak La Lingua

Gee, I hope these robots don't swear.

From Italtrade:

"With the development of new technologies, especially digital, it was inevitable that the Italian machine tool and production systems industry, which has been among the world leaders for decades, would begin to assume an increasingly important role on world markets in the robotics field as well.

And today, the Italian robotics sector ( is second in the world for value of production and number of devices produced. In some sectors, it is in first place, even ahead of Japan, the historic leader in this very special niche in the great world of instrumental goods. But there's more. Not only is Italy a great manufacturer of this type of machine, it is also a great market, to the extent that it occupies a relative second, and absolute fourth, place in the world ranking of countries that have invested in industrial automation equipment. If Japan currently has about 350,000 robots installed and Germany and the United States about 110,000, Italy has no less than 70,000. And if you calculate the number of robots for every 10,000 workers employed in manufacturing, Italy jumps to second place, with 100 machines for every 10,000 workers, after Germany, which has 130."

Lamborghini Goes Carbon Fiber

Lamborghini is opening a carbon fiber research center.:

"The Gallardo 570-4 Superleggera dropped more than 150 pounds with the use of Resin Transfer Molding (RTM), which is the process Lambo uses to shape the fiber. It sits at just under the magical 3,000-pound mark.

Carbon fiber can be used for more than just the shell of a car, and the Gallardo Spyder's engine cover is the largest carbon-fiber component ever produced by the auto industry."

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Couple Of Kitchen Products Companies From The Motherland

Here in Canada, we have Bertazzoni distributors of Italian engineered kitchen products. Perusing around the site, it's hard not to want a Bertazzoni oven. Is it me or does the Detroit Red Wings logo look like Bertazzoni's? Bertazzoni was founded in 1882. The Red Wings, who have one of the coolest logos in pro sports along with the Chicago Blackhawks, were founded in 1926.
Just saying and digressing.

Fratelli Onofri is another company, albeit a much younger one having been established in the 1950s, reknownd for its products. Although, I don't believe they operate here.

Both specialize in free standing and built-in concepts.

As you can tell and in usual tradition, the websites are sharp looking.

A couple of notes on the images. First, the Amazon ad for Simple Italian Cookery. Apparently, it was the first Italian cookbook published in America and was not written in 1912 by one Antonia Isola but an American living in Rome named Mable Earl McGinnis. It's in the same tradition of Ada Boni's The Talisman Italian Cookbook and serves as the earliest sources of 20th century Italian cook books for a North American audience.

The actual recipes themselves while rustic can be cumbersome in their inexactitudes. If you have the beenfit of a mother who can read and interpret this "a l'occhio' (by eye), then you'll eventually get the hang of it. I don't know why publishers, for later editions, invite reputable chefs to modernize the recipes in terms of their explanations and directions without necessarily compromising the original recipes. Sorta like how modern scholars interpret and translate a great piece of historical book.

If you're a hardcore cook or chef, then you won't care and will want to have it in your library.

The oven pictured above right is a Fratelli Onofri.