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ISSNAF Stories: Interview with Prof. Claudio Pellegrini


Prof. Claudio Pellegrini is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Los Angeles and an Adjunct Professor of at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a recipient of the Enrico Fermi Award from President Obama.


In this video interview, he tells us how he explained what a X-ray free-electron laser is to President Obama (spoiler alerts it’s the ultimate video camera for watching atoms, molecules and chemical reactions in real time).

Prof. Pellegrini is an expert on Galileo (see a presentation of his here). He says that Galileo’s writing and thinking were so modern that reading him is like talking with colleagues at the faculty club (Prof. Pellegrini must have some interesting colleagues!). As a top scientist of our era, he believes the humanistic culture has a role that is as essential: with science we understand how nature works but we need the humanistic culture to understand what is our role in this universe. Thus, he advocates a deeper connection between the humanistic and scientific cultures: we need science to understand climate change and to avoid the catastrophe, but science alone can’t help us decide what to do about it.

Of course, we talked about ISSNAF too; Prof. Pellegrini has an interesting view of the role ISSNAF can play in bridging that gap between the sciences and humanities.

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