Gravitational waves were predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago as part of his theory of general relativity, but the first hard evidence of their existence came only in 2015, when two U.S. detectors found the first such signal. It was recently announced that a fourth gravitational wave has been detected – this time with help from Italy-based equipment – after two black holes collided, sending ripples through the fabric of space and time, researchers said. The latest space-time ripples were detected when two giant black holes merged about 1.8 billion light-years away. The gravitational wave was found by the Virgo detector, an underground L-shaped instrument that tracks gravitational waves using the physics of laser light and space. These high-tech underground stations do not rely on light in the sky like a telescope does, but instead sense vibrations in space and can pick up the “chirp” created by a gravitational wave. The Virgo collaboration includes more than 280 physicists and engineers belonging to 20 different European research groups.
Early Nude of Mona Lisa
A nude drawing that bears a striking resemblance to the Mona Lisa may have been done by Leonardo da Vinci. Experts at the Louvre in Paris, where his masterpiece is held, have been examining a charcoal drawing known as the “Monna Vanna” which had been attributed to the Florentine master’s studio. Curators from the museum believe that after a month of tests at the Louvre the “drawing is at least in part” by Leonardo. It is almost certainly a preparatory work for an oil painting. The hands and body are almost identical to Leonardo’s inscrutable masterpiece. The drawing is almost the same size as the Mona Lisa and small holes pierced around the figure point to the fact it may have been used to trace its form onto a canvas. One of the points of contention is that the hatching on the top of the drawing near the head was done by a right-handed person. Leonardo drew with his left hand. The museum hopes to pin down the identity of the artist within two years, in time for an exhibition to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death.
‘Baci’ Celebrates Italian Proverbs
Baci chocolates, literally translating as ‘kisses,’ are an Italian icon. Now the sweets are celebrating the dialects of Italy. Each chocolate comes wrapped in small messages of love, like a romantic fortune cookie. This tradition is based on the story of a chocolate-maker who supposedly sent romantic notes to a founder of the company the same way. In fact, that’s how the sweets got their name – previously, they had been called ‘cazzotti’ (punches), a somewhat less romantic moniker due to the round shape. The sayings already come translated into five languages but now, as part of a special edition of Baci, the notes will be written in some of Italy’s dialects to celebrate regional sayings. One hundred proverbs from nine dialects have been chosen for the initiative, inspired by a study carried out for Perugina, the company that makes Baci, which revealed a strong desire among young Italians to learn dialect. The phrases being celebrated in the project include the Neapolitan idiom, “Ògne scarrafne è bèll’a màmm” (every cockroach is beautiful in its mother’s eyes), the Milanese saying, “I inamoraa guarden minga a spend” (lovers don’t care how much they spend) and the phrase, “A son mach le muntagne ch’a s’ancontro nen” (only mountains never meet) from the dialect of Perugia, the home of Baci chocolates. In total, nine dialects will be featured, including those of Puglia, Genoa, Rome, Venice, Sicily and Piedmont.
Pantheon Ticket Booth to Open
Visitors will soon have to pay to enter the Pantheon, one of central Rome’s most spectacular monuments. The idea to introduce a fee to enter the building was met with controversy earlier this year, but the cultural minister insists that the entrance fee will be “just a few euros.” The fee will be in place by early 2018. “We just have to work out where to put the ticket office,” he said. Reports in the Italian press have indicated that the ticket price will be €3. Some seven million people visit the monument each year, built over 2,000 years ago under the orders of Emperor Hadrian. The Pantheon is one of the best preserved ancient Roman monuments, mainly because it was turned into a church in 609 AD. The dome was the largest in the world until the 15th century and is still the biggest unreinforced concrete dome ever constructed. The building contains the tombs of Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of united Italy, his successor, Umberto I and the Renaissance artist and architect, Raphael.
Not a Good Way to Go
An Italian woman has died from poisoning believed to have been caused by inhaling fumes from pigeon excrement. The 62-year-old died after she was hospitalized just over a week ago, along with her sister, who was in a less serious condition. She died of thallium poisoning, likely caused by inhaling fumes from pigeon excrement over a sustained period of time. A police investigation found no traces of thallium in the woman’s home, but noted that the barn of her country house, where she had recently been on vacation, was infested with pigeons. Traces of thallium were also found in the blood of the woman’s sister, 58 years old and the other family members who had joined them, though it was only present in dangerous levels in the blood of the two sisters. The women lived in Brianza in Lombardy.
Raphael Paintings Discovered
The wealth of treasuries in the Vatican is seemingly endless and now two additions by Raphael have been discovered. In the early 16th century, Pope Julius II commissioned the painter to design the Hall of Constantine, a reception room in the Vatican’s Pontifical Palace. Raphael sketched out plans for the hall, but died suddenly in 1520, before he was able to execute his vision. The work of painting the room was left to Raphael’s students, or so experts believed. Conservators working to restore the Hall of Constantine recently discovered two figures they believe have been painted by the Renaissance master. The frescoes are elaborate and the figures are easy to miss amid the action.