We learn new words almost on a daily basis: as adults, a new element is introduced in our vocabulary every other day. With new words, we also learn about new objects and ideas - in most cases new words are not simply additional labels to be applied to familiar objects: they connote meanings that are unknown to the speaker of a language. However, when we experience, as adults, an unfamiliar word, typically its referent is not immediately available in the same context. How then can language, by itself, constitute such a reliable instrument for the acquisition of novel meanings? What do we exploit to induce new meanings on the basis of an unfamiliar sequence of sounds or graphical elements? BraveNewWord addresses these questions in an innovative multidisciplinary perspective, combining cutting-edge proposals from computational linguistics and empirical investigation techniques from experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience. BraveNewWord posits three main sources for lexically-driven meaning acquisition: linguistic context, word structure, form-meaning mapping. The project advances a computational framework that models these mechanisms through data-driven, psychologically plausible distributional systems trained on examples of natural language usage. The quantitative characterizations and algorithmic definitions offered by these models constitute, in turn, the basis for BraveNewWord large-scale empirical investigation, involving both behavioral (reaction times, mouse-tracking trajectories, diachronic language changes) and neuroscience data (event-related potentials, neuroimaging). With its innovative perspective and advanced computational and empirical approach, BraveNewWord will constitute a non-incremental contribution to understanding how human speakers use new lexical information as a mean for enriching their semantic system, and provide a ground-breaking perspective on the cognitive processes relating language and thought.
Our cosmological model predicts that most of the matter in the universe is distributed in a network of filaments - the Cosmic Web - in which galaxies form and evolve. Because most of this material is too diffuse to form stars, its direct imaging has remained elusive for several decades leaving fundamental questions still open, including: what are the morphological and kinematical properties of the Cosmic Web on both small (kpc) and large (Mpc) scales? How do galaxies get their gas from the Cosmic Web? In this programme, I will tackle these questions with an innovative method and technology that allows us to directly detect in emission the gaseous Cosmic Web before the peak of galaxy formation, when the universe is less than 3 billion years old: using bright quasars and galaxies as “cosmic flashlights” to make the gas “fluorescently” glow. Although challenging, detecting such emission is possible: I have recently demonstrated that some parts of the Cosmic Web illuminated by bright quasars can be detected in both hydrogen Lyman-alpha and H-alpha emission. These pilot studies and new instruments such as VLT/MUSE and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST; available from 2021) are the ideal stepping stones for a revolution in the field, the main goals of this programme: 1) direct imaging of the average Cosmic Web extending on cosmological scales (tens of Mpc) in the young universe, away from quasars; 2) revealing the small-scale distribution (below one kpc) of gas within Cosmic Web filaments. For this aim, I will use the deepest available observations to date, including a 160-hours deep integration that is being obtained through our MUSE Guaranteed Time of Observations, and future ground-based Adaptive-Optics and JWST infrared H-alpha observations. These datasets will be combined with new data analysis methods and numerical models that will be specifically developed in this programme opening up a completely new window to study cosmic structure and galaxy formation.
Massive black hole binaries (MBHBs) are the most extreme, fascinating yet elusive astrophysical objects in the Universe. Establishing observationally their existence will be a milestone for contemporary astronomy, providing a fundamental missing piece in the puzzle of galaxy formation, piercing through the (hydro)dynamical physical processes shaping dense galactic nuclei from parsec scales down to the event horizon, and probing gravity in extreme conditions. We can both see and listen to MBHBs. Remarkably, besides arguably being among the brightest variable objects shining in the Cosmos, MBHBs are also the loudest gravitational wave (GW) sources in the Universe. As such, we shall take advantage of both the type of messengers – photons and gravitons – they are sending to us, which can now be probed by all-sky time-domain surveys and radio pulsar timing arrays (PTAs) respectively. B MASSIVE leverages on a unique comprehensive approach combining theoretical astrophysics, radio and gravitational-wave astronomy and time-domain surveys, with state of the art data analysis techniques to: i) observationally prove the existence of MBHBs, ii) understand and constrain their astrophysics and dynamics, iii) enable and bring closer in time the direct detection of GWs with PTA. As European PTA (EPTA) executive committee member and former I International PTA (IPTA) chair, I am a driving force in the development of pulsar timing science world-wide, and the project will build on the profound knowledge, broad vision and wide collaboration network that established me as a world leader in the field of MBHB and GW astrophysics. B MASSIVE is extremely timely; a pulsar timing data set of unprecedented quality is being assembled by EPTA/IPTA, and Time-Domain astronomy surveys are at their dawn. In the long term, B MASSIVE will be a fundamental milestone establishing European leadership in the cutting-edge field of MBHB astrophysics in the era of LSST, SKA and LISA.
This project aims at the practical realization, the characterization, and the industrial/commercial evaluation of optimized hybrid thermoelectric-photovoltaic (HTEPV) devices. HTEPV devices can convert the solar energy more efficiently than normal solar cells, since the thermoelectric component recovers part of the unused heat generated within them. In this project the hybrid optimization will be obtained with an innovative approach recently proposed within a theoretical/computational study by the fellow, Dr. Bruno Lorenzi. The principal objective of this action will be the practical hybridization of two kinds of single junction solar cells in HTEPV devices achieving performances higher than the PV cell alone by at least 25%. The project will be organized in three main phases: outgoing phase (first HTEPV development), ingoing phase (second HTEPV development), and a secondment (encapsulation development at a non-academic institution). Dr. Lorenzi will acquire knowledge and know-how especially by training through research in achieving the objectives of the action. This will contribute to make Dr. Lorenzi an independent and expert researcher in the perspective of his future research carrier. The project will also surely contribute to the advance of field of the energy harvesting. Actually it is well known that for renewables, the higher the efficiency the lower is the total-cost/produced-power ratio. Thus the large expected increase of efficiency for the hybrid devices developed in this action will have a major impact on their price per watt. This will open new concrete possibilities for near-future commercialization of this novel generation of solar harvesters, stimulating industrial productions and new markets. This in turn will lead to a wider diffusion and a higher accessibility of a renewable source of energy for the EU citizens.