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A new experiment looks at the shapes of healthy and cancerous cells taken from the human cervix and has attempted to quantify the geometrical differences between them. The research, carried out at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y. finds that the cancerous cells show more fractal behavior than healthy cells.


Fractal is the name used for heavily indented curves or shapes that look very similar over a variety of size scales. For example, the edge of a snowflake, when observed with a microscope, has a lacelike structure that looks the same whether at the level of a millimeter, or a tenth of a millimeter, or even a thousandth of a millimeter. The position of galaxy clusters in the sky seems to be fractal. So does the snaking geometry of streams in a river valley, or the foliage of leaves on a tree. The shape of coastlines and clouds reveals a fractal, "self-similar" geometry. Even the "drip" paintings of Jackson Pollack are fractal.

Fractal geometry apparently also appears in the human body. The pattern of heartbeats over long intervals looks fractal. How about the geometry of cells? And could the observation of fractal geometry be used to identify cancer cells?

Igor Sokolov and his Clarkson colleagues used an atomic force microscope to view cells down to the level of one nanometer, or a billionth of a meter (one-millionth of a millimeter). Just as the needle on a record player rides over the groove of a rotating vinyl record to read out the music stored on the record's surface, so the sharp needle forming the heart of an atomic force microscope rides above a sample reading out the contours of matter just below at nearly atomic resolution. 

Previous studies of cells at the microscopic level produced two-dimensional maps of the cells' surface. The new study produces not only three-dimensional surface maps of geometry. But with their atomic force microscope device the Clarkson scientists can also map properties such as the rigidity of the cells at various points on its surface or a cell's adhesion, its ability to cling to a nearby object, such as the needle probe of the atomic force microscope itself.  

The Clarkson measurements show that cancerous cells feature a consistent fractal geometry, while healthy cells show some fractal properties but in an ambiguous way. The fact that the adhesive map is fractal for cancerous cells but not for healthy cells was not known before.

Being able to differentiate clearly between healthy and cancerous cells would be important step toward a definitive diagnosis of cancer. Can a fractal measurement of cells serve as such a test for malignancy?

Sokolov believes it can. 

"The existing cytological screening tests for cervical cancer, like Pap smear, and liquid-based cytology, are effective and non-invasive, but are insufficiently accurate," said Sokolov. 

Searching for fractals may help cancer cell testing

These tests determine the presence of suspicious abnormal cells with sensitivity levels ranging from 80 percent all the way down to 30 percent, for an average of 47 percent. 

The fractal criterion used in the Clarkson work was 100 percent accurate in identifying the cancerous nature of 300 cells derived from 12 human subjects, Sokolov said. He intends now to undertake a much wider test. 

"We expect that the methodology based on our finding will substantially increase the accuracy of early non-invasive detection of cervical cancer using cytological tests," Sokolov said. 

Sokolov asserts that physics-based methods, such as his atomic force microscope maps of cells, will complement or even exceed in detection ability the more traditional biochemical analysis carried out at the single cell level.

"We also plan to study how fractal behavior changes during cancerous transformation, when a normal cell turns into a fully developed malignant cell, one with a high degree of invasiveness and the ability to reproduce itself uncontrollably," Sokolov added.

Robert Austin, an expert on biological physics at Princeton University in N.J., believes it is important to learn more about the properties that make cancer cells lethal, such as their ability to metastasize, to invade new parts of the body. About the Clarkson paper, which is appearing in the journal Physical Review Letters, Austin said "Perhaps this is a step in the direction of connecting physical aspects of cancer cells with the biological reality that their proliferation and invasiveness is what makes them deadly."

Source: Inside Science News Service

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But to sustain that high growth rate into the next decade, the industry will have to start tapping offshore wind resources, creating a need for wind turbines that are larger, lower-maintenance, and deliver more power with less weight.


To support research in this area, the U.S. Department of Energy has awarded $7.5 million to six projects, each aiming to develop advanced drivetrains for wind turbines up to 10 megawatts in size. Five of the projects use direct-drive, or gearless, drivetrain technology to increase reliability, and at least two use superconductivity technologies for increased efficiencies and lower weight.

Current designs can't be scaled up economically. Most of the more than 25,000 wind turbines deployed across the United States have a power rating of three megawatts or less and contain complex gearbox systems. The gearboxes match the slow speed of the turbine rotor (between 15 to 20 rotations per minute) to the 2,000 rotations per minute required by their generators. Higher speeds allow for more compact and less expensive generators, but conventional gearboxes—a complex interaction of wheels and bearings—need regular maintenance and are prone to failure, especially at higher speeds.

On land, where turbines are more accessible, gearbox maintenance issues can be tolerated. In rugged offshore environments, the cost of renting a barge and sending crews out to fix or maintain a wind-ravaged machine can be prohibitive. "A gearbox that isn't there is the most reliable gearbox," says Fort Felker, direct of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's wind technology center.

To increase reliability and reduce maintenance costs, a number of companies—among them Enercon and Siemens of Germany, France's Alstom and China's Goldwind Global—have developed direct-drive or "gearless" drivetrains. In such a setup, the rotor shaft is attached directly to the generator, and they both turn at the same speed. But this introduces a new challenge: increased weight.

To achieve the power output of a comparable gearbox-based system, a direct-drive system must have a larger internal diameter that increases the radius—and therefore the speed—at which its magnets rotate around coils to generate current. This also means greater reliance on increasingly costly rare-earth metals used to make permanent magnets.

Kiruba Haran, manager of the electric machines lab at GE Global Research, one recipient of the DOE funding, says direct-drive systems get disproportionately heavier as their power rating increases. A four-megawatt generator might weight 85 tons, but at eight megawatts, it would approach 200 tons.

GE believes it can develop an eight-megawatt generator that weights only 50 tons by adapting the superconducting electromagnets used in magnetic resonance imaging. Unlike a permanent magnet, an electromagnet creates a magnetic field when an electric current is applied to it. When made from coils of superconducting wire, it has no electrical resistance, making it more efficient, with the caveat that it must be cooled to minus 250 °C. The approach would eliminate the need for rare-earth materials, assuming GE can lower the cost enough to make it commercially viable.

Florida-based Advanced Magnet Lab, which also received DOE funding, believes it can build a 10-megawatt generator that weighs just 70 tons. As with GE's technology, the core of the company's innovation is a superconducting direct-drive generator. The company has developed a compact coil design based on double-helix windings that can carry high currents and handle the immense magnetic forces produced in the system.

Advanced Magnet Lab president Mark Senti says the high cost of superconducting materials and of cryogenically cooling makes no sense for today's three-megawatt wind turbines. But beyond six megawatts, he argues, the systems become competitive with conventional generator designs. At 10 megawatts, "it gives you the highest power-per-weight ratio."

There's also significant room for advancement. Senti says most superconducting wiring costs $400 per meter today, but new materials made out of inexpensive magnesium and boron powders promise to lower costs substantially. With improvements in manufacturing and less expensive cooling techniques, Senti figures superconducting technology could eventually become economical for wind turbines as small as two megawatts, making it ideal for both onshore and offshore markets.

Superconductivity isn't in everyone's plans. One of the other funding recipients, Boulder Wind Power, is focused on designing a better stator—stationary coil—for direct drive systems. Instead of copper wiring wound around a heavy iron core, the company's stator is made of printed circuit boards. These lightweight components can be manufactured in high volume and assembled in modules, making them easier to repair in remote offshore locations. "With this design, you just send a couple of guys out there to remove a stator segment and literally plug in a new one," says Derek Pletch, vice president of turbine development at Boulder Wind.

NREL, meanwhile, is taking a hybrid approach by designing a medium-speed drivetrain that uses a simpler single-stage gearbox and a medium-sized generator. Felker says the approach can be easily adapted to existing designs and be picked up in the marketplace faster. Clipper Windpower and Dehlsen Associates also received funding. After six months, the DOE is expected to shortlist the designs and contribute an additional $2 million to each project for performance testing.

Source: Technology Review

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By Admin (from 25/10/2011 @ 11:00:57, in ro - Observator Global, read 1787 times)

Inginerii de la Universitatea din Southampton, Marea Britanie, au creat un o aeronavă fără pilot (UAV) a cărei structură a fost în întregime printată cu ajutorul imprimantei EOS EOSINT P730.

Acest model de imprimantă functionează pe baza unui laser care topeste particule de material, determinând fuzionarea lor si construind astfel obiecte din plastic sau metal, strat cu strat.

Prima aeronav㠓printat㔠din lume s-a înălțat în aer

După ce toate componentele au fost printate, asamblarea lui SULSA (Southampton University Laser Sintered Aircraft) a durat mai putin de o oră.

Aeronava este electrică, are o anvergură de doi metri, iar viteza maximă la care poate ajunge este de 150 de kilometri pe oră.

Spre deosebire de modurile traditionale de fabricatie, întregul proces de construire a SULSA a durat doar câteva săptămâni si a costat mult mai putin. În plus, datorită faptului că nu sunt folosite unelte pentru fabricare, eventualele schimbări ale formei si dimensiunii aeronavei se pot face fără costuri suplimentare.

"Această modalitatea de construire este foarte rapidă si usoară, dar si deosebit de complexă. Dacă avionul ar fi fost fabricat conventional, ar fi fost nevoie de un număr mare de piese, a căror fixare ar fi necesitat timp si multi bani," a declarat Jim Scanlan, unul dintre autorii proiectului.

Sursa: ZDNet -

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By Admin (from 25/10/2011 @ 14:00:31, in it - Video Alerta, read 1622 times)

Curiosity il rover da 2,5 miliardi di dollari che verrà lanciato entro quest’anno dalla Nasa su Marte per capire se il Pianeta Rosso presentasse in passato le condizioni per ospitare la vita, ha già la sua destinazione: il Cratere Gale (vedi Galileo, "Dove osano i rover marziani" e "Ecco Eberswalde, il lago perduto su Marte"). Ma questo non è l’unico luogo che potrebbe conservare tracce di organismi, e ora la lista si allunga di due nuovi promettenti candidati, dalle caratteristiche uniche.

Si tratta di due depressioni all’interno della Valles Marineris (nel video), un sistema di canyon che si innalza fino a 7 km di altezza e si estende per circa 4mila km (posizionato in una zona più ampia, nota come Noctis Labyrinthus); entrambi i siti appaiono ricchi di ferro/magnesio-smectiti, minerali argillosi che si formano solo in presenza di acqua non acida, e che potrebbero conservare tracce di molecole organiche al loro interno. Le smectiti, infatti, si espandono quando assorbono l’acqua per poi tornare a contrarsi.

Le due depressioni individuate, descritte ora su Geology, non sono gli unici luoghi in cui questo minerale è presente, ma sono i più giovani: per ora le stime indicano un’età compresa tra i 3 e i 2 miliardi di anni fa (gli altri siti normalmente sono più antichi di 3,6 miliardi di anni). Significa che qui le condizioni avrebbero permesso la vita in un periodo in cui tutto il pianeta era sottoposto a una forte evaporazione. Non solo: qui la deposizione geologica sembra invertita rispetto alle altre zone studiate finora e indica un lungo periodo a pH neutro e basico. “Questi luoghi potrebbero essere stati i più ospitali di Marte in quel periodo”, ha detto a Mars Daily una delle autrici della scoperta, Janice Bishop dell’Ames Research Center della Nasa e del Seti Istitute (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence).

Janice Bishop e Catherine Weitz del Planetary Science Institute hanno passato al setaccio le immagini inviate dal Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (Mro), con a bordo il radar ShaRad dell’Agenzia spaziale italiana, grazie anche alla collaborazione dell’High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) e ai dati del Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) e hanno combinato il tutto con modelli digitali del terreno per determinare l’elevazione e la struttura geologica. Dalla loro analisi è emersa una mappa (che copre circa 300 metri) dei minerali idrati, da cui è possibile dedurre la variazione del chimismo delle acque nel tempo e da zona a zona. “Sarebbero due posti fantastici in cui inviare un rover ma, sfortunatamente, le caratteristiche del terreno li rendono poco sicuri sia per l’atterraggio sia per la guida”, ha commentato Weit.

Riferimento: Geology doi: 10.1130/G32045.1 - Credit per l'immagine: Planetary Science Institute - Via

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A University of Georgia researcher has invented a new technology that can inexpensively render medical linens and clothing, face masks, paper towels -- and yes, even diapers, intimate apparel and athletic wear, including smelly socks -- permanently germ-free.

The simple and inexpensive anti-microbial technology works on natural and synthetic materials. The technology can be applied during the manufacturing process or at home, and it doesn't come out in the wash. Unlike other anti-microbial technologies, repeated applications are unnecessary to maintain effectiveness.

"The spread of pathogens on textiles and plastics is a growing concern, especially in healthcare facilities and hotels, which are ideal environments for the proliferation and spread of very harmful microorganisms, but also in the home," said Jason Locklin, the inventor, who is an assistant professor of chemistry in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and on the Faculty of Engineering.

The anti-microbial treatment invented by Locklin, which is available for licensing from the University of Georgia Research Foundation, Inc., effectively kills a wide spectrum of bacteria, yeasts and molds that can cause disease, break down fabrics, create stains and produce odors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one of every 20 hospitalized patients will contract a healthcare-associated infection. Lab coats, scrub suits, uniforms, gowns, gloves and linens are known to harbor the microbes that cause patient infections.

Consumers' concern about harmful microbes has spurred the market for clothing, undergarments, footwear and home textiles with antimicrobial products. But to be practical, both commercial and consumer anti-microbial products must be inexpensive and lasting.

"Similar technologies are limited by cost of materials, use of noxious chemicals in the application or loss of effectiveness after a few washings," said Gennaro Gama, UGARF senior technology manager. "Locklin's technology uses ingeniously simple, inexpensive and scalable chemistry."

Gama said the technology is simple to apply in the manufacturing of fibers, fabrics, filters and plastics. It also can bestow antimicrobial properties on finished products, such as athletic wear and shoes, and textiles for the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen.

"The advantage of UGARF's technology over competing methods," said Gama, "is that the permanent antimicrobial can be applied to a product at any point of the manufacture-sale-use continuum. In contrast, competing technologies require blending of the antimicrobial in the manufacturing process."

"In addition," said Gama, "If for some reason the antimicrobial layer is removed from an article—through abrasion, for example—it can be reapplied by simple spraying."

Other markets for the anti-microbial technology include military apparel and gear, food packaging, plastic furniture, pool toys, medical and dental instrumentation, bandages and plastic items.

Locklin said the antimicrobial was tested against many of the pathogens common in healthcare settings, including staph, strep, E. coli, pseudomonas and acetinobacter. After just a single application, no bacterial growth was observed on the textile samples added to the culture—even after 24 hours at 37 degrees Celsius.

Moreover, in testing, the treatment remained fully active after multiple hot water laundry cycles, demonstrating the antibacterial does not leach out from the textiles even under harsh conditions. "Leaching could hinder the applicability of this technology in certain industrial segments, such as food packaging, toys, IV bags and tubing, for example," said Gama.

Thin films of the new technology also can be used to change other surface properties of both cellulose- and polymer-based materials. "It can change a material's optical properties—color, reflectance, absorbance and iridescence—and make it repel liquids, all without changing other properties of the material," said Gama.

Source: University of Georgia

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By Admin (from 26/10/2011 @ 11:00:16, in ro - Observator Global, read 1689 times)

Sedintele de terapie prin muzică ameliorează simptomele depresiei la adulti, au constatat cercetătorii finlandezi.

Cei care cântă la un instrument muzical depășesc mai ușor depresia

Întâlnirile terapeutice în cadrul cărora pacientii suferind de depresie cântă ei însisi la instrumente muzicale, precum tobele sau xilofonul, sunt de un real ajutor: cei care au beneficiat de astfel de terapii au prezentat mai putine simptome de anxietate si depresie, în comparatie cu pacientii care au beneficiat doar de sedinte de consiliere obisnuite.

Cercetătorii de la Universitatea Jyvaskyla, din Finlanda, autorii studiului, cred că a cânta la un instrument - pe lângă faptul că e o activitate plăcută în sine - îi ajută pe pacienti să-si exprime emotiile, să-si exteriorizeze trăirile în modul cel mai simplu si direct, fără a avea nevoie de cuvinte.

Adăugată la tratamentele standard - medicamente, psihoterapie si consiliere - terapia prin muzică ar putea deveni, asfel, o "armă" terapeutică de mare importantă, care să sprijine procesul de vindecare emotională si să ajute la depăsirea depresiei.

Sursa: Top News - via

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Delle circa 12mila specie di diplopodi conosciute, solo le otto appartenenti a questo gruppo hanno l’enzima necessario a produrre una fioca luce verde. E nessuna di loro è in grado di vedere. A che scopo, quindi, emettere un segnale che nel buio della foresta non può far altro che attrarre i predatori? Come dimostrano Paul Marek e colleghi dell'Università dell’Arizona di Tucson (Stati Uniti) in uno studio pubblicato su Current Biology, questi invertebrati usano la fluorescenza proprio per evitarli, i guai: a se stessi e ai possibili predatori. La bioluminescenza, in questo caso, ha lo stesso ruolo delle vistose colorazioni utilizzate da molti altri animali.


In natura, alcuni pesci e numerosi invertebrati marini e terrestri emettono luce per segnalare la loro presenza ai potenziali partner, oppure per incuriosire e attrarre le prede. Ma non poteva essere il caso di questi millepiedi, che sono tutti ciechi e detritivori. Per questo, e dal momento che si tratta di specie tossiche (si difendono producendo cianuro), gli entomologi hanno pensato a un messaggio di avvertimento: un segnale aposematico per indicare la loro pericolosità.

Per verificare direttamente in natura se gli individui luminosi subissero meno attacchi degli altri, i ricercatori hanno condotto un singolare esperimento notturno nel Parco Nazionale delle Sequoie Giganti, in California. Hanno disposto lungo un transetto ben 300 finti millepiedi d’argilla (a 5 metri di distanza l’uno dall’altro), copie perfette di Motyxia sequoiae ottenute da un calco in bronzo; metà di queste sono state dipinte con una vernice fluorescente. Lungo un transetto poco distante, invece, hanno liberato oltre 150 individui vivi, metà dei quali dipinti per nascondere la luminescenza.

Tornando sul sito la mattina seguente, Marek ha trovato i resti di una vera carneficina, risultata poi opera di un roditore (Onychomys turridus): “Eravamo molto sorpresi dal tasso di predazione subìto dai millepiedi. Almeno un terzo degli individui – sia quelli veri sia le copie – erano stati attaccati”, racconta lo scienziato. In entrambi i gruppi, inoltre, gli esemplari non luminescenti erano stati addentati quattro volte più degli altri, il che indica che l’emissione di luce non attira i predatori, come invece si potrebbe pensare. “I risultati dell’esperimento dimostrano che, in questo caso, la bioluminescenza è un deterrente e che i segnali chimici contribuiscono all’aposematismo di Mytoxia”, ha concluso Marek. I predatori, in pratica, hanno imparato ad associare il segnale luminoso al sapore sgradevole di questi animali, ed evitano di mangiarli.

Riferimento: Current Biology doi:10.1016/j.cub.2011.08.012
Credit: Paul Marek

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On Dec. 5, 2010, Cassini first detected the storm that has been raging ever since. It appears approximately 35 degrees north latitude of Saturn. Pictures from Cassini's imaging cameras show the storm wrapping around the entire planet covering approximately 2 billion square miles (4 billion square kilometers).

The storm is about 500 times larger than the biggest storm previously seen by Cassini during several months from 2009 to 2010. Scientists studied the sounds of the new storm's lightning strikes and analyzed images taken between December 2010 and February 2011. Data from Cassini's radio and plasma wave science instrument showed the lightning flash rate as much as 10 times more frequent than during other storms monitored since Cassini's arrival to Saturn in 2004. The data appear in a paper published this week in the journal Nature.

"Cassini shows us that Saturn is bipolar," said Andrew Ingersoll, an author of the study and a Cassini imaging team member at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. "Saturn is not like Earth and Jupiter, where storms are fairly frequent. Weather on Saturn appears to hum along placidly for years and then erupt violently. I'm excited we saw weather so spectacular on our watch."

At its most intense, the storm generated more than 10 lightning flashes per second. Even with millisecond resolution, the spacecraft's radio and plasma wave instrument had difficulty separating individual signals during the most intense period. Scientists created a sound file from data obtained on March 15 at a slightly lower intensity period.

Cassini has detected 10 lightning storms on Saturn since the spacecraft entered the planet's orbit and its southern hemisphere was experiencing summer, with full solar illumination not shadowed by the rings. Those storms rolled through an area in the southern hemisphere dubbed "Storm Alley." But the sun's illumination on the hemispheres flipped around August 2009, when the northern hemisphere began experiencing spring.

"This storm is thrilling because it shows how shifting seasons and solar illumination can dramatically stir up the weather on Saturn," said Georg Fischer, the paper's lead author and a radio and plasma wave science team member at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Graz. "We have been observing storms on Saturn for almost seven years, so tracking a storm so different from the others has put us at the edge of our seats."

The storm's results are the first activities of a new "Saturn Storm Watch" campaign. During this effort, Cassini looks at likely storm locations on Saturn in between its scheduled observations. On the same day that the radio and plasma wave instrument detected the first lightning, Cassini's cameras happened to be pointed at the right location as part of the campaign and captured an image of a small, bright cloud. Because analysis on that image was not completed immediately, Fischer sent out a notice to the worldwide amateur astronomy community to collect more images. A flood of amateur images helped scientists track the storm as it grew rapidly, wrapping around the planet by late January 2011.

The new details about this storm complement atmospheric disturbances described recently by scientists using Cassini's composite infrared spectrometer and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope. The storm is the biggest observed by spacecraft orbiting or flying by Saturn. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured images in 1990 of an equally large storm.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena manages the mission for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The radio and plasma wave science team is based at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, where the instrument was built. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

Source: PhysOrg

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By Admin (from 27/10/2011 @ 11:00:00, in ro - Stiinta si Societate, read 1597 times)

Consumul de vin sau struguri ar putea să ne protejeze de efectele negative ale razelor solare, sustine un nou studiu, care a descoperit în fructe o substantă ce poate limita deteriorarea celulelor.

Strugurii și vinul ne salvează pielea – la propriu

Razele ultraviolete emise de Soare sunt principala cauză externă care duce la afectiuni ale pielii, îmbătrânire prematură, arsuri solare sau chiar cancer cutanat.

Oamenii de stiintă spanioli de la Universitatea din Barcelona si Consiliul National Spaniol de Cercetare au descoperit în struguri anumite substante care protejează celulele pielii. Deja companiile cosmetice si-au arătat interesul fată de aceste substante, în ideea de a dezvolta noi creme si pastile care să imite procesul creat de ele.

Cercetători au analizat reactia chimică ce se produce la nivelul pielii atunci când aceasta intră în contact cu razele UV provenite de la Soare. Ei au descoperit că flavonoizii din struguri pot bloca reactia chimică ce cauzează distrugerea celulelor si provoacă, ulterior, afectiuni ale pielii.

Studiul a fost efectuat în conditii de laborator, iar rezultatele au fost publicate în Jurnalul de Agricultură si Chimie Alimentară.

Sursa: The Telegraph

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By Admin (from 27/10/2011 @ 14:00:52, in it - Osservatorio Globale, read 3720 times)

Appena videro affiorare i resti dell’imponente edificio romano a pianta rettangolare, rinvenuti tra Ostia e Fiumicino, pensarono si trattasse di un magazzino per lo stoccaggio delle merci, dall’architettura molto simile a quella dei Mercati Traianei. Procedendo negli scavi, però, gli archeologi dell’Università di Southampton dovettero ricredersi: quei pilastri larghi tre metri piantati nel II secolo d.C a metà strada tra i porti di Traiano e di Claudio, sul litorale romano, erano probabilmente la struttura portante di un gigantesco cantiere navale. Forse il più grande di tutta la Roma Imperiale, niente a che vedere con gli altri due finora noti, quello fluviale di Testaccio e l’altro marittimo di Ostia. 


Bisogna immaginarselo come un casermone in pietra, con otto vani paralleli, dai soffitti a volta ricoperti in legno (oggi li chiameremmo box), che ospitavano le navi per la costruzione, riparazione e rimessa invernale.

Con i suoi 145 metri di lunghezza, 60 di profondità e 15 di altezza, quello che è stato chiamato l’“arsenale di Traiano” - di cui per ora è stata portata alla luce solo la prima delle otto navate - ha tutti i requisiti per venire considerato il principale cantiere navale dell’Urbe, l’unico in grado di soddisfare le sue ambizioni egemoniche sul mare. A questo scopo venne costruito durante il regno di Traiano (98-117 d.C) e solamente dopo, nel V secolo, trasformato in magazzino per la conservazione del grano.

A convincere i ricercatori di Southampton, che hanno condotto gli scavi in collaborazione con la British School at Rome e la Soprintendenza archeologica di Roma, hanno contribuito una serie di eloquenti indizi. Innanzitutto la posizione: gli otto “box” avevano un doppio affaccio, da una parte sull’antico porto di Claudio e dall’altra sul bacino esagonale di Traiano. Poi ci sono le incisioni rinvenute che parlano di un “collegium” dei “fabri navales portuensis”, una sorta di associazione di lavoratori del cantiere. La ricostruzione al computer che i ricercatori hanno realizzato con i dati a disposizione ricorda molto, infine, il soggetto rappresentato nel mosaico della Villa di Livia sulla via Labicana, con una nave in ognuna delle otto gigantesche nicchie. La nuova scoperta spiegherebbe anche la natura di un palazzo rinvenuto dalla stessa squadra di archeologi nel 2009, poco lontano dall’officina navale: si tratterebbe della sede di un comando operativo, guidato da un ufficiale dell’Impero con il compito di controllare e coordinare le attività del cantiere.

Manca però la “prova del nove”: “Dobbiamo ammettere che non c’è traccia delle rampe su cui le navi appena costruite avrebbero dovuto scivolare per entrare in acqua. Ma potrebbero essere finite nel fondo del mare in seguito ai lavori di costruzione degli argini del 1900. Trovandole, potremmo confermare la nostra ipotesi, anche se potrebbero non esistere più” spiega Simon Keay che guida la campagna archeologica (Portus Project). Si scaverà ancora, a partire dal prossimo mese, in cerca di ulteriori conferme.

Riferimenti: Portus Project; Università di Southampton - via

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