by James Crotty
April 15, 1999
ASTROPHYSICIST OF LOVE
hat do you get when you mix Cicciolina, Madonna, StephenHawking
AND ANGELYNE? Answer: Dr. Fiorella Terenzi, the
astrophysicist-musician,kung fu master and now author, whose carefully
orchestrated style, sensualityand beauty (Cicciolina) is matched only by
her disciplined grasp of self-promotion(Madonna), enthusiastic appreciation
of the cosmos (Hawking), and veryLA, determination to be a FABULOUS
GLAMOROUS STAR!! (Angelyne).
To her credit, Fiorella uses sex appeal to radically transform the image of
scientists. Especially dear to her are young women, who might not
pursue work in the field because of what Fiorella calls the male,
or"Mars," dominated nature of current scientific inquiry. Her
message to young scientists, eloquently delivered at every opportunity, is
that you can do serious research, even fearlessly share the fruits of that
research, and do it with flair, humor and sensuality. As the testimonials of
students and co-workers both here and in abroad indicate, Dr. Terenzi
has won many converts to her cause.
Like the late Carl Sagan (to whom she is often compared), Fiorella is a
great popularizer, making an arcane and "technical"subject like
astrophysics seem approachable and fun. It is this generosity of spirit
which is at the heart of her much larger mission: sharing with the widest
possible audience the magic and mystery of the cosmos; and through a
variety of skillful means--including sound (Music from the Galaxies,Island),
CD-ROMS (Invisible Universe, Voyager), the web (Fiorella.com)and her
recent book (Heavenly Knowledge, Avon)--motivating each of us to gaze
up at the sky for beauty, love and inspiration.
Fiorella: I came [to America] a researcher at UCSD some years ago.
And then I came back as a recording artist in 1991.
Monk: In that time period since 1991 you've continued to
Fiorella: I resigned my position in Milano.... I was teaching full-time. Then I
came back to America. I saw how things were, and I started to teach
2000. So from a classroom of 21- I moved to a classroom of thousand.
Through the music, through the concert, through the lecture tour,
through colleges, planetariums....
Monk: So you are a kind of full-time Fiorella industry now...
Fiorella: Yes, I am.
Jim: And you see yourself as one of the stars in the galaxy.... Obviously
you want tobe a star yourself...
Fiorella: A galaxy (laughs).
Jim: You want to be a galaxy, not just a star (she's still laughing). What
are you, aLeo?
Monk: So you're intellectual and grounded.
Fiorella: And Italian, which is everything in between.
Monk: So, if there's a galaxy out there that represents the qualities of
Fiorella, what galaxy is that?
Fiorella: Well, it's my own galaxy. I try to do unique, original, innovative
education, fun, entertaining, cool, hip, "glamorisch," sensual,
Monk: Allof those things that you are
Fiorella: inspiration galaxy....
Monk: Is there a galaxy out there right now that corresponds to
Fiorella: No, because the best way that you can predict your future is
to invent it. So, I am going to invent my own galaxy.
Monk: Literally speaking, we are going to find the Fiorella galaxy down
Fiorella: Absolutely. But, actually, you know, it's still in big formation right
now (she smiles). It's starting to shine hopefully in its fullest form.I've been
doing many things about that...
Monk: You're using galaxy in the metaphorical or literal sense?
Fiorella: It can be both. Actually, it's a metaphor to say I would like to
create my own galaxy. A galaxy is composed of many stars. I feel
personally the need to be in more medium. I feel very tied into the
definition of being a scientist only. Likewise, I would not [want to] be a
musician only. I cannot sing about 'why did you leave me last night.' I love
to sing about stars. How stars fall in love. How stars attract each other.
But I need to be grounded in astronomy. So it's perfect that I am an
astrophysicist too. And vice versa. When I do science, I need the music.
So it's perfect that I am a musician....
Monk: Madonna or Cicciolina. Who do you relate to more?
Fiorella: I love the popularity, the icon of Madonna. I wish I could have
her crowd to be my crowd. But I would keep the femininity of Cicciolina.
With the flower, and this loving things she has for men. Have you ever
heard her talking to men? It's always in a warm and affective [way], it's
never provocating. Cicciolina is always open, feminine.
Monk: Do you do a specific spiritual practice to clear away the
obstructions in your own perception?
Fiorella: I do the technique of the orbital mind.
Monk: The orbital mind! Trippy stuff. Go on Fiorella, please.
Fiorella: (laughs) This is a space technique. Which means you have to
close your eyes. You have to think about where we are, sitting at the
coffee table, at the [Cyber] Java cafe. You have to close your eyes and
visualize who is next to you....Feel with your hand the table where you
are sitting. Remember that you are with me.
Monk: Oh, I won't forget that.
Fiorella: Now, elevate yourself across the ceiling. Pass through the
ceiling of this building. Go up and look down and see that you are sitting
at a table with me. With a tape recorder in the middle.
Monk: So I'm on the ceiling right now looking down at you?
Fiorella: Go a little bit higher because I want you to see below you Venice
California. Go a little bit higher up, I want you to see Manhattan Beach. I
want you to see Marina Del Rey, Los Angeles and a part of the Valley.
And then I want you to go even higher up so you can see all California,
all San Francisco, and a little bit of Seattle. Higher up, so you can see all
United States of America,and higher up again so there it goes, planet
earth, spinning below down your feet. Stay there. Float there. Think
about Monk. Think about everything with that vision. You are talking to
the entire planet. You are one with the universe. That's the feeling of
being the orbital mind. You are spinning around the planet, and the planet
is spinning with you. And there are no frontiers, no barriers, no color, no
accent, no problem, no anything.There is just the joy of breathing and
being alive in the present time.Voila! Come back!<(Jim is still in a trance;
Fiorella: That is the technique I do.
Monk: Do I have to come back Fiorella? (laughing)
Fiorella: The other technique is you visualize water boiling. Hot
temperature. Salt. Inside, boiling with the water (she is starting to laugh).
Jim completely cracks up
Fiorella: I don't understand. You said something. This is the
Monk: This is the technique.
Fiorella: Remember the boiling water with the salt inside?
Monk: Got it.
Fiorella: Next we have to picture tomato with garlic and pepper, friends
all around the house (Fiorella and Jim are laughing again), put the pasta
around the music, and this is the pasta meditation.David (the bright
ever-present handler, laughing): This is the orbital pasta.
Fiorella (laughing, but determined to finish her explanation): Some Italian
music. Romance. Candle. Aromas.
Monk: You're beautiful Fiorella.
Fiorella: A rubbing in the back while you are cooking pasta, and that's
Monk: What's in the back while I'm cooking pasta?
Fiorella: Rub. Massage....
Monk: I'm getting rubbed while I'm doing pasta. I'm into this. Can we do
this one again?(Dave laughing)
Monk: Do you cook pasta at all, Fiorella?
Monk: You're coming to our house. We're doing the orbital pasta for
lots of people.(all laughing)
HUMANIZING THE COSMOS
Monk: But, seriously the skeptics out there might say, 'Fiorella you're so
charming, you're as sweet as pie, I just the love the way you make the
cosmos come alive, but listen, hon, this is all anthropomorphic. You are
applying humanqualities to constellations. It's a beautiful thing, but it's just
Fiorella: The reality becomes reality once you attach a beautiful name
to a celestial object. You attach a name that means something with you,
and there it goes. You see, we cannot reduce the universe to be just a
list of numbers--galaxies named only UGC-6697, UGC-3030. We should
avoid that. You know the universeis not a catalog where you open,
model, X Y Z, you know. The universe is a place with object that have
their own communication, so I am proposing to rename celestial object
with a name. Attach human property, and the object become real. So, if I
think of Orion.
Monk: That's your lover. You're really hot on Orion.
Fiorella: I am. And I tell you why. I can do both. I can really chart Orion
from my telescope and go and analyze all the chemical elements,
distance, velocity. I can fly through the nebula. I can understand what's
going on. Because I have an understanding, a fantasy attached to it.
Orion is a mythological figure. Do not forget that mythology is a little bit at
the base of everything in society, therefore in reality. So I can fantasize
about Orion, or write a song about Orion. I can do a music video. That is
when the universe become real. But if you are going to name celestial
object only with number, that is a universe that is unreal. That is a
universe that doesn't have anything to say. Is a universe that is a list of
number that no on care about. That is the universe, that is the
astronomy we have today. No one care about astronomy. No one care
Monk: They care about astrology.
Fiorella: Absolutely! Because it personify. Because people need
something they can use in their everyday life. I do too. Otherwise,
everything become too object-oriented. I think people want something
they can approach. A scientist until today hasn't been approachable. A
scientist is a scaring academic, nerd figure. I want to run away when I
see my professor teaching me quantumphysics. Was an extremely
painful experience. And all the time you have pain you want to
Monk: It'salmost amazing that some people have even learned quantum
physics. It's almost if they have to shut down their humanity to learn
Fiorella: That's right. Actually, I am proposing a vice versa. Bring out
your humanity. Because through your humanity you can probably
understand the universe.It's is through your emotion. Everything I do is
based on what I call emotional learning. When you learn via your emotion
you learn forever. I am attaching a new image to a new scientist. I am
attaching a new emotion to celestialobject. I am attaching a sensuality, a
femininity, to the universe that it didn't have before.
Monk: The devil's advocate will say, 'that's beautiful, but....'
Fiorella: It's more than beautiful. It's more than wonderful. It's practical. It's
key. It will open your mind.