In 2018, alongside Giovanni Ciccotti (University of Rome “La Sapienza”) and Benoît Roux (University of Chicago), I began research into the twentieth century. My focus concerns fundamental computer simulations, i.e., simulations based on the translation of fundamental laws of science into computer codes to approach complex natural systems. This area of inquiry allows me to operate at the intersection of my physics background and my training in the history and philosophy of science. In my research, I try to develop a coherent historical and epistemological reconstruction of fundamental computer simulations from the early 1950s to the 1980s. Since 2019, I have been part of a research group on Molecular Dynamics at the University of Chicago.
This project bears significant connections to my focus on the early modern period. Early modern scientists, in fact, were mostly concerned with the formulation of scientific laws, creating mathematical models and engaging, at least in part, with computations. Yet, they were unable to truly master a large part of the equations they could formulate. With the advent of digital computers, however, we witnessed a marked shift from formulation and limited computation to formulation and massive computation. With digital computers, we can now solve systems of equations representing the time evolution of complex natural systems—such as systems composed of billions of molecules—that wouldn’t be approachable with traditional analytic methods. Reasoning around the advanced calculations that we can now afford, this project allows me to ponder the way technological capabilities have shaped our understanding and practice of science from the early modern onward.