Pioneering with luminosity and zero gravity

Mozart's piano music is a source of light for dark hours. © Charles Thibo
Mozart’s piano music is a source of light for dark hours. © Charles Thibo

Luminosity. In astronomy, luminosity is the total amount of energy emitted by a star, galaxy, or other astronomical object per unit time. This star has been emitting a lot of energy for over 200 years, and this work comes close to the luminosity of our sun. In 1782, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed Piano Concerto No. 12 in A major, KV. 414, and my recording of Edna Stern and the Orchstre d’Auvergne  has brightened up many a day.

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The case Beethoven vs. Napoleon

The painter Jean Ingres portrayed Napoleon as Emperor of France.
The painter Jean Ingres portrayed Napoleon as Emperor of France.

July 14: France celebrates its national holiday by remembering the assault of the Bastille prison, the starting point of the French Revolution. The revolution led to the ascendance of a young officer: Napoleon Bonaparte. I was told that my grand-father was obsessed by Napoleon. His friends once made him a bicorne out of an old hat with a blue-white-red rosette. As a political scientist, I admire Napoleon’s political acumen and his military genius, but I am horrified by his disregard for the very values that the French Revolution was about: Liberté – Egalité – Fraternité. Napoleon was a ruthless dictator, relied heavily upon his secret police to eliminate political enemies and distributed posts and money among his friends to stay in power.

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Across the galaxy on the wings of music

Saturn with its rings and many moons is the most unusual planet of our solar system. (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Saturn with its rings and many moons is the most unusual planet of our solar system. (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)

When I was at high school, I wanted to become an aerospace engineer and an astronaut. I had read dozens of books on astronauts, test pilots and rocket engineers and seen all the Star Wars episodes. I knew how to use a telescope and sky charts, I had visited Cape Canaveral and I had a thick documentation on aerospace engineering at the Queen Mary College, University of London. Alas, I found out that my fascination with maths and physics did not translate into sufficiently good examination marks. Bye, bye, sweet dream. I would not be the first Luxembourger in space.

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Nymphs dancing at the composer’s grave

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Joy and serenity mark Ravel’s piece honouring Couperin. © Charles Thibo

I imagine and old cemetery: grey tombstones, covered by moss, bushes of fern, huge oaks trees casting long shadows, flickering lights, reflections of the sun on the wet leaves and then… music! The woods play the opening melody of the Prelude, quickly echoed by the strings. A melody like a lively river. Or is it a procession of nymphs? Yes, nymphs are hovering across the path and assembling at an old grave made of solid stones: François Couperin is buried here, forgotten by mankind.