A Spanish tragedy in the embassy’s office

Stones, sand and olive trees. © Charles Thibo
Stones, sand and olive trees. © Charles Thibo

In the early 90s, I did an internship at Luxembourg’s diplomatic mission in Geneva. Since Geneva was (and still is) an expensive place, I often stayed at the office for my lunch break to eat a sandwich. And since the head of the mission was often away, I had a lot of time to go through the diplomat’s CD collection. The man had excellent taste as far as I can remember, and it is through him that I learned about the Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo (1901–1999) and his Concierto de Aranjuez. It was love right from the beginning! It became a lasting souvenir.

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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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