We tend to be very interested in trivia about people: How old are they? Where are they from? What do they do for a living? Where did they study? Are they married? Do they have children? And on and on. When it comes to figures that naturally hold some kind of authority, be it an MD or lawyer; a philosopher, historian or anthropologist; a mathematician, particle physicist or astronomer; we tend to be even more interested in their credentials. But credentials do not tell us much, really.
For me, authority and respect can only and must come from a clearly evident competence, and an obviously apparent understanding of the subject matter. This has nothing to do with credentials that can so easily blind us into gullibility and intellectual submissiveness. Nevertheless, I respond here to our general fascination for trivia, and try to satisfy the curiosity you may have about the author of this blog, at least partly.
Born in Ottawa, Canada in October 1972 to a Bulgarian mother and French Canadian father who met in the mid-sixties as PhD students in Paris, and married there in 1969. Grew up in Hull (Quebec) for the first 11 years, then moved to Ottawa (Ontario) in grade 6 and completed both primary (Francojeunesse) and high school (De-la-Salle) there. Moved to Montreal (Quebec) at 18 to attend McGill University. Started in 1991 and finished in 1996, taking 5 years instead of 4 to complete a bachelor’s degree in Physics in order to also do course work in Philosophy and History.
Travelled overland from Paris to Kathmandu over the course of 5-6 months from the fall of 1996: one month in Istanbul, a few weeks on the western and southern coastal regions of Turkey, two weeks in Iran, three weeks in Pakistan, one month in Dharamsala, a couple of weeks travelling on foot in the Himalayan foothills, and a few weeks in Nepal.
Came back in the Spring of 1997, married Kristin in August 1998, and we had Laurent in October of the same year. Worked at Canmet, Natural Resources Canada in Bells Corners, until the summer of 2000. Started an MSc in experimental Particle Physics at Carleton University in the fall of 2000, and finished two years later having defended a thesis on the search for extra dimensions with the Atlas Forward Calorimeter installed at the LHC at Cern.
Moved to Paris, France, started a PhD in High Energy Astrophysics in October 2002, and defended the thesis on the study of the Galactic Centre and its supermassive black hole, Sgr A*, at X-ray and Gamma-ray energies in May 2006. Hired by the European Space Agency in July to start work on October 1, 2006 at ESAC near Madrid in Spain as an Operation Scientist on the International Gamma-ray Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL), the position I still hold.
Why am I doing this blog?
We know so much about physiology and biochemistry, about glands and hormones, about enzymes and specialised proteins, about amino and fatty acids, and so much more. We know everything we need to be in perfect health and live long, happy, disease-free lives. It is ignorance that makes us suffer. I would like to see happy, healthy, radiant, disease-free people, fauna and flora, all around everywhere, living peaceful, productive and fulfilling lives. And I would like to see the pharmaceutical, chemical, techno-medical, and food industrial giants of the world shut down, not by some external force or agency, but simply from the lack of business due to the absence of the need for or interest in their products.
This world is truly amazing and awe inspiring: such fine details, such intricacy, such complexity, such beauty and simplicity, all at once, and in each thing, naturally interwoven with every other thing. I feel so extremely grateful to be able to witness it, feel it with all my senses, and all of my being every day. It is such a gift, such a rare gift, such a incredibly precious opportunity that we have to be here, alive on this and with this living planet Earth orbiting the Sun, a single star, one of hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way, one of hundreds of billions of galaxies in this visible universe, this planet which as far as we can probe has no equals anywhere in its wonderful ability to sustain complex organic life.
It makes me sad to see unhealthy people, sickly people, depressed and unhappy people all around. To see people getting sicker and fatter with each passing day, with each meal and each drink, killing themselves. Suffering a little more week after week, and year after year, unknowingly and matter-of-factly, as if that’s just the way it is, as if that’s how things are supposed to be, until the end, typically rather sudden, sometimes in their 60’s or 70’s, but much too often in their 50’s, 40’s or even 30’s. And all this suffering caused by plain ignorance, just because we don’t know; all this suffering, preventable and unnecessary; all this untold amount of collective and global suffering for nothing.
Doing something about it is up to each one of us, but at the heart of it, if we don’t know, we can’t make informed choices. When we do know, however, I think that the right choices—the health-promoting, the disease-alleviating, the healthful choices—present themselves to us naturally, simply and obviously.