From The Telegraph on the subject of the predecessor to the Bloodhound SSC project…
Thrust SSC was, at 4m wide and 10 tonnes – powered by twin Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engines, more commonly found beneath the wings of an F-4 Phantom II jet aircraft – an unwieldy beast. Rather than simply tweak its design, Noble and Green opted to begin from scratch. A slimmer, lighter car could, they reckoned, significantly outstrip Thrust. But first they needed jets.
This is what an F-4 Phantom looks like:
Do you see any engines under the wings? Now obviously I knew this already but finding that (and many more) images took 5s with Google. And it’s not like it’s an obscure ‘plane so anyone writing on this sort of stuff ought to know anyway.
If I were editor of the DT I’d carpet Mr Ross for such sloppy idleness. Now I’m a fair man so I’d give him a start before I released the hounds and wouldn’t spray his genitals with aniseed first. I reserve that as a unique punishment.
The second is this gem of bollocks reporting and woo-woo headlining.
Look, you numpty, this is what the USA thought of doing… They were going to detonate a kT range-yield nuke (I hate the term “atomic bomb” which is used in the article) to show the Soviets that the USA could hit the Moon or even in principle weaponize it. Bear in mind this was the ’50s when serious popular science journals were considering the (stupid and unworkable) idea of missile batteries on the moon. Unworkable because it took an entire Saturn V rocket to get three men there and stupid because it took three days to get there (or back). Who wants to launch a nuclear strike giving the other side that much notice? Of course in those days small (and not so small) boys were reading action comics in which the USMC (Space Division) and the Spetznaz (Space Division) would be slugging it out (with ray-guns, natch) over Copernicus Crater.
It all goes back perhaps to Arthur C Clarke (and maybe John Wyndam) and the concept of orbital weapons. Again a militarily ridiculous concept if you think about it*. Ultimately technical, military and economic logic won though against SF dreams and the sub-orbital ballistic missile was born. Couple that with a nuclear powered submarine and you have a far more potent weapon at orders of magnitude less money. You think a Vanguard or Ohio class submarine is expensive? Compare with the cost of building nuclear silos on the Moon…
I guess it hit a popular Zeitgeist based, perhaps, on the feeling that we’d gone from the Wright brother’s stick and string to Sputnik in half a century and from lobbing hand-grenades from primitive biplanes to Little Boy in even less time.
“Everyday it’s a-gettin’ closer
Goin’ faster than a roller coaster”
Perhaps it’s also down to other little boys fantasizing about using their ray-guns to waste some tentacled horror and win the heart of the alien princess who might be green but that’s OK because she has unfeasibly large breasts (that’s Zero-G for you!). Seriously, the interaction between popular culture, fashion, trends in aerospace and governmental policy can’t be underestimated. Perhaps whoever wrote this Telegraph schlock was one of those little boys but of course this persisted long after the ’50s. Consider two films from about 1980. There was a sort of proto-”Deep Impact” movie (I forget the name) which featured pre-existing Soviet and US nukes being turned against an incoming meteor or some such and also of course “Moonraker” with the USMC in space-combat with Drax’s mob. Drax also has deadly weapons in space. Of course he does! And he wears a Mao suit.
Instead we had Apollo. You know they left medals commemorating lost cosmonauts as well as the astronauts who died in the Apollo oxygen fire?
Back to Earth! The wider problem I see with this hopelessly sloppy reporting on aerospace related issues by the dear old DT is that this is a subject I know a lot about. And it isn’t just the DT. They are all at it. The contempt the MSM scribblers show for basic fact checks and employing anyone competent** in the first place is staggering. And this is something I know about so I can chortle but what about the huge numbers of things I don’t really know about? That’s a worry. I don’t have the internal knowledge to appraise immediately nor the time to acquire it. They can’t sell me a load of pony on certain things but on others… And the same dear reader applies to you. None of us are polymaths anymore.
But as to the aerospace specifically, suspect deep-down it is a symptom of an ingrained belief amongst the “serious” papers (the ones without unfeasibly large breasts – more honest – you know where you are with a tit) that the really important stuff only happens between Whitehall and Wapping and getting actual facts – easy, non-controversial, non-debatable facts correct about all that nasty, complicated stuff with “like sums with letters in them” doesn’t really matter to their journalism trained minds. Something Michael Gove said is ever so much more important. No. It. Isn’t. When the Govester and his EBacc are mere footnotes in Hansard (some other wanker will be re-arranging the deckchairs by then anyway) studied only by the dullest of graduate students people will remember Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins.
Well, that tech-stuff does matter and I’d much rather read something written by someone with no qualifications in journalism but an understanding of the area they are reporting on anyway. As I said, in many areas I don’t know what to think because I don’t trust what I read not just because it is propaganda or lies or deranged opinion but because I can’t accept the basic, verifiable, “truths” they use within the piece as real or otherwise because I know how sloppy they are on things I do know because I know they don’t even care to find out an F-4 Phantom has fuselage mounted engines rather than under-wing ones. I’ll leave the penultimate words to a quote from Bertrand Russell (I think this is about right),
I’d rather be reported by my worst enemy in philosophy than someone ignorant of it.
Without facts to argue from analysis and opinions are devoid of meaning. Without a respect for facts analysis and opinions range from doubtful to disingenuous to out-right “Noble Lies” (in the Platonic sense).
I want to know truth and not an unreality built upon a lack of genuine, objective facts. Every ignoring of reality (whether deliberate or through idleness or stupidity) contributes towards an “invented reality” so let’s ultimately hear from Jorge Luis Borges.
Ten years ago, any symmetrical system whatsoever which gave the appearance of order — dialectical materialism, anti-Semitism, Nazism—was enough to fascinate men. Why not fall under the spell of Tlön and submit to the minute and vast evidence of an ordered planet? Useless to reply that reality, too is ordered.
- Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius
PS. I know this rambles. I’ve spent too long on it.
PPS. I know (see PS) this is posted after Levenson introduced (BBC – “His long-awaited enquiry results”. Not by me it wasn’t. I wasn’t calling for the DT to be taken to task by the “Regulators” (think Western movies) over these inexcusably bad pieces of journalism. No. I was calling for the likes of us to point out and laugh because, like a small boy who sees a potentate in the nip.
*Either geostationary over Moscow and DC or in predictable orbits or burning lots of fuel to vary orbit which would mean a very limited life-span or some form of space refueling.
**In the first article there is some wibbling about “Computational Fluid Dynamics”. Clearly the author hasn’t a clue what he is on about.