Counting Cats in Zanzibar Rotating Header Image

Leonard of Quirm has not left the building…

Well, us European types are going to build an extremely large telescope in the Chilean desert. Good news. I can’t say, as a libertarian, I’m entirely in favour of gubermunt spending but a billion quid between quite a few nations for something that actually matters warms the cockles of my astronomer’s heart. I mean it’s only 2% (if that) of HS2 and this will show the limits of the observable Universe. HS2 will get me to Birmingham slightly quicker. Well, put me on an astral plane or whatever but I know where I’d rather my monies went. And it ain’t in early C19th tech to get me to Brum.

I know a bit about the ESO in Chile. A lad I knew went out there and brought back some mighty fine wine (he was observational, I was theory) and we voted him a capital fellow at the second bottle. The Atacama Desert apart from anything else is remarkable. It never rains for a start and seeing as I live in NW England that is a bonus. Anyway it is currently home to the European VLT (Very Large Telescope) due to be overtaken by the European ELT or Extremely Large Telescope.

They really need someone to name these things. Maybe it is linguistic but we really need to put in a hint of effort. The University of Chicago has a Tevatron now that sounds suitably SF. A Large Hadron Collider just doesn’t. I mean it is big and it collides hadrons… but… I want it to sound more Trekkie. “Number One, engage the Tevatron”. That works. I want Dan Dare and instead we get B&Q! The first movie I ever saw at the cinema was Star Wars Episode IV. As hard SF it is junk – basically a Western/Fairy Tale in space but we didn’t have Han Solo flying “The medium sized smuggling ship” did we? Did “Sailor” Malan fly the “Small combat aircraft”. No, he flew a Spitfire. Even when George Stephenson built his engine he called it “The Rocket” and not “The convenient new means of getting from Liverpool to Manchester”.

Show some imagination people!

Having said all that a certain icon of the Battle of Britain came within an ace of being called the Supermarine Shrew. What would that have done? Nag the Germans to death?


  1. XX The first movie I ever saw at the cinema was Star Wars Episode IV. XX



    Mine was “Magnificant men in their flying machines.”

    THAT was a film!

  2. Ed P says:

    The next one will be confused with the standard abbreviation for a fork-lift truck!

  3. Mr Ed says:

    “Having said all that a certain icon of the Battle of Britain came within an ace of being called the Supermarine Shrew”

    Weight for weight, the shrew is one heck of a beast.

    Anyway, the doughty Hurricane is my icon, shame the Bomber-destroying wasn’t done with 2 x 40mm cannons, now that ‘Tin-Opener’ is my idea of a one-hit wonder, even if the Spit would have been needed to keep the Fockers at bay.

  4. Single Acts of Tyranny says:

    I read Len Deighton’s book on the battle of Britain and he suggested tat the air ministry had done tests showing 2 x 20mm cannons were better at destroying air fames tan 8 x .303 machine guns, but official intransigence got in the way. The Germans realised this later on and had their FW190′s armed with up to 30mm cannons, but then as you suggest, they needed escort fighters!

  5. NickM says:

    The Air min for quite some time regarded gunnery training as almost “unsporting”. Until Sailor Malan and others got to figuring the RAF was basically a flying club rather than a killer organisation. Arguably the .50 was the best fighter vs fighter gun but the RAF’s use of .303s was based on not being able to shoot for toffee. The idea was just to put so many bullets in the air you just had to hit something. They even tested Hurricanes with 12 .303s!!! The big problem the Spit had was the dear old Air Min changed the spec from 4 to 8 .303s after Supermarine had designed the wing which meant the guns were badly spaced for convergence. When they later fitted the Spits with 20mm Hispanos it was an engineering ‘mare. They had to be installed on their side.

    By and large my favoured air to air gun is the Rheinmetall/Mauser BK