Today, I was reading an account of the Cambridge Scientists' Anti-War Group in Gary Werskey, The Visible College (London: Allen Lane, 1978). On p. 230 I came across the following passage:

The Association of Scientific Workers strongly endorsed their work,48 as did J. B. S. Haldane.

I turned to the endnotes to check the reference, and found the following:

48. B. Holman, 'Anti-gas Research', Scientific Worker, vol. 10 (April 1937), pp. 150-52.

I don't think I actually need this, but I'm tempted to track it down just to see what the B stands for!


I've just noticed this odd condition for the use of the Imperial War Museum's collections website:

Links to our website may only be included in other websites with our prior written permission.

Source: http, followed by a colon, then two forward slashes, then www, a dot, iwmcollections, another dot, org, a third dot, uk, another forward slash, and then terms, one last dot, and finally php.


I've got an article in the current (November 2008) issue of Fortean Times (named, of course, after Charles Fort). It's not at all airminded, it's not really historical either -- it has more to do with my shady astrophysicist past. It's about the famous Betty and Barney Hill abduction incident in New Hampshire in 1961 -- that's alien abduction, supposedly. In a hypnosis session a couple years later, Betty recalled being shown a star map on board her abductor's craft, supposedly of nearby space. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a schoolteacher named Marjorie Fish used the latest astronomical data in a prodigious effort to match the map to real stars near the Sun. And eventually she found a good match, which has been touted by some ufologists as scientific proof of the reality of alien visitation, possibly from Zeta Reticuli.

Except that nobody ever checked Fish's model against new astronomical data gathered over the last three decades, in particular the parallax observations made by the Hipparcos satellite in the early 1990s. When you do this, the Fish interpretation falls to pieces! Using her own assumptions and the new data, six of the fifteen stars chosen by Fish must be excluded, which is no match at all. And that's what my article is about. So I think this makes me, officially, a dirty debunker. Or maybe a noisy negativist.

I have an erratum: a footnote I added late in the editing process didn't make it through. It should have come after the word 'collapse' in the fifth sentence in the last column on page 51:

Since writing the above, I have been made aware of an unpublished and thorough analysis of the Fish interpretation by Charles Huffer of MUFON, which also uses Hipparcos data to reach conclusions similar to mine.

Anyway, I promise there will be some aeroplaney stuff soon :)


Call slip (1950s?)

One of the fun things about reading old books that nobody else has opened for decades is what you sometimes find inside them: annotations, bookmarks, letters, racist leaflets (OK, that one was not so fun). Above is a library call slip (i.e. the bit of paper you fill in to request that a book be retrieved for you) from the SLV. I found it inside Property or Peace? by H. N. Brailsford, a socialist journalist. The book was published in 1934 but I reckon the call slip is from the 1950s, at the earliest, as there's a stamp in the front saying it was transferred from the CAE library in 1951 or 1952 or so.
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War in Space

This will end in tears: Zeppelins to make tourist flights over London. (Via Airshipworld.)

Image source: from the front cover of Louis Gastine, War in Space: or, an Air-craft War between France and Germany (London and Felling-on-Tyne: Walter Scott Publishing, 1913). (OK, it's Paris, not London -- so I cheated.) The oldest paperback I own, incidentally.

[Cross-posted at Revise and Dissent.]

This isn't about indigenous Australia and white Australia -- this is about all Australia

The Honourable Kevin Rudd, MP, Prime Minister of Australia, apologises to the Stolen Generations, House of Representatives, Canberra, 13 February 2008:

Therefore, for our nation, the course of action is clear, and therefore, for our people, the course of action is clear: that is, to deal now with what has become one of the darkest chapters in Australia’s history. In doing so, we are doing more than contending with the facts, the evidence and the often rancorous public debate. In doing so, we are also wrestling with our own soul. This is not, as some would argue, a black-armband view of history; it is just the truth: the cold, confronting, uncomfortable truth -- facing it, dealing with it, moving on from it. Until we fully confront that truth, there will always be a shadow hanging over us and our future as a fully united and fully reconciled people. It is time to reconcile. It is time to recognise the injustices of the past. It is time to say sorry. It is time to move forward together.

To the stolen generations, I say the following: as Prime Minister of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the government of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the parliament of Australia, I am sorry. I offer you this apology without qualification. We apologise for the hurt, the pain and suffering that we, the parliament, have caused you by the laws that previous parliaments have enacted. We apologise for the indignity, the degradation and the humiliation these laws embodied. We offer this apology to the mothers, the fathers, the brothers, the sisters, the families and the communities whose lives were ripped apart by the actions of successive governments under successive parliaments. In making this apology, I would also like to speak personally to the members of the stolen generations and their families: to those here today, so many of you; to those listening across the nation—from Yuendumu, in the central west of the Northern Territory, to Yabara, in North Queensland, and to Pitjantjatjara in South Australia.

I know that, in offering this apology on behalf of the government and the parliament, there is nothing I can say today that can take away the pain you have suffered personally. Whatever words I speak today, I cannot undo that. Words alone are not that powerful; grief is a very personal thing. I ask those non-Indigenous Australians listening today who may not fully understand why what we are doing is so important to imagine for a moment that this had happened to you. I say to honourable members here present: imagine if this had happened to us. Imagine the crippling effect. Imagine how hard it would be to forgive. My proposal is this: if the apology we extend today is accepted in the spirit of reconciliation in which it is offered, we can today resolve together that there be a new beginning for Australia. And it is to such a new beginning that I believe the nation is now calling us.

Sometimes, history doesn't need to be sought out. Sometimes it comes to you.

Sources: Parliament of Australia (text), trimba (image).


Weddings Parties Anything, "A Tale They Won't Believe":

I have previously explained the relationship of this song to aviation history (well, it's pretty slender, to be honest), here.

Though the Weddoes split up a decade back, they're embarking on a reunion tour around Australia, which is very exciting news -- particularly since I'll be seeing them at the good old Corner Hotel in April! They're also playing, oddly enough, one show in London, on 25 April. They're sensational live, so why not mark Anzac Day in true Aussie style (i.e., rocking your socks off and, optionally, getting simultaneously smashed)? All the details are here.

Chonk on!


Lord Trenchard's Choice

I've recently come across what appears to be a new biography of Marshal of the Royal Air Force Hugh Montague Trenchard, 1st Viscount Trenchard, 1st and 3rd Chief of the Air Staff, etc: Sylvia Andrew, Lord Trenchard's Choice (Richmond: Mills and Boon, 2002). I say 'appears to be' because there are serious discrepancies with the received historical account of his life, which must call into question the accuracy of the author's research.

Here's an extract from the book, followed by a blurb (both from here, though I've nabbed the cover from here):

"You leave him alone, do you hear?" The voice rang out, high and clear. Ivo winced as the sound sent his head throbbing again, and slowly turned. The next moment headache, heartache, everything was forgotten as he stared into the muzzle of a pistol, which was pointing directly at his head, not ten paces away. It was in the hands of a boy that couldn't be more than eleven or twelve. Ivo shivered as a chill ran down his spine. Guns in the hands of children could be fatal, and this boy looked angry enough to shoot him.

"You scum!" the boy went on without moving. "I suppose you mean to sell Star at Taunton, along with the others you have stolen."

If it didn't rile the mind of Ivo Trenchard, of the 7th Hussars and the most polished man in Europe, to be mistaken for a simple horse thief, finding that the urchin pulling a gun on him was a teenage girl certainly did! Joscelin Morley both dressed and lived her life as a boy in a futile attempt to please her father. Her future was clear: Marriage to her neighbor Peter was to join the two estates and they would settled down to care for the land they both loved. So where did the worldly Ivo, her godmother's nephew and a terrible flirt, fit into the equation?

I admit that I'm assuming that 'Lord Trenchard' here refers to the 1st Viscount Trenchard (the title was created for him), and not to either his son or grandson -- though they've both had worthy careers in their own right, and meaning no disrespect to them, neither seems to merit a biography. The 1st Viscount has already had one written about him (I'm reading it at the moment, as it happens) and is probably overdue for another interpretation. But I don't think Lord Trenchard's Choice can be it. I mean, he wasn't called Ivo (unless that's a nickname); he was in the Royal Scots Fusiliers, not the 7th Hussars; and as for 'the most polished man in Europe' and 'a terrible flirt' -- well, that's not any Boom Trenchard I've ever read about. That cover art is terrible, it looks nothing like him (and what's with the Jane Austen getup?)

Still, don't judge a book by its cover and all that -- I should at least flip through its bibliography and endnotes first. (And Trenchard was in fact born in Taunton, so that reference looks right.) So who knows, perhaps there's room for a feisty cross-dressing pistol-wielding Somerset lass in the Father of the RAF's life.


A recent post on the new science fiction blog io9 (which I'm enjoying, but is it really so hard to put in spoiler warnings?) claimed that the Vickers Velos was the 'ugliest and most worthless plane in the world'. Sure, it's not pretty, but I've seen plenty that were uglier -- fuglier, even. But there were a couple of links to lists of other ugly aircraft, which are always fun to browse. The first one had some bizarre nominations (the Dragon Rapide should never be on such a list) but I thought I'd found what may be the single ugliest aeroplane ever made, the three-engine variant of the Farman Jabiru airliner (it's French, naturellement). I was going to write this post about it. But then I clicked through to the second list.

That is where I first saw the Vedo Villi.

I can't take my eyes off it. I honestly can't decide whether it's ugly or beautiful. But it is somehow deeply, fundamentally, disturbingly, horrifyingly wrong. It is eldritch. It's like something H. P. Lovecraft might have dreamed up, if he'd been an aircraft designer and wanted just the thing for the airminded cultist to nip down from Arkham Aerodrome to the nightmare corpse-city of R'lyeh for the weekend.

There is a photo of the Villi below. Read on -- if you dare.
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