back to article Hell hath no fury like a radar engineer scorned

As the weekend disappears with the speed of a Phantom flung off an aircraft carrier, it is time to console ourselves with another tale of decades-old hijinks in The Register's weekly Who, Me? column. Today's adventure comes courtesy of a reader we shall refer to as "Harry", who served aboard HMS Ark Royal ("the really big …

  1. whitepines Silver badge
    Boffin

    To be honest, I suspect the peak power was higher than stated. Assuming the flash cube is the old resistive type (the newer mechanical ones shouldn't have gone off at all), and takes at least 3V to fire, that's only 66mA peak current at 200mW.

    Unless the induced voltage was still high enough to light off a small spark / arc somewhere along the metal, which would almost immediately ignite it. Who's up for some flash cube vs. amateur radio transmitter "experiments"?

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Do you still get those flash cubes?

      I remember those, played with an used one as a kid.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Anonymous Saffer Coward,

        I believe you can still get flash cubes. I know that some cavers use them, in order to do underground photography. Or at least used to a decade ago, I'm out of touch with the guy I used to know who was a serious caver.

        1. Caver_Dave
          Pint

          Flash cubes

          I haven't seen any of the old cubes underground for years.

          To get any sense of depth, in an area where it's naturally profoundly black, you need multiple light sources to produce shadows. For years I (and all my friends) have been using multiple electronic flash guns with Firefly slaves to trigger off the camera's flash.

          Being totally in control of all the light in the cave scene is wonderful at times, but also painful if you have the shutter held open and are stumbling around in the dark manually letting off the flash at various points around the cave.

      2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

        Do you still get those flash cubes?

        I remember those, played with an used one as a kid.

        I have a couple multi-packs right here. Although I don't recall them being used on anything other than Instamatic cameras.

        1. MacroRodent Silver badge

          Flashcubes?!

          I wondered about that, too. In mid-1970's anyone even remotely into photography already used a xenon flash. And this guy was a cameraman. I do recall seeing a separate flash cube attachment in some catalog back then, but all real uses of flash cubes I have encountered were in instamatics and similar cheap cameras using 126 or 110 film cartridges, and in some peel-apart type Polaroids (older ones used single flash bulbs, I have one of those, the Polaroid Zip).

          1. Tom 35 Silver badge

            Re: Flashcubes?!

            I've only seen cubes (or later flip flash) on cheap cameras.

            More pro cameras normally used individual bulbs. I once had a speedgraphic that I bought in a garage sale with a big case of 36 flash bulbs... they were the size of a 40 watt bulb and did they light up a field.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Flashcubes?!

            "I wondered about that, too. In mid-1970's anyone even remotely into photography already used a xenon flash."

            Yep, my older brother was into photography back then too and he, as an amateur, had a xenon electronic flash with light sensors, ie it trigger at the required level. He was also on the Ark Royal while "Sailor" was being filmed. Never heard any stories about the filming, but he was still aboard when Rod Stewart turn up with enough copis of his single "Sailing" (in blue translucent plastic) to give one to each of the entire crew. Much of the crew had already pissed off on leave as soon as the gangways were down, so those left on board took two or three each just in case it might have a future collectors value.

            1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
              Mushroom

              Re: Flashcubes?!

              Xenon flash with the sensor shut down after the appropriate integrated dose of light has been sent. This is done by pumping the output of the sensor (which is proportional to the reflected light from the subject+background) into a capacitor, and the cap voltage is used to shut off the flash output using a FET across the tube (or something like that, don't have the circuit in front of me).

              Those cheap flashes are quite interesting to work on (AFTER the flash cap has been safely discharged, of course).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ah, but you're comparing power fed at the ends of the wire (which would cause it to glow and so set about the flash), to power induced to all the metal and magnesium wire at once.

      I suspect that may work out differently.

      That said, it's only theory. We need to verify this, of course.

      :)

      1. AndyS

        > We need to verify this, of course

        Quick, you grab the Gannet and I'll get some flash cubes off ebay.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Will this one do?

          Seen it a few years ago.

          https://www.thunder-and-lightnings.co.uk/gannet/survivor.php?id=195

          1. AndyS

            Re: Will this one do?

            Looks like it's in better condition than the one sat in a hanger a few miles from me:

            https://www.airplane-pictures.net/photo/985402/xa460-ulster-aviation-society-fairey-gannet-ecm-6/

            1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: Will this one do?

              just a little

      2. SNAFUology
        Headmaster

        where there is no fire there is no smoke

        Those flash cubes were sealed and did not smoke, them all going off would have just produced the same controlled flash in them all - any burning in this porky story would have been the heat of the oven he put the pies in to cook them !

        1. SNAFUology
          WTF?

          Re: where there is no fire there is no smoke

          and while I am at it those flash cubes had a mechanical trigger often used with an extender the camera would push up a little silver rod to trigger the flash as they were totally sealed.

          Constitutes Grievous bodily harm (GBH)

          Being burned with EME is no laughing matter, whether microwave, VHF or other.

          Microwave is what radar would have usually been, it can initially drive blood from affected areas, then cause 'compartment syndrome' where the body is burned internally, where there are few nerves so you feel very little after the initial heat, It often takes 1 year to heal, the body parts nearby, tissue, ligaments & other flesh adhere to one another, myelin sheathes & nerves are damaged producing numbness and dysfunction & can interfere with may organs, may interfere with glucose absorption & much more - just terrible.

          Perhaps you would wish to reconsider your story in this light !

          1. david 12 Bronze badge

            Re: where there is no fire there is no smoke

            The "mechanical triggers" were in the late model flashcubes, branded "MagicCubes". They didn't require the camera to have a flash battery, and they didn't fail to work when the flash battery was flat. And they could be triggered by hand, by a 10yr old! (Although you probably had to steal them from your dad's supply).

            But they weren't the original kind of flash cube.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: where there is no fire there is no smoke

            "Being burned with EME is no laughing matter, whether microwave, VHF or other."

            But the amount of microwave energy required to trigger a flashcube at close range is close to the stated level and a bunch of them going off at once would easily give the smoking effect described - the cheaper mechanically triggered ones had a nasty tendency to go off if merely knocked, didn't have much protection against the hot bulb melting the front of the enclosure and after we found they'd go off around 15kW CW SW transmitters, some experimenting with high frequency kit found that sticking them in front of low power (1W) 4GHz and 6GHz uncapped waveguides would set them off too - at which point the heat of all four bulbs combined would make a smelly mess of the entire polystyrene assembly.

            As the allowable level is 10W per square metre, low level pulses are nothing to worry about. On the other hand you really don't want to stand in front of an uncapped aircraft weather or nav radar - a friend of mine on apron duty was unfortunate enough to have this happen in 1993 when the crew of a Dash-8 forgot to turn theirs off after landing and spent a long time in hospital as a result. (Hint: The liquid humor inside of your eyeballs reacts much the same way to being heated up as egg whites do.)

        2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: where there is no fire there is no smoke

          The cube is NOT sealed, it's just a cheap plastic housing. What used to smoke was the blue plastic coating over the flashbulb. It was used to adjust the color temperature of the light output. Tended to burn up as the bulb envelope got quite warm during the flash.

    3. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      It's possible that the current was induced directly into the thin magnesium wire rather than the normal 3V resistive circuit.

      1. whitepines Silver badge

        But the magnesium wire *is* the resistive circuit.

        I'm wondering if a.) peak power levels were a couple orders of magnitude higher (still fairly safe even at 20W peak) and b.) the magnesium wire coupled tightly enough to the signal that it started sparking over internally instead of thermally heating. All it would take is a weak spark in a nearly pure oxygen environment to get the magnesium going...still, a heck of a coincidence for the radar to be close enough to a resonant frequency of the wire to make that work.

    4. adam 40 Bronze badge

      Should be able to set one off with a mobile phone in call on 2G, therefore, and a poor signal (so it cranks up the output power accordingly).

      1.8GHz and 2W EIRP should do the trick. Put the cube near the antenna.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Let me guess, "Harry's" last name was Tesla...

    6. Tim Hughes

      WTC

      My sister once went on a trip to New York in the 80's, and said that she had a whole set of flashcubes go off at once while she was walking between the two WTC towers at ground level.

      I have no idea why there would have been a large EMF between the two though, as I'm sure it would be cheaper just to lay a cable.

    7. Grinning Bandicoot

      Standing waves and duty cycle

      It is pulsed so average power multiplied the reciprocal of the duty cycle to get peak power. Or just use the used the figures given for peak and the suppression by the dummy. Next consider the standing wave that appeared on the Magnesium filaments in the cubes. Stories are around about techs throwing steel wool into the beams of BMEWS transmitters and watching ignition of the steel.

  2. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
    Pint

    The BOFH salutes you.

    Here, have one* on the hosue.

    *sans laxatives

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Pint

      "Here, have one* on the hosue."

      I see you started early :) ->

      1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

        Magrat Garlick stopped by for a visit.

  3. ColonelDare
    Black Helicopters

    Can this inform the 5G debate?

    I have a friend who is bothering himself, and everybody nearby, about the dangers of the 5G role out.

    Recently he sent me a link to a company (rfsafe.com) headlining "5G Network Uses Nearly Same Frequency as Weaponized Crowd Control Systems" and pages of stuff showing we are all doomed....

    The clue in the article is about the power, not the frequency, surely? After all the water in the tea he was drinking was virtually the same water used by Weaponized Water Canons isn't it.

    BTW how's Harry's health these days?

    1. Benson's Cycle

      Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

      The 5G debate is between the rational, and complete fruitcakes who think Maxwell's equations are something to do with a silver hammer. Nothing can inform them.

      1. ArrZarr Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

        To be fair to the fruitcakes, frequency can be important when you get to the pointy end of the spectrum.

        They just don't realise that visible light is way closer to the pointy end of the spectrum than 5G waves.

        1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

          Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

          "They just don't realise that visible light is way closer to the pointy end of the spectrum than 5G waves."

          That's being overly generous. Most don't accept that light is electromagnetic radiation. Because "you can't see EM waves, that's why they're so dangerous..."

          These are the types with foil covered walls and chain mail curtains (to block the EM). I pointed out that light was getting in, thus at least some EM was coming through.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

            These are the types with foil covered walls and chain mail curtains (to block the EM). I pointed out that light was getting in, thus at least some EM was coming through.

            Electrosensitives can be fun, unless they're also MPs or in the Lords. But they're simply following the precautionary principle and limiting their exposure to harmful radiation. Like if phones emit 4W and are hazardous, then it's only sensible to try and prevent particles at the MeV level. Then tell them they really should invest in neutrino shielding.

            1. ArrZarr Silver badge
              Thumb Up

              Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

              Ooh, telling them about neutrinos is evil.

              I love it.

              1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

                Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

                Buy ACME Neutrino Shield now! It's the only way to be sure! Our half lightyear thick lead casing will fit snuggly over your house (or planet) and give high protection from all your neutrino worries.

                $1 million is a small price to pay for your security.

                Get this special offer now, while stocks last! Just $1m. Plus $2,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999 postage + packing.

                1. Steve K Silver badge
                  Coat

                  Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

                  Surely there should be no charge?

                2. ibmalone Silver badge

                  Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

                  I could be wrong, but assuming a spherical shield that is actually a very good price per tonne for delivery. Sadly it massively exceeds our type I GPP, and would also cause the lead market to absolutely collapse, not to mention the local cluster.

                3. 2+2=5 Silver badge
                  Boffin

                  Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

                  > Buy ACME Neutrino Shield now! It's the only way to be sure! Our half lightyear thick lead casing will fit snuggly over your house (or planet) and give high protection from all your neutrino worries.

                  No!! Forget clumsy lead shielding and start eating my patented Neutrino Protection Diet instead. This tasty, nutritious diet is guaranteed to ensure that more than 99.9% of all neutrinos will harmlessly pass through you.

                  A full refund will be given to any dissatisfied customer on provision that neutrinos didn't pass through them.

                  1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                    Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

                    No!! Forget clumsy lead shielding and start eating my patented Neutrino Protection Diet instead.

                    Hmm.. That could do double duty as a Neutrino Diet! Guaranteed weight loss if you substitute meals for a bucket of neutrinos. Package and price like those big tubs of whey powder, and shipping costs would be lower than lead shielding. Plus they already come in (at least) 3 exciting flavours!

                    But electrogullibles are easy marks. Many moons ago, I visited an ex's parents for the first time. They had this bit of bent metal on a plastic stand sitting on their fireplace. And I got told off for picking it up and moving it because I'd disturbed it's alignment, and their protection from stray electromagnetic fields.

              2. Ken 16 Silver badge
                Trollface

                Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

                Especially when they mutate.

                Ay Caramba!

                1. Benson's Cycle

                  Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

                  Multicultural neutrinos, coming over here, hiding in plain sight. Send them back where they came from is what I say.

                  1. Glen 1 Bronze badge
                    Trollface

                    Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

                    They don't get out much. In fact, they don't interact much with anyone. Bloody shut-ins.

            2. Lotaresco

              Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

              "Then tell them they really should invest in neutrino shielding."

              My home is on a hill with a view towards INFN Gran Sasso National Laboratory. We had visitors who had driven to our home from Rome and had seen the signs in the motorway tunnel for INFN and asked what it was. I explained that it's primarily a neutrino detector and that it's used to detect neutrinos from the sun and also a beam of neutrinos generated at CERN.

              The female visitor asked what happened to the neutrinos then. I said well we're along the path so mostly they travel through this house on the way back out into space. She screamed like a steam whistle and fainted. Her SO had to lie her out on a chaise longue where she had a fit of the vapours about being "irradiated" and wondering how long she had to live. They left soon afterwards.

              The leaving was an unexpected bonus.

              1. STOP_FORTH
                Trollface

                Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

                Well, I'd be worried about super-luminal neutrinos as well. It ain't natural, I tell you.

        2. Benson's Cycle

          Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

          Visible light at the pointy end is dangerous, I know several people who have had lumps removed just in time. And I used to know someone who, sadly, did not.

          But my post was really about their general ignorance. They don't understand the difference between centimetre band microwaves, millimetre band microwaves, and X-rays. And they don't want to. They want to bask in the belief that they have superior knowledge that makes them better than the sheep.

          See also anti-vaxxers.

          1. Arthur the cat Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

            See also anti-vaxxers.

            I wonder if we could persuade the hordes of differently realitied that there's a vaccine against 5G and watch their heads explode.

            1. Patched Out
              Trollface

              Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

              Just tell them that high levels of lead in their blood stream will help alleviate the long term effects of exposure to 5G frequencies.

            2. AK565

              Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

              "Differently realitied" ... I am SO stealing that!

              I'm forever searching for politically correct ways to convey concepts like "reality denial", "delusional", etc.

              Thank you :-)

              1. Louis Schreurs

                Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

                It got global importance since Trump.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

            "... really about their general ignorance."

            And after General Ignorance, we inevitably have a Major Cockup, which in turn leads to Private Grief.

          3. ColonelDare

            Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

            I mentioned my friend's views on vaccines (!) to my daughter who is a research nurse at a prestigious UK hospital and she earnestly told me:

            "But the statistics clearly show that people who have been vaccinated are more likely to get Alzheimer's."

            [Long pause]

            "Because they didn't die from Cholera, Diphtheria, Hepatitis. Malaria, Measles, Polio, Rabies, Tuberculosis......."

            1. ArrZarr Silver badge

              Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

              Have her look at the injury figures shortly after helmets were issues to British troops in WW1, same point but much more visceral.

              1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

                Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

                Have her look at the injury figures shortly after helmets were issues to British troops in WW1, same point but much more visceral.

                I don't think the viscera were involved. Very valid point though.

                1. Ivan Headache

                  Ah viscera

                  We had some of that growing up our wall.

                  Lovely flowers.

            2. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

              ColonelDare, your research nurse made me chuckle a lot.

            3. LongtimeLurkerNewbieCommentard

              Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

              As a former medical student who smoked, the long-running joke / jibe from the lecturers was that smoking had a demonstrable protective effect against Alzheimer's. I'm such a fuckwit that i didn't get the joke until years later...

            4. BuckeyeB

              Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

              Correlation is not causation. :)

              And she has a point.

          4. Cynic_999 Silver badge

            Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

            "

            Visible light at the pointy end is dangerous, I know several people who have had lumps removed just in time.

            "

            I suspect that the lumps were caused by EM radiation of a slightly shorter wavelength than the visible spectrum.

            1. Benson's Cycle

              Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

              Imprecision in my post yes, but 290-320nm is not that far from the visible range.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

                I just can't see where you are going with this

          5. finlaythethinker

            Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

            This may help you to become a shepherd instead of one of the brainwashed sheep you make reference to:

            https://www.emfacts.com/2018/08/martin-palls-book-on-5g-is-available-online/

            1. phuzz Silver badge

              Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

              Wow, what big words he uses, he must know what he's talking about!

        3. boltar Silver badge

          Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

          "They just don't realise that visible light is way closer to the pointy end of the spectrum than 5G waves."

          Thats all well and good , but would you rather try and heat your ready meal using an LED bulb or a 2.4Ghz magnetron? The point being - just because something is lower frequency doesn't mean its safer.

          1. Benson's Cycle

            Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

            Would you point a blowtorch at your eye? Because that's comparable to getting hit by the output of a microwave oven magnetron.

            These people are not fussing about either hundreds of watts per square decimetre or even milliwatts per square millimetre (small lasers). They are fussing about phones which will typically radiate less power than existing ones (smaller cells, inverse square law) and masts where the field strength is a fraction of a volt per metre at ground level.

            Taking extreme corner cases doesn't justify them.

            1. boltar Silver badge

              Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

              "Would you point a blowtorch at your eye? Because that's comparable to getting hit by the output of a microwave oven magnetron."

              800W of pure visible light won't do very much unless you point it at something pitch black. My point still stands - ie EM frequency is a poor guide to what effect it will have on something so saying because 5G won't do any harm because it uses a lower frequency than [insert here] is a dumb argument.

              As for radiating power - inverse square law. Put it to your ear and your cells right next to the antenna are getting a relatively high dose. Now I dont know if that matters but dismissing it out of hand helps no one.

              1. Benson's Cycle

                Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

                "ie EM frequency is a poor guide to what effect it will have on something"

                EM frequency is an extremely important guide to what effect it will have on things.

                Its physiological effect depends on both frequency and absorbed energy yes. But unless you have special equipment - like chlorophyll or rods and cones - the effect will only be thermal unless the wavelength is short enough to be ionising. The thermal effect of a mobile phone stuck next to your ear is comparable to wearing a hat with ear flaps.

                Ah - perhaps we can start a "ushankas cause cancer" scare.

                I'm not dismissing EM risks out of hand, I had to spend quite a lot of time learning about the behaviour of radiation.

                As an example of the utter cluelessness of the "radiation is bad" freaks, consider the ones who objected to mobile phone masts near schools. The mast radiation at ground level is insignificant. But putting the mast near the school means that the energy radiated by the phones actually near your ear will be lower.

                I'd like to say it's about as scientific as phrenology, but the phrenology people at least had an idea worth investigating (that different parts of the brain might have different functions and size was important) and actually did some research.

                1. boltar Silver badge

                  Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

                  " the effect will only be thermal unless the wavelength is short enough to be ionising."

                  Not entirely. Very high RF field strengths can induce current flow regardless of frequency. Now it may only be a small current in living tissue but would you want to bet that it has zero long term affect?

                  1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                    Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

                    "Very high RF field strengths can induce current flow regardless of frequency. Now it may only be a small current in living tissue but would you want to bet that it has zero long term affect?"

                    Electric blankets have been in existence for over a century and sleeping on/under one puts the sleeper well inside the near field of the wire.

                    If there was such a problem it'd be statistically obvious by now.

              2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

                "800W of pure visible light won't do very much unless you point it at something pitch black."

                If you believe that then you're more than welcome to stand in front of it.

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
              Thumb Up

              Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

              "hundreds of watts per square decimetre"

              Upvoted for decimetre, a sorely underused word.

              1. Benson's Cycle

                Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

                The square decimetre is a very handy human-sized unit, and is the area of the face of a cube of volume one litre. It's an accident of the origin of the kilogramme.

                The decimetre itself isn't much use for anything.

      2. WhoAmI?

        Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

        Maxwell's Silver Hammer. I got that reference.

        1. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

          We had a primary teacher when I was about 8 or 9 who taught us Maxwell's Silver Hammer as well as more wholesome stuff such as Little Boxes and Blowing In The Wind. It was the '70s.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Jim Mitchell

          Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

          Honestly, I like that song, but have no idea why.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

            Because you are quizzical and studied metaphysical science.

            1. ActionBeard
              Holmes

              Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

              Pataphysical, I believe.

              https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2005/dec/09/8

      3. Barry Rueger

        Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

        In western Canada they couldn't convince politicians that cel radiation was dangerous enough to kill people , so they switched tactics and started claiming that they they had to be accommodated because they had a psychological condition that caused them extreme stress because they believed they were being harmed by WIFI and cel emanations.

        Who needs a century of RF research and experience?

      4. EGeee

        Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

        Anye fule knowe you can only slice Maxwell's fruitcake with a colloidal silver hammer.

    2. JJKing Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

      Is your friend a Chemtrail (Dihydrogen Monoxide) believer as well?

      1. keith_w

        Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

        hey, people die from inhalation of Dihydrogen Monoxide - we need to regulate it's use - and did you know that there are people on this forum, yes, this very forum who are addicted to Dihydrogen Monoxide - and that they will die in c. 3 days if they don't get any?

        1. Sven Coenye
          Coat

          Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

          I know I have problem. But I'm working on it. I have been diluting mine with ethanol. I'm now down to only 55% dihydrogen monoxide.

          Mine's the one with the flask in the pocket...

        2. OssianScotland Silver badge

          Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

          But what about Hydrogen Hydroxide?

      2. FozzyBear Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

        Well he is now. I have a mate, well, he turns up to many of the BBQ's I'm invited to. He's the guy that will spew out the latest conspiracy theory trolling around the internet. Moon landings, Anti-vax, 9/11, the port arthur shootings, etc, etc,etc. Normally we either avoid long conversations with him, or suddenly change the subject. depending on the level of buzz you have going, sometimes it's fun to wind him up

        Last weekend i flatly told him, after yet another lecture on the dangers of vaccinations, that I would be more worried about the levels of Dihydrogen Monoxide in No Sugar soda drinks. Another mate,a chemist, gave me a quizzical look, understood, then led the charge. Kept him quiet for the rest of the afternoon whilst he was googling " The dangers of Dihydrogen Monoxide".

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

          If I knew someone like that I would give him hundreds of things to worry about.

          Anything to stop them annoying me.

          The flocks of killer penguins slowly working their way north (show clip of BBC documentry with flying ones).

          Ask him if he was a trichromate, wait.

          When he comes back ask him what colour a tretrachromate sees which a trichromate doesn't. (Mess up their mind).

          Our current work windup is getting a bitcoin miner to compare his electric bill to his winnings, and he still thinks he makes a profit despite a £100 a month electric bill and £20 to £30 winnings.

      3. M.V. Lipvig

        Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

        Dihydrogen Monoxide? I LOVE that stuff! I'm sitting here now with a glass from my own private stock. Best of all, it goes with both red and white meat, unlike wine.

    3. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

      I read a story on stuff.co.nz about two women living on Waiheke island near Auckland who are convinced they are affected by EMF's one is a neuroscientist who doesn't sound very scientific to me. Her thumb hurt while pressing her car keyring button, so it must have been the EMF's, can't have been tendinitis or arthritis. She just jumped to one conclusion.

      Careful, blinded experiments with people who claim to be electrosensitive have found they cannot tell if equipment is on or not.

      My wife also helped administer the big epidemiology study here in the UK which looked at EMF's and cancer and found no detectable risks.

      Cancer rates may be rising but that is because we are living longer and many are unhealthy in various ways. Being obese for eg raises your risk because it causes an increase in IGF-1 production which produces chronic inflammation which is a risk factor.

      People looking for environmental bogeythings need to remember there are many more prosaic things to rule out first.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

        I got very paranoid about my health once (happens often to new parents) and I found myself in the doctor with scary abdominal pains, getting blood tests.

        In the end it turned out I needed a new office chair.

        1. Barry Rueger

          Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

          Office chair? I relieved a nagging back ache by taking my wallet out of my right-hand back pocket while driving.

          Either that, or turning off the bluetooth on my phone....

          1. keith_w
            Coat

            Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

            I now carry my wallet either in my jacket or my front pocket if not wearing a jacket because it's a pain in the sacroiliac to carry it in my back pocket.

            Icon for obvious reasons.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

        "Careful, blinded experiments with people who claim to be electrosensitive have found they cannot tell if equipment is on or not."

        Yup. Back when I was a RF guy we'd get complaints flooding in within days of antennas being erected - usually weeks before cabling was run to the building that was going to house any equipment, let alone equipment being installed.

        If you _REALLY_ want to wind people up, bolt 1.5 metre microwave surveying dishes on the back of a pair of trailered cherrypickers and drive around town with them, telling anyone who asks that it's the latest TV detector setup and they can triangulate unlicensed sets to within 5cm from 5 miles away.

    4. Swarthy Silver badge

      Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

      Harry's health shouldn't be too bad, aside from age. But it would only be polite to ask after the health of his daughters. (Of all the radar techs I have known, none of them ever had sons while they were working on radar).

      1. Puuru

        Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

        Not a radar tech., but spent ages on the lab bench designing microwave stuff, everywhere from C-Band to J-Band. Open waveguide? Of course. However, I have no daughters, but my 3 sons were conceived during that time, so that one doesn't hold water. Still got good eyesight, too.

        As for a mere 200 mW peak setting off flash cubes - garn, don't believe it!

    5. M.V. Lipvig
      Headmaster

      Re: Can this inform the 5G debate?

      Yup, it's the power. Running a 5G phone signal through the transmitter of one of those crowd control jobbies would probably allow the call to reach the Moon, while the handset needs to be within 10 miles or so of the tower. /pedant, because this is a calculated guess, not a calculated answer.

  4. Richard Jones 1
    WTF?

    You Can Never Be Certain - Or Frying Tonight?

    Many years ago I was working 'overseas' and a new power station was due to come on stream connected to the main island via a causeway with a wide double carriageway. As we also had an interest in cables the main consultants for the power station job were asked what effect the new station might have.

    It took quite a long time to get an answer. However, when it came it was slightly disturbing. Under the most adverse, but fully predictable conditions our plant could expect to face a pulse of 66,000 volts. Remember that this was not something designed to transmit power via the air.

    1. Contrex

      Re: You Can Never Be Certain - Or Frying Tonight?

      I don't think that actually means anything.

  5. Chris G Silver badge

    2.5MW

    Sounds a little high for airborne radar but clarification would be interesting.

    1. hammarbtyp Silver badge

      Re: 2.5MW

      Does sound a tad high ... I would be surprised if it got above 1 MW, more likely 750KW

      1. STOP_FORTH
        Boffin

        Re: 2.5MW

        Radar systems do not transmit equal power in all directions, they usually sweep or scan don't they? This value is probably the isotropic equivalent power.

        Mind you the navy did have some pretty beefy radar systems. Some of the older types could light up Yankee stealth aircraft, much to their annoyance. The US assumed everybody would be using "modern" radar. (See Arthur C Clarke's famous short story "Superiority") These were not aircraft mounted, however.

        1. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Re: 2.5MW

          I wonder if that was how the Iranians managed to detect and target that drone they shot down recently which was 'stealthed' as I understand it.

          Iran is the sort of place which may well have old and new sorts of radar kicking about and kept going by local ingenuity.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: 2.5MW

            Stealth, as in F117 type stealth, was overcome years ago.

            1. phuzz Silver badge

              Re: 2.5MW

              There's a bunch of qualifiers to that though.

              Firstly, the USAF had got sloppy, and were flying missions using the same routes night after night, so the Yugoslav's had a good idea of where and when the aircraft might show up. Spies outside the airbase helped.

              Secondly, 'stealth doesn't mean invisible, it just means hard to see. Typically a stealthy aircraft will be designed to be most difficult to detect from certain directions, and by certain frequencies of radar. Outside of this, if the aircraft is at the wrong angle to the radar, or the radar is using a much more powerful beam, or at an unusual frequency or for some other reason (eg if the aircraft has it's bomb bay open as with the F117 shoot-down), then it might well be detectable enough to shoot at.

              Don't forget that most ground to air missiles are designed with a proximity fuse, and rely on just being close enough that part of the explosion will damage the target (think more shotgun than rifle).

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: 2.5MW

                "if the aircraft has it's bomb bay open"

                Or it's wet (which was also the case) - stealth is primarily a fair weather technology as sheeting water (conductive) on the outside of the aircraft starts messing up all the lovely optimised surfaces.

                Even flying through a nice fluffy cumulus is reputed to pick up enough moisture to seriously affect the radar signature of low-reflectivity designs.

                WRT "stealthy from certain angles" - right on. The F35 is only designed for stealth on a 35 degree cone from the nose boresight. It's not particularly stealthy from other angles, which is a problem if air defenses and ground communications are working in the areas being flown over (think: radar tracking from behind, directing missiles launched from in front). This is because it was _originally_ designed as a ground support aircraft: only going in once the F22 had eliminated all the airborne and ground-based threats to aircraft (selling it as an air superiority fighter is somewhat overegging the pudding. It might work when firing missiles from 20 miles away but the moment the opponent sees it, it's game over)

          2. Holtsmark

            Re: 2.5MW

            The Triton (Maritime Global Hawk) is not a stealthy aircraft designed to operate in wartime conditions.

            Seeing that it was operating in (or above) civilian airspace, and that there was (up to the last second) no shooting war going on, it is not unlikely that the transponder was switched on as well.

          3. Dave Hilling

            Re: 2.5MW

            Global Hawks and the variants are not stealth as someone said before, 2nd Stealth has several different types, none make any aircraft invisible they just shorten the effective detection range. Smaller planes are focused on stealth in the range of radars that provide fire control solutions to missiles often you may pick it up but cannot maintain a good lock required for fire control radars. Larger aircraft IE the B-2 is broadband stealth designed to defeat both fire control and and lower frequency search radars. If stealth was totally useless why are all major nations persuing it? The goal is to get close enough to the target that SAMs cant get a good fire solution even if they briefly see you, and hopefully by that point your well within your weapons delivery range and already destroying the intended target.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: 2.5MW

              There is no such thing as "stealth" aircraft if you are thinking of a device like a scifi cloaking device.

              What you have is the ability to build a structure that deflects 95% of the radar energy away from bouncing back to the receiver to lower the radar cross section, and therefore an aircraft can't easily be detected at long range by "clever" radar systems. "clever" radar systems tend to give a nice neat display by filtering the information from the operator. Tiny radar returns like birds aren't displayed to make reading the display easy.

              The aim of the stealth aircraft is to be squelched from the display because they look like birds and the radar return is to small.

              "Stupid" radar systems like the early British chain home style WW2 style radars just displayed utterly raw information and the operator figured it all out from the display. About the best a "stealth" aircraft can do against systems like these is get somewhat closer before the operator is certain he's looking at an aircraft.

              Future "clever" radars designed by people with computers available to do lots of processing work on the radar input may well go "oh look, a pigeon traveling at Mach 2? hey, maybe pigeons don't fly that fast...." and display "Pigeon doing Mach 2: possible stealth aircraft?" on the screen instead of just squelching the radar return based on it's size.

              That means that you might only be detected by a radar at 50-75% of it's usual detection range, which might let you pick a path between radars without getting detected.

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: 2.5MW

              "If stealth was totally useless why are all major nations persuing it?"

              The question isn't why they're pursuing it, it's how much they're spending in doing so (not much) and what level of committment they're giving to it vs other forms of aircraft (not much, it's just experimental)

              Superiority might have been a SF story, but in large part it was based on Nazi vs USA approaches to WW2.

              The difference these days is that the overcomplex tinker toys belong to the USA and whilst other countries are playing around with stealthy shapes they haven't committed virtually their entire aviation R&D budget and purchase committments to such aircraft nor are they hiding vast amounts of GDP overspend into military budgets at cost of investment in education, basic infrastructure and public health.

              1. Dave Hilling

                Re: 2.5MW

                While you comment isnt completely without merit, the US already uses most of its budget on social services like medicare, medicaid, and unemployment. Even education gets more than the military. https://images.app.goo.gl/MpcB3XGJskTMKF4t7

            3. M.V. Lipvig

              Re: 2.5MW

              If stealth was totally useless why are all major nations persuing(sic) it?"

              I think that what people forget is that weapon superiority is a journey, not a destination. There will always be undetectable aircraft, and there will always be systems to detect them. And around it goes. The club made from a broken tree branch was once state of the art in warfare, and you just know there were people saying "That's just a tree branch, it's no comparison to my ROCK!"

    2. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: 2.5MW

      According to the Imperial War Museum, peak power was up to at least 2 MW for later models:

      https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30005815

      1. /dev/null

        Re: 2.5MW

        What the IWM page doesn't tell you is that the AN/APS-20 radars (developed during WW2) were passed on in British service from Skyraider to Gannet to Shackleton, and were still being used right up to the retirement of the Shackleton AEW.2 in 1991!

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: 2.5MW

          If it ain't broke...

          1. ibmalone Silver badge

            Re: 2.5MW

            If it ain't broke...

            Use it to melt steel?

    3. EveryTime

      Re: 2.5MW

      It's peak pulsed power -- the power during a very brief 'ping', with lots of time between between the encoded pulses. Pretty much like a strobe light, with (much) shorter pulses.

    4. Jwdb

      Re: 2.5MW

      There's a series of aviation primary radars used for en-route tracking (so, long-distance, not just airport approach) that apparently have a rated peak power of > 2.5 MW. Think there's one on Belgium of this type although I can't recall what the power rating was. I do recall it being high, however.

      Wikipedia page (in German): https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/SRE-M

  6. JerseyDaveC

    And was it a deliberate pun?

    I'm surely not the only one who smiled to read about a documentary on an aircraft carrier getting "good ratings" ...

    :-)

    1. David Harper 1

      Re: And was it a deliberate pun?

      And he had the good taste not to stoop to the old "full of seamen" joke.

      1. JJKing Silver badge

        Re: And was it a deliberate pun?

        Let's leave the camels out of this one.

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: And was it a deliberate pun?

        And he had the good taste not to stoop to the old "full of seamen" joke.

        All over the poop deck.

  7. horsham_sparky
    Boffin

    dubious

    "Now a couple of mW may not sound much, but the peak power he (and his flash cubes) were subjected to was closer to 200mW… easily capable of firing a flash cube by irradiation."

    Hmmm, I suspect they would needed to have taken off the dummy load to cause that effect, or the dummy load was much less than 70dB.. 200mW is a little bit less than what your smart phone puts out. CB radio's of the day put out around 5W.. and you don't hear any stories of anyone setting off flashbulbs in those days with CB radios.

    Also remember that the CB radios might have been used in close proximity to the bulbs, probably less than a meter away, whereas the radar would likely to have been 10m or more (power reduces with distance to the inverse square law, which is why you need 2.5MW for long range search.. 10m would have been at least another 30dB to 40dB of attentuation depending on the efficiency of the transmit antenna and the receive "antenna")

    Alright, I know the wavelength is longer on the radios and will couple less power into small circuits like the flashbulbs, but the difference is around 20dB, so the figures still don't stack up

    Either the figures are misleading, or they didn't have the dummy load fitted, or its another sea story.

    Disclosure, I frequently consult providing clients advice on Electromagnetic Compliance (EMC), so should in theory know what I'm talking about :-p

    1. Benson's Cycle

      Re: dubious

      I agree. I suspect that either (a) he didn't want to admit to having removed the dummy load or (b) the dummy load simply arced over at the peak power and ceased to attenuate.

      At school I was allowed to play with the klystrons, and a few watts can light up a small bulb at a metre or so with a tuned dipole.

    2. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: dubious

      10m would have been at least another 30dB to 40dB of attentuation depending on the efficiency of the transmit antenna and the receive "antenna"

      Agreed; whilst it all makes for a good anecdote it still sounds a bit suspect. Firstly a dummy load is not intended to radiate (OK; they always do even if it's only very slightly) so the normal aerial should not have been in circuit. If, however, it was an attenuator then having the aerial connected and functional would make perfect sense.

      As stated by "horsham_sparky" there would be substantial path loss between aerial and "target" so the ignition of the flash bulbs as described sounds highly "dubious".

      Enquiring minds would like to know, and all that...

      1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: dubious

        Agreed. Dummy loads tend to have a specification of impedance and wattage. Attenuators have attenuation (and power etc). So I suspect it was an attenuator inline with the radar head rather than a dummy load replacing it.

        Makes sense too as that would give a functional, albeit short range, radar for their testing. And cranking up the power briefly for such a prank is perfectly feasible (just not for too long or your attenuator will overheat)

        1. EveryTime

          Re: dubious

          It likely had a highly directional ("high gain") antenna. It could well have been focused enough to trigger a flash cube or flash bulb even with very modest power on the other side of the attenuator.

          As for the difference between an attenuator and a dummy load, a 70 dB attenuator with a cap on the output would make for a quite good dummy load. So it was likely that one device was used for both purposes.

          I wasn't able to find a reference for the field strength necessary to trigger a flash bulb. Presumably some sailors had discovered the effect accidentally, and passed down the knowledge for just this type of opportunity.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: dubious

        > there would be substantial path loss between aerial and "target"

        The distances involved were never stated but the area in question wasn't particularly large (Ark Royal wasn't a large carrier). I wouldn't be surprised if the cameraman in question was more or less standing 1-2 meters in front of the nosecone - and I'd be even less surprised if the dummy load _was_ an inline attentuator as this is more or less standard for the kinds of frequencies in question (usually our telco ones would have a suitable small load attached, but the end might have another 30dB attenuator and probe on it instead - that makes attaching the pointy end trivial (and probably normal for calibration purposes without frying staff)

    3. Robert Moore
      Pint

      Re: dubious

      Interesting video on the guts of a navy dummy load.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUx7cXoXiaI

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: dubious

        That's a HF one - as evidenced by the connector - relatively low power - and can't be any good for more than about 10-15MHz.

        It wouldn't last long attached to the output of one of THESE: http://maritimeradio.org/himatangi-makara/himatangi-radio/harris-collins-1_1200/ (I spent quite a bit of time in the back of the left hand unit (#118) in 1989-90 keeping it running long past its use-by date)

        Scarily, all four of the pictured units were originally intended as ship transmitters, not for shore use. (Even more scary was the fully operational 100kW late 1940s era transmitter opposite them.)

    4. G_Axelsson
      Flame

      How about arcing?

      HF waves directed into a mixture of bundled up metal wires in a pure oxygen atmosphere... I would not be surprised if there were a spark between two wires or a standing wave in a suitable formed wire segment. If you only get one small spark then it might be enough for the fire to start and then it's all downhill from there.

  8. OlaM

    Series on YoutTube

    Watch the entire series here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSL7-2-Xjhs&list=PLbN57e2LayhN_3JAboX-afK0WRoCoDZ0E It's pretty good actually! At least viewed by non-pros from far into the future. One of many highlights, a reprimand for drunkenness turns serious once the sailor admits it wasn't only cider he was drinking, but scrumpy cider.

  9. sitta_europea Bronze badge

    Now that is just the sort of thing that's _supposed_ to go on in the Navy. Salut.

  10. WibbleMe

    There is an ex Falklands vet that runs a pub in Shropshire, on a misty day he was set up a hill to fix something getting lost since there were no roads he parked up and had his lunch, about half an hour later there was a very angry RA officer at his window wanting to know what the bloody hell he was doing. He had accidentally parked right in front of a listening post/radar and had not only scrambled sensor readings but had irradiated, a bit like a microwave. He lived but now has slightly crispy skin.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Why would a station be broadcasting at power high enough to cause damage to people parking up in a public area?

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        You know about the section of Autobahn which ended up having to be enclosed in Faraday screening don't you?

    2. swm Bronze badge

      There was a tow truck operator near a military base who made money towing cars that got too close to a radar set which scrambled the cars electronic ignition system. His truck had a carburetor with no electronics and his truck was unaffected by the radar.

  11. seven of five

    Aircraft mechanics - so pilots can be heroes, too

    see title. And do not annoy them :)

  12. Alien8n Silver badge

    I'll have to enquire about the validity of this one, my uncle served on the Ark Royal in the 70s, before serving on the Uganda during the Falklands War (he was a navy medic, burns specialist.)

    1. dak

      Well, well, I was on the Uganda, too!!

      (School cruise, Baltic, 1975).

      1. Alien8n Silver badge

        lol, not quite the same as when it was commandeered as a navy support vessel. The sights on that ship during the Falklands gave the medics nightmares for years.

        1. dak

          You weren't at our school, were you?

          1. Alien8n Silver badge

            I doubt it, as I said above my uncle was a Royal Navy medical officer.

            In between the Ark Royal and the Uganda I believe he was Chief Petty Officer on the Invincible. I have a beer mat from the Invincible's officer's bar.

      2. Allonymous Coward
        Coat

        Excellent, a Ugandan discussion thread.

        OK, I'll get it.

  13. Thunderpants

    I was always facinated by the Gannet as a kid, probably because of the prop arrangement up front. I never had a concept though of how big they are though until I stood next to one at an air museum recently. Massive things!

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      Agreed

      Massive things!

      Agreed - nothing Fairey about the Gannet...

    2. Spanners Silver badge
      Happy

      @Thunderpants

      I remember being close to one at an air show. The are humongously noisy!

    3. OssianScotland Silver badge
      Joke

      Fairey Gannet

      And a definite contender for "so ugly, they fly by repelling the ground"

  14. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Concrete Tornado

    I was at college with Ferranti apprentices who told me this story - I admit it may be fictional but it's not my fiction, they believed it and it seems credible to me. The nose-cone of the Tornado was meant to house a Ferranti radar but they mucked up metric and imperial and had to house it in the back of the aircraft. To balance it out they had to put some concrete in the nose-cone.

    It amuses me that state of the art aircraft were flying around with concrete ballast due to a measuring error. I find that credible because similar mistakes were made in my company.

    1. Jonathon Green

      Re: Concrete Tornado

      Contemporary hearsay had it that the dummy radar had it’s own unofficial rainbow code[1], generally being referred to by those in the know as Blue Circle...

      [1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Rainbow_Codes

      1. dak

        Re: Concrete Tornado

        The code name was true. I worked at Ferranti in Edinburgh in 1981, helping out with developing the ground-mapping radar. All of the Ferranti internal project names began with the word Blue - "Blue Parrot", "Blue Tit", etc although the latter was always known as "Frigid Nipple" for obvious reasons.

        The Tornadoes were known locally as the Blue Circle Airline (Portland Cement's trademark, in case anyone didn't know).

        It wasn't a mix-up over sizes, though, just that the radar development lagged the airframe development, and having seen a Texas Instruments engineer wielding a sledge hammer during the project I think I know why.

    2. Allonymous Coward

      Re: Concrete Tornado

      I believe the "lump of concrete in the front" story is correct, but the reason was development delays of the radar system rather than metric/imperial mixup. Still funny though, and entirely believable if you've ever worked with Govt/MoD on anything.

    3. David Neil

      Re: Concrete Tornado

      Was it not that the radar was still being developed and they had to add ballast up front to keep it trimmed?

    4. ridley

      Re: Concrete Tornado

      I believe the concrete was put I to the nose because the radar was not ready for quite some time.

      1. Danny 2 Silver badge

        Re: Concrete Tornado

        Thanks to Jonathon Green, Allonymous Coward, David Neil, and ridley for both the confirmation and the correction to my second hand story.

        At college in the late eighties my Ferranti classmates were still being made to learn about valves (valve amplifiers) which they still claimed were superior to transistors. Ferranti even tried to get it made part of the curriculum, though our employers insisted on microprocessor coding.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Concrete Tornado

          Vacuum tubes / valves are superior to solid state if you are a guitarist and haven't yet discovered the latest modelling tech :)

          They are also more resistant to EMP compared to transistors and IC.

          So I expect to hear Slash playing on through any nuclear attack.

          1. swm Bronze badge

            Re: Concrete Tornado

            Actually the solid state amplifiers are superior (except for EMP resistance). The trouble with the solid state amplifiers is that they are nearly perfect until they are overloaded by a peak and then they just cleanly truncate the peak. Tube amplifiers, on the other hand, round off the corners of an overloaded peak making the tube amplifiers sound better. You need a lot of head room in a solid state amplifier to avoid this problem. Or you could use a circuit that rounds off the corners.

        2. Jonathon Green

          Re: Concrete Tornado

          At the frequencies and outputs Ferranti were used to dealing with they may have had a point, my understanding is that it took a long time for solid state electronics to catch up with vacuum tubes for high (kilowatts) power, and high (gigahertz) frequency applications.

          And as at least one other poster has suggested, there’s really no substitute for a quartet of gently simmering EL34s to funnel your guitar licks through... :-)

          1. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: Concrete Tornado

            kt88s! ISTR an amp with 16 of those in. I reckon that could have ignited the flash bulbs acoustically.

          2. EveryTime

            Re: Concrete Tornado

            Tubes do (did) have an advantage for high power applications. It's easy and barely more expensive to make a giant tube. The materials are all fairly inexpensive (especially the vacuum), easy to fabricate, and the scaling works out nicely for cooling.

            Tubes are tremendously disadvantaged for high frequency use. Their physical size results in high capacitance and inductance. There are clever work-arounds for some of the design challenges, but the horrible early transistors quickly displaced the best tubes for high frequency designs.

            1. whitepines Silver badge

              Re: Concrete Tornado

              Tubes are tremendously disadvantaged for high frequency use. Their physical size results in high capacitance and inductance.

              Normal silicon devices have a far higher output capacitance than a tube, especially at high voltage and high power given the tradeoffs involved to make silicon function semi-reliably at those voltages / powers. For quite a while, tubes were in fact the best technology for very high power, high speed applications -- in fact they still are for some applications, look no further than the humble magnetron. Where semiconductors are made to work despite the inherent problems for high RF work, it's often at a much larger power loss inside the device than would otherwise be tolerated.

              Not saying that tubes are de facto better, but it's taken a LONG time to get here. Even now, the silicon devices are more fragile than the old tubes against somewhat common events such as lightning. Where silicon starts to have advantages despite these problems is in resistance to vibration, longer average service life (despite the possibility of EMP / lightning / overstress damage), and of course lighter weight / lower bulk.

              Terrestrial transmitters still tend to use tubes. There's a reason for this, somewhat like smaller terrestrial power plants tend to use diesel engines but aircraft do not (power / weight ratio).

              1. Citizen99

                Re: Concrete Tornado

                I remember building a kit radio that used small 'acorn' tubes/valves - a configuration designed to minimise stray inductance.

            2. Jonathon Green

              Re: Concrete Tornado

              I’m thinking of things like Klystrons and the various Travelling Wave variants here - they work at crazy frequencies and power levels...

          3. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Concrete Tornado

            "It took a long time for solid state electronics to catch up with vacuum tubes for high (kilowatts) power, and high (gigahertz) frequency applications."

            More or less, it took FETs to catch up - which isn't surprising considering their principles of operation are broadly similar, whilst junction transistors are playing with quantum mechanics and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle (which is why they're noisy, you're hearing quantum variations as things jump the junction)

            Mind you, one of the reasons that tubes _could_ operate at such high powers/frequencies was simply that their size and heat meant they were easier to cool despite being inefficient as hell(*). After all, all you really had to do was prevent them getting so hot the vacuum could be breached (softened glass or metal), vs keeping FETs under 100C or so.

            (*) One of my lecturers used to regale us with stories of UK TV broadcast sites (powered by klystron-fed transmitters) which radiated so much waste heat that the end of the nights broadcast was the signal for folk in a nearby caravan park to put on shirts and go to bed - even in early winter.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Concrete Tornado

          Ahhh, Ferranti ! I did a work placement in the late 80s at Ferranti in Belshill. They produced ATE for something on Jaguars. The current model at that time was a huge double wardrobe of a computer with a CPU built from logic gates, and real, actual core memory at the top. They were in the middle of a project to update it to a new model based on a bit-slice CPU design, all with a fraction of the power of a contemporary £100 mircoprocessor. I suppose it was all to do with backwards compatibility with the double wardrobe, but I suspect someone smarter than me could have written an emulator on a z80 and it would have been faster than the bit-slice thing, and a fraction of the cost. 3 months there put me off the idea of working on anything in defence for life.

    5. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Concrete Tornado

      More likely just not ready so they put concrete in to balance the airframe

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Concrete Tornado

      What d'you think the dummy radars were made from????

    7. aj68

      Re: Concrete Tornado

      Yes, the early Tornado Air Defence Variant (F2) aircraft did fly with concrete ballast in the nose as the Marconi radar just wasn't ready, and the aircraft could not have flown without that weight to balance it. There was no measurement error and it could never be stored in the rear of the aircraft. It did mean the "Blue Circle" joke was very funny for those people familiar with how code word projects were assigned at the time.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Concrete Tornado

        Yes, it would be pointless housing the Foxhunter at the back of an aircraft given its purpose.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Concrete Tornado

      yup...its true ;-)

    9. JohnG

      Re: Concrete Tornado

      Ferranti made their parts for the Tornado nose cone radar but GEC were late with their parts of the same system. As a result, some early Tornados flew with a chunk of ballast, instead of a nose cone radar. Some radars of that period had names like Blue Parrot and Blue Fox, so some decided to name the Tornado radar ballast as Blue Circle (after the cement) and joked that this radar had a more consistent performance than others. However, the ballast was actually made of lead.

  15. steviebuk Silver badge

    Very nice

    Bully cocks or just simple cocks need to be shown a lesson, especially arrogant cocks.

  16. Sequin

    My brother also served on the Ark Royal at that time and has told me many stories, most way too horrific/disgusting to tell here!

    He did tell me of his experience being chased down a suburban Florida street by an angry, gun-toting husband of a woman who had taken the local radio station's exhortation to show the visiting Royal Navy sailors how good the local hospitality wa while they were on shore leave.

  17. Jim Oase

    Neon bulbs ... can be lit

    I spent a bit of time on US carriers. We did on occassion fire off air to ground search radar while sitting on the flight deck and then have someone carrying a neon bulb walk past people standing around. That usually got a lot of attention.

  18. Agincourt and Crecy!
    Mushroom

    All sounds very plausible...

    The square flash cubes that rotated were called Magicubes. They didn’t use an electric current to fire, there was a spring under each bulb and the camera could push the spring up with a little lever released with the shutter. Once the spring was pushed up it released and struck a small igniter in the bulb. This acted like a cap in a cap gun and ignited due to the shock and this in turn ignited the metal in the bulb.

    I can’t see how the radar would cause the ignition with this type of flash bulb.

    1. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: All sounds very plausible...

      The ones I took apart were piezoelectric. The wire hammer was held under tension by a peg. When you operated the shutter a small plastic spade was pushed into the slot, forcing the wire hammer off its peg. It in turn swung hard against the center post of the bulb, generating the electricity needed to fire the cube.

      A dismantled one once gave a friend a nice belt when he was playing with it.

      For a while some stage magicians used them in conjunction with a hand-held gaff (bit of bent metal) as "invisible cameras".

    2. Lotaresco

      Re: All sounds very plausible...

      "The square flash cubes that rotated were called Magicubes. They didn’t use an electric current to fire"

      There were two types of flash cube, electrical and mechanical fired. The mechanical ones were the later version. Here's a photo of a Westinghouse pack of flashcubes that were electrically fired. Note that they are marked "Use with battery operated cameras".

  19. js.lanshark

    Flinging *what* off of carriers?

    When was the last time anyone actually launched an F-4 off of a flight deck?

    1. Lotaresco

      Re: Flinging *what* off of carriers?

      "When was the last time anyone actually launched an F-4 off of a flight deck?"

      1996

  20. Mark 15

    Thank you

    Thank you for your service.

  21. Louis Schreurs

    B4 reading the comments;

    This must be a satisfying comment section after that satisfying story that an acquintenance of me seems to have heard told that story first hand frome someone in the art-scene.

  22. Medical Cynic

    Don't mess with Jack!

  23. AlbertH

    Remember...

    Microwaves frizz your heirs!

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