LONDON—A friend of mine once said that the trouble with aviation was that it hadn’t killed enough people. He wasn’t just being coldblooded, he was right. Every man killed in an aviation experiment in the last 20 years has saved countless lives since.
That is why you mustn’t be shocked when I say that thousands of men—and women—will be killed in the development of the rocket as a practical mode of transport. It is inevitable.
Of course this newest means of travel is dangerous!
So were airplanes, originally. Automobiles still cause more casualties than minor wars. Even bicycles have killed hundreds.
Using the V-2 principle, we can go straight up 3,000 miles. It’s not economical, but neither were trains at first. Eventually we’ll develop that level of flight until it is economical for long-range hops—say from I/mdon to Toronto. If you’re thinking of making the trip yourself, I advise against the first few bights. Even the first 100. The transport rocket will be inefficient in its early stage and largely uncertain.
Still, if time means money and you’re willing to take a chance, think of this: you’d leave Ismdon at 10 a.m. and—forgetting the clock variation—arrive in Toronto for an early lunch.
I’m not exaggerating; and you can’t afford to scoff!
In the last war I patented an anti-aircraft rocket. The experts laughed at it. But, that device was the forerunner of the V-l and the V-2. You can’t find n Londoner who will haw-haw at then).
In warfare the V-2 is only beginning. Developed further, it will outclass all guns. It will bring an army within range at hundreds, maybe thousands of miles. And it will be accurate.
Take the Navy. A small torpedo destroyer will carry the armament of a super battleship. There’ll be no gun and no recoil—but the destructive poweryY will be tremendous. The V-2 is only a baby now—but \ watch it grow.
Won’t Come in a Day
OF COURSE development of the rocket for passenger transport is a long-term job. If we’re going to conquer distance and time—and we are, don’t doubt that!—we’ll have to work at it patiently until it’s safe and practical. The technical angle isn’t complicated.
The present-day airplane operates by internal combustion and propellers. I understand they’re in the 700-mile-an-hour class. That’s barely crawling.
We’re after real speed.-.....
What stops the propeller-powered aircraft from going faster? Air. To get our speed we must get out of the air. But you can’t use a propeller in the really high levels; there’s nothing for it to bite into; it’s like trying to eat an invisible apple.
This brings us right back to where we started. For speed we need to get out of the atmosphere. The rocket does. That’s what I was talking about when I said we were going 3,000 miles up.
But to travel through the stratosphere we must tuke fuel with us. Not petrol—or gasoline as you call it. The V-2 reaches the stratosphere and travels at tremendous speeds because of a special rocket fuel. So far the German rocket fuel is the best. It’s alcohol and oxygen.
Right now the most important factor in developing
the rocket is this question of fuel. The Americans are working on new, more efficient fuels; and so am I. I believe I have something good, although I can’t tell you what it is. But I don’t mind giving a hint. I believe the fuels of the future will be what we now consider explosives. If you can make an explosive burn at any rate you want, then you have a fuel, haven’t you?
Some one of us who are working on the problem will develop a better rocket fuel than we have now, within a decade. It will be a hard job; but it will be done.
But of one thing I’m certain: we won’t use atomic power. That’s where you cause the atom to break and build up into series of geometric progressions. With atomic power you could drive the Queen Mary on a piece of material the size of a pea. Even at that, the rocket would need 10 peas. Its horsepower now is 700,000—at least 10 times that of the Queen Mary.
No, the recent excitement about the future of the atom doesn’t alter the present picture of rocket fuel. It will be a long time before we can use the explosive energy of the atom as power. We have known about dynamite for years but we still can’t slow it down to use as fuel. The only difference between dynamite and atomic energy is that the latter is much, much more powerful.
And remember, in slowing down fast power you reduce power. We may expect it to take a long time (probably our lifetime) before the atom is tamed without loss of energy.
One popular objection to the rocket is that it stays in the air for only a few minutes. That’s because it burns up its fuel so quickly. If you have 700,000 h.p. for a few minutes you can have 7,000 for much longer. That’s what we’ll get some day.
The next phase in rocket development, obviously,
is improvement in control. Control means safety; and safety means that people can travel by rocket. The time will come when a radio beam will guide rockets direct to the station sending it. That’s pretty good, although it will have drawbacks. Imagine what opportunities this would open up for future saboteurs. A little man comes into the War Office or a railway station. He puts down a small, inconspicuous suitcase which contains radio direction apparatus and, presto, the rocket—loaded with explosives this time—will come straight to the spot.
Does that give you the idea? You can easily realize how necessary control is to keep the rocket safe for universal use.
All right. Now we’ve got accuracy down to a fine point—with radio control carrying the rocket along a groove for long distances. There will be both radio control and radio gyro—and human crews will operate the passenger-carrying rocket. Actually, this type of rocket won’t be very different from the ordinary airplane, except for motive power. And by the time it reaches this degree of perfection it won’t seem nearly as new and strange as it does now. It will come as a logical development.
y It’s interesting how quickly people become accustomed to new ideas once they have been proved. But think of going from London to New York in a couple of hours! With television you’ll be able to keep in touch with home all the time. You will suddenly find, halfway across the Atlantic and many miles above it, that you forgot your silver cigarette case. So you’ll ring up your home to ask if you left it on the mantel. Or if your wife has gone to market you can look for yourself, without once leaving your seat in the rocket.
Will rockets fly your groceries? No, I don’t think that sort of thing is practical. Having a radio beam on every back doorstep is going a little too far, even for the world of the future. Why not have air tubes for
local deliveries? Why not have milk delivered in a pipe line? Long-distance mail service is different. That will come— perhaps sooner than you think. )•
Not Toronto Yet
ARE YOU getting enthusiastic? You want to make , that first flight from London to Toronto? I’m sorry. I think we’ll try shorter distances first.
My home in the country is 50 miles away. Even now I can get there in a matter of minutes with the fastest airplane. But that means I must leave my car behind. Besides, airdromes are usually far from cities, and that wastes time.
People are always talking of a combination car and flying machine. Some have been made, but they are hopelessly inefficient as cars and just as inefficient as planes. Even the new flying jeep is a makeshift. To fly you need enormous horsepower. To drive you
need comparatively little. But ring in the rocket, and see what we get.
With our knowledge of alloys and high octane fuels we can design an engine the size of a five-gallon can and having 40 h.p. capacity. We can make a very light car out of alloys. The United States is producing them now. Only we’d design the rocket car so we could us«; the tiny motor for road driving, and rocket fuel to swish it through the air.
“But th;; rocket fuel carried in a small car would last only a few minutes,” you object.
All right. It lasts hut a few minutes. Who cares? We’re only going to he flying for short p«;riods and can refuel.
Say we want to fly from Dmdon to Brighton and we need our car in Brighton. Very well. With the flying car we motor to Croydon. Alongside the highway there, would be a Continued on 1 naide Hack Cover
Who Is Prof. Low?
PROFESSOR LOW, author of this article, has never been to Canada. He apologizes for this oversight by saying: "It was a near thing — I was almost born there."
His mother and father were married in the Quebec village of Mille Vaches. Low senior had gone there to do experimental work in a paper mill, and had later sent for his fiancée. "Tney remained in Canada for three years, but I was born in Britain," the professor adds.
Low, now in his fifties, is an inventor of standing, and author of more than 30 books on scientific subjects. His latest, written for children, sold out in England in three weeks and will appear in the United States.
Contrary to the popular conception of an inventor, Low is frienaly, unsecfetive, a fluent — even eager — conversationalist. His only obvious idiosyncrasy is the constant scribbling of key words which occur in conversations. He carries a pad and pencil everywhere for the purpose.
"One of my maddest experiments," he grins, "is with flies in Doxes." He claims to have proved, through these experiments* that the work of a man writing a book on the ground floor of a house can be spoiled by a bad-tempered woman upstairs.
It Ís impossible to determine whether he treats such topics in dead earnest. But the professor, during the last war, designed and built the first wireless-controlled plane. The Times says he "was probably more advanced in this field than any other scientific worker, British or foreign."
Professor Low produced a television device in 1914, but he could not get it financed and had to let the patents lapse. He developed infrared photography in 1917, A device for testing aviation engines, now widely used in the United States, was a Low idea. As president of the Interplanetary Society, he is constantly twitted about trips to the moon.
"Even by making fun of a new idea, people learn to accept it a little more," he declares.
Photograph by Lawrence Earl
Continued from page 11
taking-off strip. We’d fly 10 minutes— this isn’t the streamlined stratosphere, remember—and then land the car at Brighton. You think this is an inventor’s mad dream? Well, the Russians are testing it right now. In another 20 years we’ll have it too.
Although they have nothing whatever to do with rockets, you must not overlook helicopters. They’re going to revolutionize our travel—and comparatively soon.
Missed a Bet
An inventor’s life is full of disappointments. Once, 28 years ago, someone gave me a pedometer. I was driving a car which bounced a lot, and I designed a clock which wound by the jolting of the car. After that I developed a watch which would wind itself in your pocket — like the pedometer.
I went to about a hundred people, trying to sell the idea. But do you think anyone would take it? Finally I met an American watch manufacturer at the Savoy. It was my last call. He offered me a mere £10, and naturally I laughed. Now I’m sorry. I never did get a penny out of the thing. Six years later a man tried to sell me shares in a company making exactly the same selfwinding watches!
One thing about rocket research is that we must not expect much help from governments. All that the Germans have proved about rockets won’t arouse public interest. The idea will amuse people at first, but that’s about all. Even the fact that Americans have taken German scientists to the United States for cross-examination won’t convince the public that the V-2 has a real future as a means of travel and commerce.
Perhaps it’s just as well that experiments will fall to individuals. I can’t recalla worth-while invention which has come out of a government research laboratory. But astounding things often come from amateurs who work on an idea for the love of it. Many wonderful services have had their beginnings on the back of an envelope. Mark my words: the country to go ahead now will be the country that encourages originality.
Speaking of originality, we should not give the Germans too much credit for the V-2. The first rocket was probably conceived in China about 1,000 years ago. There was a rocket corps at the Battle of Waterloo. So you see that even when I patented my own anti-aircraft rocket in 1917, I
was merely borrowing from history.
Were the Germans ahead of us in the rocket field? In conception they were behind us; in practice ahead, because they were encouraged by their Government and allowed to work along their own lines.
I have a French friend, Major Robert Lencement, who spent two years as a prisoner of war, forced to work in the Nazi underground V-l and V-2 plant at Buchenwald. He has been interested in rockets for some years. He says there was nothing new in the German factory, but that the apparatus had been considerably improved.
I am president of the British Interplanetary Society. The people of England are quite sure its members are crackpots. We’re not. The German rocket society, heavily subsidized by the State, made important contributions to their war machine. They had a rocket field near Berlin to test rocket gliders, cars and aircraft. Hare, when we applied to the Air Ministry for rights to experiment, we were laughed at.
With indifferent support, rockets may take half a century to develop. It may be less. It may be more. But it’s encouraging to remember that not too many years ago a friend of mine was actually arrested for endangering public safety when he flew an airplane six feet.
A New Era
Of one thing I’m certain: when the V-2 has been developed to its logical conclusion, it will change the whole world. It, will change our way of living. Imaginative people often wonder if cities will be deserted when distance no longer means anything. Will the bank move to the country and a fast air car be dispatched to head office for files, messages and other business matters?
No, I don’t really think so. People love crowds. They have the herd instinct. Cities, it seems to me, are here to stay.
Rockets and other inventions of the future—not dreamed of as yet—will do something else. They will alter our very shapes. The flapper in an age to come will be a terrifying creature, by standards of today. She’ll have no hair. Her teeth will be removed in childhood. She’ll have lost the sense of smell. Her sight will be weak and her hearing less acute. As civilization advances and our minds develop, our senses will atrophy in exchange for the power to think. We’ll dream ourselves into a supercivilization and lose out on the senses we needed when physique was more important than brains.
But don’t worry about it. We can’t have everything.
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