bioephemera

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From the wonderful blog Letters of Note: in 1957, schoolboy Denis Cox generously shared his rocket blueprints with “A Top Scientist” at Australia’s Woomera Weapons Research Establishment.

The important stuff (Rolls Royce jet engines, “Air Torpeados”) is all there, although Denis explicitly gave the Top Scientists his permission to “put in other details” themselves, no doubt due to the lack of space for more detailed blueprints on his lined notebook paper (“I have discovered a truly marvelous proof, which this margin is too narrow to contain. . . “) Denis says modestly, “I thought it would be more effective than me trying to put the details in. I could have attempted some detail but I thought people at Woomera, particularly top scientists rather than just scientists, would be more aware of what the detail should be.”

It’s a bit late, but Denis is finally getting his answer:

The Defence Science Technology Organisation is now finally organising a letter from rocket scientists in response to the letter. Who knows, maybe on the strength of the rocket design, he will be offered a job. Or maybe he’ll just receive a pleasant thank you note.

After 52 years, he thinks either one would suffice.

My money’s not on the job, Denis. 🙂

See also this post and this cute little interview with Denis Cox, in which he reminisces about the days before TV, when his family went around shooting rabbits.

Comments

  1. #1 ENT-TT
    October 29, 2009

    Ahahahaha! I empathize.

    When I was a kid, I’d just read this newfangled book about lasers, which explained photon excitation, emission boosting with mirrors, and suitable substrates. I promptly drafted up a design for a hand-held laser gun, which in my infinite wisdom I decided should use cobalt chloride as the substrate. I called it “Operation Blue-Fire”, and mailed it to someone who duly ignored it at Edmund Scientific’s optics department. Hey, if rubies give off red light, cobalt lasers would be blue, yeah? Made sense to me, and I had some of the stuff in my much-loved chemistry set. My design was just as laughable, save that I actually used a ruler for straight edges, and did have a basic schematic for how to generate coherent emissions, but only because I re-drew it from the design in the book I was reading. I even used a similar off-brown, wide-lined paper, and stored a copy of it in a manila memo binder with “Top Secret” not-quite stenciled on it. I was ten, and making lasers in my basement was a serious and practical endeavor. I even managed to convince some friends to help me build it. When the frozen crystal slush failed to grow a giant sustainable substrate, and I realized I had no lathe, we settled for an old piece of pipe with a broken rubber-band glued to the end, and ran around yelling “pew! pew!”, shooting pebbles at each other.

  2. #2 mdvlist
    October 29, 2009

    That made my day.

  3. #3 Adrian Morgan
    October 29, 2009

    This is great!

    The nearest thing I remember doing as a (somewhat older) kid was sending an idea for a science fiction series to ABC television. I did get a reply to that (they were sure, apparently, that my idea would appeal to science fiction fans but because of the costs involved they would not be interested in producing it), attached to which was a booklet containing what I remember as the most outrageous business technobabble. This suited me pretty well actually, as I was fascinated by technobabble at that age.

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