16 AUGUST 1957, Page 27

Gu hverian Geophysics

SPECTATOR COMPETITION No. 389 Report by R. Kennard Davis

Competitors were asked to suppose that Laputa (See Gulliver's Travels) is holding a Geophysical 'ear, and to describe some of the more important projects and experiments that are being under-


11:„14.1! entries for this competition were rather utsiPpointing, both in number and in quality. Probably the holiday season and the hot weather had something to do with this; perhaps, too, verbal ingenuity is a gift that most competitors find • more readily at call than constructive imagination. Moreover, the pastims of boffin- ragging could be indulged in far more light- heartedly in the time of Swift: now, when the scientists possess (so literally!) the Last Word, it savours of sacrilege; while modern invention may ee considered to have soared beyond the range of satire. The wildest projects of the Laputans seem tame; beside what has been achieved, and still more so beside what may be achieved (failing the ultimate catastrophe) in a few decades. So, on the whole, the fancies of competitors appeared rather less fantastic than the commonplaces of today.

Among attractive inventions and ideas, I noted a wind-machine which blows up balloons at one end and has a counter-inflationary effect on I-aputan currency at the other (James Fidgen); the bottling of a condensed form of gravitation, to secure hats on heads in windy weather (W. K. H.); and the conversion of right-angled Wangles to left-angled triangles, for left-crick side musicians (Sgobbone).

recommend that two guineas each be awarded to Allan NI. Laing, S. J. A., and Douglas Hawson. Commendation to J. E. Cherry and G. J. Blundell.



One illustrious person proposes to black out the moon by means of a dense cloud composed of sul- phur, boot-black and burnt paper, with the object of restraining the action of the trdes. The consequences, he said, would be pregnant with immense benefits to the human race. He proved this with a mathematical diagram of convincing complexity.

Another practical philosopher intends to bore a hole to the centre of the earth which, being in a state of igneous fusion, is a source of terrible danger to humanity. When his hole reaches the earth's internal fires, a constant. stream of water diverted from the ocean will descend to extinguish the flames. His hole is already two fathoms deep. observed with considerable satisfaction that only projects with a possibility of success were being countenanced; and the committee of philosophers

who direct the proceedings have very rightly rejected a visionary proposal to put clocks forward one hour in the spring and backward one hour in autumn in order. forsooth. to enable the commonalty to enjoy more daylight !

(S. J. A.)

The Warden of the Academy then escorted me to a room where three Projectors were planning the experiments to be undertaken in lgy. which I under- stood was to be a period of twenty lunar months. One Projector was reasoning that the island of Laputa should circumnavigate the mainland for ten months clockwise and for ten months counter- clockwise. He had concluded that this would produce all male births in the first period and all female births in the second period. By such means the inhabitants of Baltribarbi on the mainland could con- trol the sex of their population. The second Projector was busily occupied with mathematical instruments on the design of a great Funnel*. This would collect the rays of sunshine and transmit them through a vast number of pipes to all parts of the city. I inquired what would happen during the night, and was told that, as everyone would be asleep, no one would notice that the pipes would be empty.

But the most remarkable scheme was that of the third' Projector, who had discovered a drug whereof a small pellet would overcome the force of Gravita- tion for the space of one hour. He was now designing a large glass bottle in which a man could be enclosed. The man would be fitted with a tail whereby he could direct his motion through space towards the Moon. At hourly intervals pellets of the drug would be taken according as the Bottle-man desired to move towards the moon or away from it.


In Laputa a Foliage Count is being taken. One band of experts is counting all the leaves on every oak tree in the island, while another smaller band is counting the trunks. It is hoped to arrive at a definite figure for the number of leaves on the average tree. A group of frog-men scientists is accompanying a migration of eels throughout the year to discover the exact destination and itinerary. Abroad a team equipped with transport aircraft is engaged in a Temperature Equalisation project. They are carrying loads of snow from the North Pole to the Sahara and returning with loads of hot sand, readings being taken every hour at both ends. Also abroad, a team sponsored by the Hatmakers' Guild is investigating the shrinking of human heads with a view to the production of a standard-size hat. COMM EN DE D


. . . He showed me many of the refined calculations by means of which he was endeavouring to determine the height of Up and the depth of Down. It must be observed that in fathoming the depth of Down he had found that his figures had taken him to the centre of the Globe whereat Down was brought to Up; imagination and fancy being wholly strangers to him, he had selected this point to inquire into the range of Out. . . . By means of careful adjustment, it had been calculated that this loadstone was capable of providing an hitherto unsuspected speed of parallel motion to the island. The intention was to travel between the two points A and B at such a rate that it would greatly exceed the speed of light, If this be possible (and he affirmed it with great confi- dence) the Laputans would arrive at point B and yet still be able to observe the movement of their island over the intervening space. . . . The young man flapped me gently about the ears on several occasions during my conversations.


I was received most politely by the Head Geophysician who bade me put on a pair of rose- tinted glasses lest some of the experiments dazzle my eyes and trouble my understanding.

He first conducted me to an open-air amphitheatre, where a group of men were engaged in weighing the sun. This they did by placing on the scales two young damsels, ordinarily of equal weight, one of whom had been exposed to the rays of the sun, the other of whom had not. The difference in their weight was reckoned to be the amount of tanning conveyed by the sun's rays; and this in turn, multiplied by a bil- lion. gave the weight of the sun.

My eyes being somewhat dazzled by the sight of the sun-tanned. maiden, I was then taken to a hall where a group of learned men were examining a glass object that had been molten by some great heat, and had now solidified in the shape of a ball. One astronomer was of the opinion that the ball had come from Mars: another, that it was certainly a part of the Moon. While they were thus arguing. a little boy came up and recognised it as a glass marble of his that he valued highly and that he had dropped into the fire by misadventure the previous week.