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Introducing Hugh Hancock

I'm pleased to introduce the first of three guest bloggers who'll be posting here while I'm away for the next month: Hugh Hancock of Strange Company, sometimes called "the father of Machinima".

As one of the pioneers of real-time 3D animated filmmaking—known as Machinima—he has worked on pioneering new ways to make movies with unexpected technology for more than 15 years.

He founded (but does not currently run), now the fourth-biggest YouTube channel in the world. He directed the online-distributed feature film BloodSpell. And he has been quoted on the future of filmmaking in the New York Times, the Guardian, on the BBC and on NPR amongst others.

He also fronted possibly the geekiest cookery show in the history of the medium.

Currently he is working on a new project starring Hollywood voice actors and using Avatar-style performance capture, which he expects to release in late January 2014.

When he isn't making films, Hugh is a Muay Thai enthusiast, amateur game designer and borderline cooking and coffee obsessive ...



Thanks, Charlie!

A quick note, by the way - if anyone would be interested in me commenting on, discussing, or wildly speculating about anything in particular during my stay here, please do let me know!

I have a somewhat eclectic portfolio, so I'm very happy to focus on one or another detail from it...


How far will we get with machinima?

Will 'real' film go the way of live plays on stage, a 'real' performance with something indefinable that cinema cannot capture, but relegated to a tiny minority of the world's performing art?

...If not, why not?

And if so, will it happen in a series of transitions in which we see the first blue-screen background to real actors - and Roger Rabbit, the first 'foreground' cgi character among a human cast in a big-ticket mainstream movie - as historic landmarks?

Which landmarks would you identify? And what landmarks do you predict we'll see?


Unsurprisingly, one of the pieces I have in the works for posting is indeed a piece on Machinima - actually, a three-part series.

I'll make sure to cover all of those questions - some really thought-provoking ones in there (particularly your theatre / cinema analogy). Thanks!


One of the difficulties with discussing a new technology is that we might sound like nerds, arguing whether Mr Bleriot's wood-and-canvas monoplane is better than the wood-and-canvas biplanes that are the obvious design for aircraft; or we might sound like economists, and point out that both designs are quite ridiculous, and neither ever will be a profitable system for transporting wood and canvas across the English Channel; and none of us will risk the riducule that rightly follows speculating that petrol-driven wood-and-canvas contraptions like them might, one day, be capable of an Atlantic crossing.

I doubt that I have asked the really interesting questions.


the geekiest cookery show

Hmm, OK. Plenty of possibilities in that (says a man who is getting to know sous-vide cookery). Actually, I think Nojay is also interested in that branch of the art, so my question might be whether you could see it going mainstream (comparable to the microwave), or if not, what shortcomings might you see preventing it.


FYI, the URL for the aforementioned geeky cookery show is:

I'm also a big fan of sous-vide. A few years ago I'd have said it would definitely take its place in the kitchen, but it seems to be taking its time about doing so.

I suspect Sous-Vide's main issue with wide-scale adoption is that it's not a fast cooking method - indeed, much the reverse. Add that to paranoia about anaerobic bacteria, and it's a bit more of a challenging proposition than may be immediately obvious.


That link works, but the videos don't. They seem to have been removed from the site hosting them.

I remember watching the one about pre-heating ovens.


But sir, there is no difference between the English Channel and, for instance, Belgium, insofar as one of these aeronautical contrivances is concerned. One would not wish to alight there. M. Bleriot's feat is no more than a display of an improvement in the ability of a machine to continue running for sufficient time, and may as well have been achieved by flying in circles, with no more significance that a procession of motorists about Brooklands.

And what might be carried by an aviator that could not be delivered by the telegraph?

Let the engineer and mechanic applaud. The necessary improvements in engines may be of value. But the aeroplane can never supplant the steam locomotive, especially with the improvements apparent in the introduction of superheated steam.


Canvas, sir? CANVAS? M. Bleriot would never have gotten across the Channel if he had used canvas. Linen, sir. The future is in linen. Plastic will come later.




Looks like nuked a bunch of stuff back in November, there are some 4 year old bits on youtube.


And what might be carried by an aviator that could not be delivered by the telegraph?

Consider, Milady, the great increase in speed and accuracy in relaying pictures by transporting actual pictures - be they paintings, woodcuts, or daguerreotypes - from one place to another over the slow and painstaking encoding of the same for transmission via telegraph.

To be sure, there are even unfortunate circumstances in which telegraph lines may be cut or never installed to a particular location at all. Forming a corps of heroic aviators for speedy communications to and within disaster stricken regions may be an endeavour of great worth in the near future.


It seems clear that the great advantage enjoyed by these aviators will be the fact that they need little in the way of infrastructure to support their travels. An open field, and a little gasoline, are all they need to land and take off once more. Compare this to the huge investment required for locomotives, or even for a robust telegraph system, and I think it fair to say they will have use in the future. I do not assert they will ever approach the speed or comfort of a good express running on sound rails, but for mail deliveries to out-of-the-way places they may well have a role to play.


Surely, the greatest potential use of flying machines, be they heavier or lighter than the air in which they swim is in observation, surveying & intelligence.
Indeed, one can imagine that the miltary forces of the world will take them up as an invaluable aid to (Quoting the great Duke's words) "Seeing what lies over the next hill."


You are an optimist, sir. The warlike human spirit will see to it that in no time at all the aeroplane is used as a weapon of war. Such a machine might carry as many as a dozen small artillery shells and drop them on the enemy from above, a hundred miles beyond the range of any gun; and other aeroplane pilots will shoot at these aerial bombardiers with pistols to drive them from their targets.

The prospects of such bombardments being directed at cities is too barbaric to contemplate with equanimity, but in the light of the Siege of Paris we must consider it a possibility; if they were to drop phosphorus grenades, they might well give rise to a conflagration the like of which the world has not seen since the Great Fire of London!

Mark my words, the adoption of this new technology will end in tears.


I guess the gentlemen, not to forget mylady, are somewhat mistaken in the abilities and limitations of heavier-than-air flying machines. While Monsieur Bleriot's contraptions might be ideal for sporting events and maybe some niche applications where short-range speed to the detriment of range and height is an issue, they are seriously hampered when it comes to long-range transport. For the transportation of sensible documents, I'm not aware of the fees charged by Lloyds for insuring transport by an vehicle troubled by the forces of burning fire within and gravity below, only kept in check by a fragile and flammable construction, but I guess they'd be astronomical. Actually, this also applies to the dangers inherent to normal operation of such playthings, since the possible impact of a malfunction is impossible to guess.

Photographic reproductions are limited in their details and colors, necessitating transport of the originals, though I've been told there are plenty of failed art student in e.g. Vienna which would make worthwhile copyists. Still, every copy would take time and money to make, leaving us still only with transporting the original in many situations, especially in cases necessitating otherwise un-gentlemenlike hurry from a gentleman, e.g. the already mentioned natural disasters, especially if combined with e.g. infectious diseases like beri-beri.

Another impediment is the limited space and weight transportable by Monsieurs Bleriot's constructions.

Given their preferable characteristics regarding range, capacity and security, I guess it's a given the future is to belong to the lighter-than-air constructions of e.g. Mr. Dürr. Of course, this necessitates a new infrastructure to supply the hydrogen or coal gas needed, be it with dams and coals to electrolyse water, or using coal to create coal gas, but coal mining being one of the fastest growing industries, I see little problem with that; for somewhat more secluded areas, the Birkeland-Eyde process liberates us from the use of sulfur in creating high quality strong acids.


The gentleman is overtly optimistic, or maybe pessimistic, regarding the range of Monsieur Bleriot's, they are still in the range of most heavier hand guns and have maximum range of about 250 km; excluding a gallant suicide mission, this leaves us with about 125 km, where effective range is going to be hampered by terrain and enemy action. All for a negligable bomb cargo.

Compare to, say, some of the cannons planned by the Prussian relatives of our Queen, having an effective range of about 130 km. Now the aptly called Paris gun is hardly a transportable weapon, but the new railroad system and stronger steam locomotives mean this is going to change. And stronger explosives and building materials are going to lead to smaller cannons in little time.


So, I think the unwashed, obnoxious smelling Lebensreformers are better to look at the dangers of heavy industrialisation, not just military but also political, and not some flying machines. May I remind you just of the dangers of equal vote and Social Democracy..


I daresay the limited range and ceiling of heavier-than-air flighty is making it pretty useless in this regard. As I already explained, the future is to belong to dirigibles and similar constructions.


Seeing the achievements made in Bavaria, is is clear that M. Bleriot's feat is a dead end. When airships are reliably carrying as many as 20 passengers, one can only marvel at the optimism of the proponents of heavier-than-air flight.

In consequence of these facts, may I take this opportunity to recommend that gentlemen purchase shares in Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH, a transaction for which I shall be honoured to provide a facility for the necessary currency conversions.

May I take this opportunity to remind Mr. Stross that the web of trade which binds Europe together, combined with the military forces available to the Great Powers, renders the war which he fears a most unlikely prospect. Only a madman would set an army of a million men marching against a neighbour. Far better to use the monies required to buy the factories which might be siezed, and thus profit from the expenditure.

Yet one cannot respect any nation which chooses to leave itself defenceless, and so open to the aggression of its neighbours. We should be thankful that our government maintains the strength of the Royal Navy, protecting our trade and guarding us against any threat from Europe.


While a certain caution is desirable, I fear you are under-valuing the essential character and nobility of the good, honest, Englishman, whose love of freedom is balanced by a keen awareness of the proper order of society. No true Englishman would treat his subordinates in a way which would provoke revolution.

Events of recent years in the Russian Empire are regarded with distaste in England. And, rather than rush into folly, we have waited for our German cousins to test such radical ideas as pensions for workers.


I agree the factories are unlikely to kindle the fire of war, but there is always the issue of rare resources coming in from the colonies. Accounting for this, I think a program of self-sufficiency of the British Isles is of paramount interest for peace, or we will see an armed conflict between Britain and France in the next 20 years, most likely confined to our oversea territories, but still threatening Our Majesty's subjects at the Cape or in Canada.


Are we being steampunk or dieselpunk?

One boundary marker might be the vacuum tube. Wireless was possible without it, but it was a big jump in possibilities.

Any others? Steam to internal combustion goes without saying. Vitamins were starting to be noticed, in an approximate way. Sulfa drugs were discovered in the 1930s, but one compound had been synthesised in 1906.


I believe you underestimate the true threat of war that confronts the British Isles -- with the aggressive revolutionary ideologues on the far side of the ocean, whose factories blindly churn out insulting identikit copies of our goods, whose jingoistic politicians demand expansion and an empire of their own, where copyright piracy is rampant and intellectual property rights go unacknowledged, whose ideology is intrinsically hostile to the common-sense principles of constitutional monarchy and decent respect for class boundaries that prevail in all civilized climes, and who are rapidly building a navy of their own and attempting to dominate the nations of the Pacific Rim.

I speak, of course, of the United States of America, with whom we are already engaged in a battleship race.

Mark my words, 1814 was not the end of the matter, and before the end of this century we shall have to burn the White House again!


Didn't know where else to post this, but I'm seeing things like

Presumably from people who used a Google account to sign in to Movable Type - which I have so this comment may have the same issue. Might want to have somebody take a look at that. (And this comment, which doesn't add anything to the discussion of *this* post, should probably be removed once the issue's been looked at.)


I would venture that our Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs should refrain from making his disparaging remarks about Norton III of California. One must sometimes be prepared to make deals with the most disreputable of governments.

With the tension on their southern border, and Herr Zimmermann's recent visit to Mexico, a little more grace may be well-rewarded.


This is a known Movable Type login bug -- if someone has already registered the same username (common ones, usually) when you try to log in with a Google OpenID, it'll display a gibberish URL instead.

We now return you to your scheduled counterfactual.

And what does everyone make of the shocking assassination attempt on the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary, resulting in his injury and the death of his wife?


Gentlemen, Mylady - must I remind you that there is the Leviathan of the skys? I talk about non other than the Zeppelin Mk. III, and I'm pretty sure we will life to see the sky filled end to end with these benign gigants, airships to rule the endless sea of air. Even now, as I am speaking, the laboratories on the peaceful shore of Lake Constance churn out prototype after prototype; the possibilities for the grand ship of the air are literally as endless as the sky - ranging from the comforts and luxurities of personal transport to freight to - I dare say so - observation, and of course, the peaceful giant will also propose on the altar of Mars. You say, the fire hazards of lighter than air travel will stop us to explore this road? Of course, here the wood-and-canvas flyer comes to use - a big Zeppelin Mk. III may have as much as four such flyers on board, to be deployed in unforeseeable instances, brave shields and long arms of the Leviathan. And of course, no one sane will use the Air of Water, every thoughtful mind agrees that only the Air of the Sun will bring this bright future foreward. All hail the behemoth of the sky!


I question the experience of those who champion the use of aviators as a weapon of war.

We have seen the vulnerability of such machinery to the vagaries of the weather; a strong wind, or a dark sky, is sufficient to prevent the aviator from taking to the skies. Any General who is reliant on such devices, will surely look foolish as his available baggage train is encumbered with barely-usable stores.

Mark my words, the cavalry horse remains the transport of choice. Sure-footed, capable of riding in darkest night or foulest weather - unbound by the need for fragile and expensive rails, or by vulnerable tarmacadam. I have heard that in the Americas, a Boston company has even attempted to devise a mechanical contrivance in imitation of the horse. Such is the future.


It was reported that the assassin had already failed once, and it was the ill fortune of the chauffeur taking a wrong turn which provided that tragic opportunity.

The prototype of my clockwork chauffeur seems to have the capacity to avoid such mishaps but has a distressing tendency toward unfortunate collisions with small children running out into the road.


This being the Viennese monarchy, of course there have been quite some speculations about hidden machinations, the Archduke only allowed to enter a morgantic union after some dissent.

Paramount to these concerns is a certain plebeian individuum called Alexander Jonas, implicating a cabal of old aristocracy from Prague bein jealous of Duchess Sophie, the so-called "Böhmischer Hain". Him being close to Karl Lueger, of course there is the usual talk about Jewish or Protestant mistresses.

Of course, being a gentleman, I refuse to associate with plebeian scum like these, but some of my associates on the continent insist on frequenting the somewhat more enlightened, or better less unenlightened salon of Felix von Leitner, of course only for the experimental stimulating beverages served there. Some present fiends overindulging in said beverages and Mr. von Leitner himself seldom letting anyone else speak in said salon makes for an interesting, though somewhat noisy representation of the sentiments of the semi-bourgeois masses that will be the down-fall of our civilization, but said civilization can't do without.


Hugh, I'd be very interested in anything you might have to say about NEUROGAMING, i.e. incorporating biofeedback into videogames (especially in terms of any therapeutic or enhancing effects, e.g. training attention, meditative states, treating ADHD, PTSD etc. More generally, anything you might have to say about the deliberate use of videogames (with or without a neurogaming component) to improve human functioning in some way.

This is a topic I've become interested in lately, and it seems like it may be about to become a big thing.


Mesdames, Messieurs,

Allow me to intrude in your conversation. I am but a mere Frenchman in villégiature in your beautiful country (the cohabitation of the modernity of railways with your gorgeous countryside never ceases to amaze), but I feel the urge to share some - hopefully valuable - concern in regards to this wonderful technology from Monsieur Blériot.

[grabs a chair, sits down at the table, bringing along a pint half full of, yes, red wine.]

"Dangerosity" is a word that is starting to be painted on the forehead of lighter-than-air travel. Mere incidents with flammable compounds while some airship or another were at dock have fired up a debate. The usual speakers have lined up: fear-mongers on one end, and politicians on the other, the later oh-so-pleased to cajole the former while extending their political reach. Whispers and murmures of regulation, state monopole and the like are flowing across the [scoffs in disdain] Halls of Power, threatening "to kill this technology in the egg", as my fellow countrymen would say.

We cannot let that happen to air travel, be it lighter or heavier than the aforementioned. Technology is but a mere tool that will indifferently nurture prosperity or wage war, save or end lives. It is us who decide the use of the tool. But how can we bring it to its full potential if we regulate while it in its infancy? Imagine all the good that will come out of those bright, educated and completely benevolent minds, and imagine this potential stifled by fear-mongers and the fat cats feeding out of their folly. How can one bear to let such a good fortune escape us? And do you want them to wield this technology - no matter how half baked - to their own personal interest and for war?

We should let that technology blossom, we should leave the busy bees of humanity free to spread it with goodwill, and let us all reap its rewards. The states has nothing to do anymore with economy and invention, gentlemen: they have been outgrown by the East India Company and the like, who are now true center of Power that take our countries forward. I am not advocating for anarchy, just giving a fellow man the freedom to make prosperity happen for him, his family and all of us.

I had the privilege to spend some illuminating time in the United States of America, and though I comprehend your sour sentiments toward them - the American have an understanding of this fact far better than we do, which explains why their past revolt against the Crown and how prosper they are now and for the foreseeable future.

Regulation and the unwarranted reach of the State: those are the real problems with this technology, and we ought to fight them back fiercely.


Another issue that I'd love you to address is sexism and gender bias in machinima in particular and the videogame industry in general.

Hugh, I went to the website you "founded but do not currently run,", and was shocked to see the following prominently displayed on the home screen: "Machinima is a programming movement aimed at young males around the world." I'm a straight white male, and I feel really uncomfortable in spaces that blatantly exclude female participation.

Sexism in the video game industry has been very prominently on the cultural radar in the last year or so, with good reason, and I'm surprised to see such a blatant example of it on

Machinima is something I heard about but never really looked into very deeply, but figured I'd get around to checking out at some point. At the moment I'm feeling really turned off by it.


It's hard to imagine that you can do non-sexist machinima when realistic female game characters are rare exceptions like Jade.

And when games which make female versions possible (like femshep)tend to spawn a lot more cosplay and fanart than machinima.


Charlie, did you know that, when a very young girl, my Great-Aunt Rose was present (as a domestic servant in the British Embassy) at the Siege of Paris?
She would never, ever, reveal how she managed to acquire a bayonet from one of the combatants ....


Not so Herr Trottelreiner.
Consider the steam locmotive in 1825-30, with a amximum speed of 30mph & a mass of 4.25 tons.
Now consider the latest machines here, like Mr Ivatt's celebrated No 251 102 tons, max speed somewhere above 90 mph, hauling 300+ ton trains.
Similar development will surely follow in the aeronautical field. A similar extrapolation would suggest, in 50 years time, air-craft the size of a moderate steam-yacht, capable of 400 mph with ranges sufficient to cross the Atlantic, or at least if the route is chosen carefully, such as in stages via London / Glasgow / Newfoundland / New York.
A similar growth has also been observed in ships for instance - the Atlantic was first crossed by a stemaship as recently as about 1838 (SS Great Western) yet now we have ships as great as that, now building RMS Aquitania at 45000 tons & 24 knots! And that is without considering the advances in miltary naval construction, at all.


Not necessarily.
I am not sure that the reciprocating internal-combustion engine was one of our technological mistakes.
People forget the contribution made to transport & power-generation my Charles Parsons.
The steam turbine (followed by its child the gas-turbine) was & is a very efficient prime mover & power source.
Try looking up the very public & amazing demonstration made of its effectiveness - google for: Turbinia


Dear Mister Tingey, I agree that there has been considerable progress in the application of steam power to land and water transport, the problem is air transport is subject to some additional constraints.

Besides, you can call me Andreas if you like to, Trottelreiner is a nom de plume or nom de guerre if you like to call it that way, with some of my family being in the German civil service, my actual name being both somewhat rare and strange for German and likely British ears, we usually forget even the celebrated Prussians originally spoke a language similar to their Lithuanian neighbours, though people like Kossinna seem to forget it, and luckily, one of my Galician acquintances proposed the aforementioned "Trottelreiner".

As already said, I think the problem is locomotion in air is subject to some narrower constraints than the one on the land or in water; the weight of the construction is a much greater factor.

Now it has been known since the work of
Froude that the speed of a ship is proportional to the square root of the scale of the ship, thus taking in bigger ships; it has been known a little bit shorter that this is not necessarily true for steam ships. Some quandering swhowed that this was due to the power generated by a steam machine was not proportional to the volume, but the area of the cylinders and like, making a machine of double the size four times as strong, but eight times as heavy. Of course, this effect is of limited effect in ships, and even in locomotives it is not that important. Let's also not forget the much higher pressures attainable today, compared to about 40 or more years ago. I'm not aware of similar numbers for combustion engines or steam engines, but since all of these involve power transmission on areas, I think they are not immune to similar effects.

In a flying machine, I suppose, this little impediment grows most inappropiate. Even today, much of the weight of the construction rests in the engine; to double the number of passengers, the first idea would be to build an engine with double the power, necessating a scale of, assuming the areas involved, about 1.414. But said engine would have 2.828 times the volume and weigh about the same amount as much, so in effect, we need a bigger motor still, and it's easy to say we are going to meet some point where the flying machine can't grow any longer.

Of course, this applies both to heavier- and lighter-than-air flying machines, but at least in lighter-than-air machines the power is just used for locomotion, while in a heavier-than-air machine, we have to take vertical weight lifting into account.

In the long term, I think heavier-than-air machines are going to grow smaller and thus more effective; I have been told by some acquintances from the Eugenics Society programs to breed extra small pilots from the Empire's celebrated jockey stock are already in planning, of course there will be some protests from reactionary forces and the usual timid spirits, leading to an unholy alliance between some churches and liberal minded men, but I'm more with Mr. Julian Huxley than Mr. Thomas Henry Huxley on that one. There has already been proposed a name for these flying machines, the airwisp.

(Err, breaking character, do font colors work, namely with purple letters?)


( Oh I might recognise the "Lith" connection, since a friend dances not only in traditional English style, but is associated with people from Lithuania, proudly & in defiance of the Tsar, wearing Red/Yellow/Green "favours". )
You are correct about increasing size & weight, possibly, but are forgetting the accompanying increase in efficiency.
To take examples I have already quoted, the RMS Aquitania is being powered by Parsons trbines, fuelled by oil, at a much greater efficiency than her predecessors Mauritania & Lusitania both of which are coal-fired.
The steam locomotives of Mr Ivatt, & many others [ I might specially mention Mr G J Churchward of the GWR ] have been transformed by superheating, reducing fuel consumption by notable amounts.
A similar process will undoubtedly take place with aeronautical machines, with more fficient prime movers, giving a much greater power-output from, probably the same or only a small increase in weight.
In fact, I wonder if the future of "aviation" (As the French call it) lies in an adaptation of the Parsons turbine for propulsion?


Greg, if I might call you so,

actually I mentioned the Lithuanians more to show the connection of much of Germany's Eastern parts to its former inhabitant, like the Baltic Prussians and Lithuanians, but also the various Slavic languages, namely of the Lechitic branches; if Mr. Schleicher and like are to be believed, these branches are related on an older, so-called balto-slavic level. Of course, these are all somewhat contested areas, like the ill-fated discussions around Prof. Kossinna show.

Personally, I'm of a more Polish extraction, though those two great nations are deeply entwined, just to look at the poems of Adam Mickiewicz. Of course, this has lead to some discussions in the salons...

I agree that new power sources are likely to change the adaptations of aviation considerably, but then, I always liked the more grounded work of Mr. Wells more than his more phantastical ideas. So till then, we're left with the aforementioned conundrum.


Greg, and indeed Andreas,

I believe that a Mr Frank Whittle is presently engaged in experimental work in converting a Parsons turbine design to run directly by burning petroleum fuel in the high pressure end of the expansion chamber and taking thrust directly from the column of hot gas expelled from the turbine, after using some of the hot gas to drive a compression turbine to operate his combustion chamber well above atmospheric pressure.

Obviously, this approach removes the need for separate and weighty fireboxes, boilers and condensors, and, indeed for water tanks, and may enable the production of an engine of similar bulk and mass to a human, but delivering some thousands of pounds of thrust effort.


I also had heard that Mr de Havilland (the aviation engineer who has chosen to manufacture almost entirely in plywood, without recourse to doped linen) is considered the employment of Mr. Whittle's centrifugal turbines.

I am most concerned that the generation of such excess heat within the body of the aerocraft, and the superheated exhaust, will affect the feasibility of such a craft. The young pilot and author Mr. Forsyth recently wrote of his concern that, should the brave aviator seek recourse to his parachute, he will surely find it difficult to avoid injury.

I have heard that Messrs Martin and Baker have a proposal to catapult the distressed aviator away from their doomed machine; but wonder whether the cure outweighs the disease when considering the effect of such a shock on the spinal tissues.


I have seen one of Mr de Haviland's early designs for what he has chosen to call a "jet aircraft". He appears to be addressing the heat issue in a number of manners, including the use of scoops and vents to obtain airflow within the engine compartment, insulation (which should increase the thermal efficiency of the engine still further), and a bifurcated tail assembly, producing an aircraft somewhat similar to a SAAB J-21 but without the propellor.

This leads me to believe that the main issue for a pilot attempting to "bail out" of a sticken machine of this configuration would be the extreme speed of which Mr de Haviland speaks; he has indicated that he believes that his design will be capable of speeds over 550mph in level flight which not even the inestimable DH Mosquito is capable of matching.

As to Messrs Martin and Baker's catapult seat, I suspect that the main issue will be the violence of the initial impulse of their rocket motor.


I believe that Messrs Martin and Baker intend to avoid the use of rocketry in their mode of escape; and to catapult the seat by the use of a gun, much as a ramrod is fired from a inexperienced musketeer's barrel.


What happened there?
I thought we were in 1912-13?


Though similar. But then, I guess that is one of the usual stange attractors, namely aircrafts in general and WW2 aircrafts with special notion in effect...

Sorry, answer in character in work, on the way to work...


Here in the Spontoon Islands, such matters are taught to the schoolchildren, as a useful example of how mathematics and physics combine with the manual crafts to become engineering. Every year the Senior Year at the Spontoon Islands Technical High School carries out some research project. The project in 1928 concerned the cooling fins on an internal combustion engine, most of the work being done with parts for a motor bicycle.

Briefly, the limiting factor on an air-cooled engine is the manufacture of the cooling fins on the cylinders. The more fuel which is burnt in a cylinder, the more energy is released, and the more waste heat must be dissipated. The Carnot cycle determines the energy which can be extracted from the engine, as a percentage of the total, and this is very difficult to improve.

The 1928 class devised ways of machining the cooling vanes which let them double the surface area with only a slight increase of weight. Using a forced draught on the test-bed to emulate the airflow over the engine of a moving vehicle, and a rather ingenious means of measuring the cylinder head temperature, they developed some 40% more power, and at a lower head temperature, before other factors came into play.

The three patents awarded to the class, with the High School getting its customary share, are bringing a significant income to the Spontoon Islands in these difficult times.

This year's project involves testing high-speed streamlining by firing test models from an old smoothbore cannon. The results are not so clear, but they seem to be having fun.


I have seen one of Mr de Haviland's early designs for what he has chosen to call a "jet aircraft". He appears to be addressing the heat issue in a number of manners, including the use of scoops and vents to obtain airflow within the engine compartment, insulation...and a bifurcated tail assembly, producing an aircraft somewhat similar to a SAAB J-21 but without the propellor.

Considering the high speed flame that would issue from such a turbine engine, a bifurcated tail may be a necessity. The vehicle would have to be configured in such a way that the exhaust from the 'jet' or rocket would stay far away from the wood and fabric of the airplane itself* - allowing the two to come into contact would result in a brief flight and unnecessary danger for the pilot.

* This lesson had to be learned in real life only once.


Ah yes The VAMPIRE affectioately knoiwn as the "vamp" tiny little things - well I remember them screaming over my Grandmothers' house in Lincolnshire on the way to/from the low-level ranges out in the Wash.
Replaced, later by the much larger, & scarily competent Sea Vixen


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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on January 18, 2014 3:26 PM.

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