An Electric Revolution in the Skies

Something a little different today.  Grant Shapps, the current Transport Secretary, spoke at Cranfield earlier this week about his vision for the UK aviation industry.  It was an ‘electrifying’ talk – but turning his words into reality raises lots of questions.  Click on his picture to read more.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

FAST visit

Of course, the title of this item refers to our visit to the Farnborough Air Sciences Trust on 5th September.

Most of those who attended – around thirty members – will have taken their own photos.  So I’m not going to attempt to provide a ‘photographic record’.  Instead, just two pictures: of the twenty four foot wind tunnel and a replica of Samuel Cody’s aircraft ‘British Army Aeroplane No 1’.

If you weren’t one of those who came on the visit, you missed a treat!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fusion Energy, 2nd September

Robin Stafford Allen gave us an excellent talk on Monday.  Here are his slides (click on the picture to view them)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Men – the weaker sex?

We have Roger to thank for pointing this item out to us.  We’ll have to take some of its statements on trust, as the article is a bit light on data, but pregnant women do seem to do rather well…  (As always, click on the picture to find out more.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Meeting – 2nd September. Culham Centre for Fusion Energy

I’m posting this a week early to give you time to get back in harness for the autumn term!


Our September’s Guest Speaker will be Robin Stafford Allen.  Robin has provided this thumbnail sketch of his background:

I am a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and started my professional life in the Motor Industry with a branch of General Motors — Vauxhall/Bedford in Luton. I worked there as a Student Apprentice and gained my BSc (Birmingham, 1972) in Mechanical Engineering while training with GM.

After a Masters in Bio-engineering at Surrey (1976) I worked for several years on the engineering of the first generation of MRI magnets and cryostats with Oxford Magnet Technology, then part of Oxford Instruments.

I joined Culham in 1992, and have worked in Cryogenics and in the Heating and Fuelling of plasmas on-and-off ever since.

I recently spent a sabbatical six years as Director of Engineering for a small tenant company on the Culham site designing and constructing a large 1-metre-bore special superconducting magnet for the AMS-2 experiment (a mass-spectrometer) which was launched on the penultimate Shuttle flight to the International Space Station.

Three years ago I retired from working at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy on the mechanical engineering of the plasma-heating equipment for the ITER machine, and the British fusion research effort MAST machine.

I work part time for the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and lecture part-time on Engineering at Oxford Brookes University.

Robin has also provided an introduction to his talk:

We are facing a growing problem with energy for the world population, which is growing at an astounding rate and as the standard of living is also rising, the demand for energy is rising faster than the population growth rate. The vast majority of the world’s energy comes from fossil fuel. This cannot continue indefinitely as oil reserves are finite and Global Warming means we may face a serious food shortage if the climate changes radically.

Renewables are providing only a few percent of the energy for the world and almost all renewable with the exception of hydroelectric dams, are “in addition” to power stations and not “ instead of” power stations and so cannot be relied upon for “base-load” energy supply continuously.

Nuclear fission has contributed a significant amount to the base-load supply, but there are issues with this technology, and so researchers are examining using Nuclear Fusion, the process that keeps the sun hot, as hydrogen is transmuted into helium releasing energy in the process.

The talk will cover this world energy issue and then move on to showing what Nuclear Fusion is, and how it is being researched using the machines in UK (JET) and the latest machine in France (ITER).  I will endeavour to show the progress toward putting Fusion generated electricity onto the grid within our lifetime.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ice Age Theories, 3rd June

It’s taken a little while to sort everything out, but HERE, at last, are Ron’s slides from his excellent talk earlier this summer.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

More about failures in roof members

I knew that today’s article about microcracks in steelwork rang a bell.  So I’ve borrowed a photograph from Wikipedia of the building that used to be at 20 Fenchurch Street in London.  It was one of my ‘favourite’ buildings.

You’ll notice the rather strange indent to the sides of the building the equivalent of one or two stories down from the roof.  Well, IF my memory serves me correctly, the original design for the building was that all the floors would be hung from a massive steel framework on the top of a central concrete tower.  The tower was built in the mid 1960’s, but there was a problem with the roof framework.  It was made of high-tensile steel, and its various elements were supposed to be rivetted together.  Only it was discovered that the layout meant that  the rivetter would have to be incarcerated within part of the roof!  So, welding was used instead.

Unfortunately, the thickness of the steel was outside the welding codes currently available – so the codes were ‘extrapolated’.  The first steelwork was delivered to the site, but, one frosty morning when it was still on the ground, there was a bang, and the steelwork cracked.  Which brought the whole project to a halt for years.  The concrete column was simply wrapped in polyethylene to keep the elements out, and that was that.  I believe that eventually (pre?)-stressed concrete roof beams were installed, and the building was then completed.  Which rather illustrates the danger of extrapolation….

The building lasted about forty years.  But it’s gone completely now.  It’s been replaced by the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building.  A bit of a shame, really…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment