Sign in to follow this  
BaalChatzaf

Score one for the Founding Mother

Recommended Posts

I have read -Atlas Shrugged- at least ten times. I enjoy it primarily as an Alternate History or Alternate Reality work, a branch of science fiction. However it took another book to make me see just how on point Ayn Rand was about how people of the Looter Inclination operate.

The book is -Slide Rule- by Neville Shute Norway. This is the very Neville Shute (that is Norway's pen name) who wrote -No Highway- and -On the Beach-, both of which were made into excellent motion pictures.

-Slide Rule- is NOT fiction. It is about a project started by the British government in 1929 to get Great Britain into the air ship business. This was pre-Hindenberg and the air ship dirigible was, then, the best and fastest way of crossing the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and North America. An air ship dirigible could transport nearly a hundred people in comfort and luxury to North America in about three days (or less if the winds were favorable). The air ship dirigible was quiet and smooth. No roar of the engines rattled the peace and quiet of the passenger section mounted below the bulk of the envelope and out of direct ear shot of the Diesel engines. The ships were flown to avoid turbulent weather so the flight was smooth and lovely. The accommodations could match the first and second class cabins aboard the late ship -Titanic-, the benchmark of luxury travel.

Britain wanted a piece of this market established by the Zepplin Corporation in Germany. The government of Britain arranged for a private firm (Vickers) and a government established project to design, build and fly Zepplin type air ships. The projects were to work in parallel and in competition. The ideas was to establish which kind of firm, a private company, or a government managed project could produce the better air ship. This would be analogous to NASA and a private firm in competition to build the first manned vehicle to land on the Moon.

The private firm, Vickers worked on the R-100 and the government consortium worked on R-101. The operations could not have been more different. R-100 was designed, layed out, constructed and flown safely to Canada. The operation was along industrial, cost conscious lines in which objective criterion for flight efficiency and safety were carried out. R-100 was a honey and comparable to best airships produced in Germany. On top of that it was designed by Barnes-Wallace himself, the greatest boffin whoever lived.

The R-101 project, the government undertaking, was bedeviled by burocratic interference with the technical competent people attempting to design a worthy airship. The management and the Air Ministry constantly interfered with the design and construction from the git go. The real villain of the piece was the Air Minister, Lord Thompson, who saw the project as a monument to his own glory and pelf. Think of R-101 as the airship designed by the National Science Institute from -Atlas Shrugged- with Floyd Ferris in charge of the operation.

Here is how it came down. R-100 flow safely to Canada and back with no more than minor "glitches", the sort that happened even with the German airships. R-101 crashed with all hands aboard lost in France, on her maiden voyage. She was underpowered, screwed up and badly put together. Each of the burocrats wanted to leave his mark on the airship. It was like the housing project in -The Fountainhead-. R-100 was a Roarke built ship. R-101 is what you got from a government appointed committee. You might say the project was a camel, that is to say a horse designed by a government committee. Among the dead in the R-101 crash was the Air Minister himself who wanted the flight to be a glorious prelude to his becoming Viceroy of India, then part of the British Raj. In the aftermath of the disaster, the R-100, the successful airship built by a private firm was demolished and her aluminium frame sold for scrap. Her plans and blueprints were -destroyed- so that no comparison could ever be drawn between the two airships, R-100 and R-101. The only reason we know about the difference in quality is because of Neville Shute Norway's witness.

When I read -Atlas Shrugged- and -The Fountainhead- I felt that Ayn Rand was really writing "over the top". After I got through with -Slide Rule- told in a quiet, accurate and non-polemic manner by Neville Shute Norway, whose writing is the very opposite of a Randian polemic (in its tone) I realized just how on point Ayn Rand was. She nailed the kind of rotten diseased egos that operate under government aegis. Rand may have misunderstood physics and mathematics but she know how people operated, particularly the power-trippers found in government circles or badly run corporations like General Motors or Chrysler Motors (the Orren Boyle car company). Rand got it right on the mark. Good for her! When she was not trying to be a philosopher, she was on the top of her form.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Edited by BaalChatzaf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bob; Paper Tiger carries many of Shute's novels. Because of "On the Beach" a novel about nuclear war ending the world I have never given Shute the attention he deserves. Thanks for recommendation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Bob; Paper Tiger carries many of Shute's novels. Because of "On the Beach" a novel about nuclear war ending the world I have never given Shute the attention he deserves. Thanks for recommendation.

I should have mentioned that Neville Shute Norway was an assistant designer to Barns-Wallis (the world's greatest boffin). That fact alone speaks highly of Norway. He knew the R-100, R-101 story from the inside.

I should have compared the R-101 debacle to the Kip Chalmers incident in -Atlas Shrugged-. The Air Minister, Lord Thompson, insisted that the R-101 be certified air worthy prior to his scheduled departure for India. His engineers told him the ship was marginal at best and not airworthy, most likely. Nevertheless the Departure Date became a decree of Nature. Talk about the primacy of mind. When combined with the primacy of vainglory and ambition it is positively deadly.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Edited by BaalChatzaf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On top of that it was designed by Barnes-Wallace himself, the greatest boffin whoever lived.

Now isn't this something of a stretch? Greater than Newton? I think you are using "boffin" to mean "technical expert" not scientist, but the definition includes both. I like this word, which I did not know. Now I want to read "Slide Rule."

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On top of that it was designed by Barnes-Wallace himself, the greatest boffin whoever lived.

Now isn't this something of a stretch? Greater than Newton? I think you are using "boffin" to mean "technical expert" not scientist, but the definition includes both. I like this word, which I did not know. Now I want to read "Slide Rule."

--Brant

Boffin = technical wunderkind and handy dandy inventor of Useful Stuff. Boffins are not particularly theoretical as was Newton. Barnes-Wallis invented the bouncing bombs that were used to blow up the dams in the Ruhr valley during WW2. Thomas Eidison would have been a boffin if he were a Brit.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nevil Shute's style is very appealing, whether he's writing fiction or non-fiction. I particularly like "The Legacy" (aka "A Town Like Alice") and "Trustee From the Toolroom" for their understated main characters who have a big job to do and simply get down and do it -- very inspiring indeed.

Juditn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this