A Visit to Mars (concluded)

This, the third and last part of this strange account, is a follow up to an earlier jot.

January 15th. For the sake of those who, in spite of my gloomy experience on the whole, wish to make this voyage too, I should like to make the following observations on the equipment required for the expedition. A large quantity of provisions, as for an Arctic or Antarctic expedition for many years is a first requirement. It is quite easy to keep the provisions here owing to the permanently low temperature in the ground. If economically used, sufficient water can be obtained by melting hoar-frost.

Continue reading


A Visit to Mars (part 2)

Map of Mars (1894)

More from  the Dutch astronomer, Professor G. Van den Bergh  ‘A Visit to Mars ‘ a chapter in his The Universe in Space and Time (1935). In this account, which has weird parallels with the adventures of the Matt Damon character in the recent movie The Martian ‘a man, an inhabitant of the earth, succeeded in reaching Mars by rocket. He remained there a few years and evidently managed to keep alive, thanks to his good equipment and a large stock of provisions’. After a while this man returned to Earth, but was killed when his rocket crashed. It transpired that the man had kept a diary, but only a few pages could be rescued from the crash site, some of which were reproduced in the chapter. This continues an earlier jot.

Continue reading


A – Z of Science Fiction words

A useful guide to scientific words for the Science Fiction enthusiast. It first appeared as monthly instalments in Authentic Science Fiction and was printed and published as a booklet by Hamilton & co., in the Goldhawk Road, London W 12. It was compiled by H.J. Campbell. Being 1954 very little is related to computers. At C you will find Cybernetics and at B Betelgeuse...

Absolute. Not relative. Independent of all scale and comparisons. E.g., zero temperature, number, the speed of light.

Acceleration. Rate of change of velocity. Increasing velocity is positive acceleration; decreasing velocity is negative acceleration. The average acceleration of any body falling to Earth in a vacuum is 32 feet per second per second.

Achromatic. Applied to optical apparatus which gives images free from colored fringes. A. lenses have one sense of crown glass and one of flint glass. The flint lens corrects dispersion caused by the crown glass.

Aerolite. (Sometimes called ‘aerolith’). A stony meteorite, as distinct from a metallic one. A meteorite that is a mixture of stone and metal, but preponderantly stone would be called aerolithic.

Albedo. A measure of the brightness of celestial bodies that shine by reflected light. Technically, it is the amount of light a body reflects in proportion to the amount that falls on it. The Moon’s albedo is 7%; that of Venus 65%.

Continue reading


A flier for The War of the Worlds (1897/1898)

"...across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us."

Found - a review slip or pre-publication publicity (a flier) in a first edition of H.G. Wells The War of the Worlds (Heinemann, London 1898) one of the greatest Science Fiction novels of all time.  The novel had previously appeared in serialized form in 1897, published simultaneously in Pearson's Magazine in the UK and Cosmopolitan magazine in the US. The reviews are from magazines and newspapers of the time including one from a French paper Mercure de France which says that Wells surpasses Jules Verne.

Continue reading


Vulcan 2

The second part, from the fascinating forgotten work Oddities: A Book of Unexplained Facts (Allan, London 1928) by R.T. Gould, on the non-existent planet Vulcan. The first part can be found here.

Vulcan Landscape (from Star Trek, the Motion Picture)
 Leverrier, once convinced as to the real character of Lescarbault's discovery, lost no time in performing the necessary calculations which that worthy had found so baffling. He obtained, for the new planet's mean distance from the sun, about 13,000,000 miles, and for its period of revolution 19 days 17 hours. Lescarbault, who had seen Mercury in transit over the sun with the same telescope, and the same magnifying power, on May 8, 1845, considered that the new planet (which he decided to name "Vulcan") had a disc rather less than a quarter as large. Accordingly, Leverrier calculated that Vulcan's volume was probably about one seventeenth that of Mercury. It did not escape him that, supposing its mass to be in anything like the same proportion, Vulcan could not be held responsible for more than a small fraction of the disturbances observed to be taking place in Mercury's orbit.

  He also calculated that Vulcan ought to be in transit on the sun's face on or about April 3rd and October 6th of every year, at which times it should, of course, be visible in the same manner as it had been to Lescarbault. He did not hold out much hope of its being seen at other times, since he computed that its lustre would be so feeble that it might easily remain unseen, even during a total eclipse of the sun.*

  * Proctor has questioned this statement. By his calculations, Vulcan and Mercury, seen during eclipse at their greatest angular distance from the sun, would appear about equally bright.

Continue reading


R.T. Gould and The Planet Vulcan 1

T.T. Gould & his wife Muriel
Found - a fascinating forgotten  work Oddities: A Book of Unexplained Facts (Allan, London 1928) by R.T. Gould. Rupert Thomas Gould (1890 – 1948), was a lieutenant Commander in the British Royal Navy noted for his contributions to horology. While in the navy in WW1 he suffered a nervous breakdown. During long recuperation, he was stationed at the Hydrographer's Department at the Admiralty, where he became an expert on various aspects of naval history, cartography, and expeditions of the polar regions. He gained permission in 1920 to restore the marine chronometers of John Harrison, and this work was completed in 1933. Jeremy Irons played him in Longitude, a dramatisation of Dava Sobel's book about John Harrison Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time, which recounted in part Gould's work in restoring the chronometers.

Something of a polymath, he wrote an eclectic series of books on topics ranging from horology to the Loch Ness Monster. He was a member of the Sette of Odd Volumes (Brother Hydrographer) and the book Oddities is dedicated to the club. He was a science educator, giving a series of talks for the BBC's Children's Hour starting in January 1934 under the name "The Stargazer", and these collected talks were later published. He was a member of the BBC radio panel Brains Trust. He umpired tennis matches on the Centre Court at Wimbledon on many occasions during the 1930s. This is the first part of the chapter on the planet Vulcan (more to follow)-

Continue reading