New: Book Report: The Invention that Changed the World

This book was a pretty good general history of the early development of RADAR. It doesn't stop at the end of WWII, but also talks about some of the radio telescope. I learned from this book--from my previous readings, I'd got the message from the history experts: RADAR won the war--but I'd over-focused on the proximity fuse. The proximity fuse was a pretty good application of RADAR: before the proximity fuse, anti-aircraft guns threw time bombs in the air, and hoped that they exploded when an enemy airplane was near. If enemy bombers were flying in at some altitude, you figured how long it would take a hurled bomb to reach that altitude, and set the timer accordingly. So in those WWII bomber films in which you see airplanes flying through lots of "flak", but not many planes are knocked down--that's actually pretty realistic. The bombs would often explode too soon or too late. The proximity fuse changed that--anti-aircraft guns were now pretty effective.

But that didn't win the war. It did change a battle, and did force the enemy to rein in their planes. But what RADAR did well was detect big metal enemies--and when one RADAR variation detected nearby planes, big metal enemies would try to sneak around to far-away places--so you needed long-range detectors. And submarine detectors. And this and that and the other thing. Thus, in addition to the proximity fuse, engineers needed to detect other RADAR devices to detect different things at different ranges. No one variation was enough on its own.

Anyhow, this book cured my obsession with the proximity fuse and taught me a few things. I still don't really understand the water-vapor hydrogen freqency hoo-ha, and this book's explanation was not sufficient to penetrate my thick skull. But no other book has succeeded at that either, so no worries.

Tags:  |  |  |


Posted 2006-09-03