Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Friday, 1 April 2011

Dumbness: a lifestyle choice

Ignorance comes in different forms. As a child I was unaware of how the gyroscopic top (see inset) or the radio worked. Magic, I said. But fate in the form of RAF national service forced me to recognise that the radio is not magic. By arranging electronic components - resistors, capacitors, coils and (in those days) thermionic valves - in a certain manner you can create a superhetereodyne, a name more exotic than the circuit’s comparatively mundane function.

An aerial responds to electro-magnetic waves sent from afar. The aerial is linked to the superhet which is adjusted to pick out a selected frequency from these waves. This tiny signal is made more powerful and its variations are duplicated in the coil of a loudspeaker. The coil vibrates the speaker cone, duplicating sounds imposed on the EM wave. Thus Desert Island Discs.

Since no one forced me I never bothered to explain the top although I think I could. Left to myself I might have investigated the radio. One was a visible mystery, the other invisible. Watching and touching the spinning top taught you things. The radio remains inert and getting to know it involves maths which usually blunts casual curiosity.

Understanding electronics is chic and I’m vain enough to want this. The forces at work in the top are strange but not, it seems, strange enough. I’m at ease with my ignorance.
GORGON COVER The pro tem design for my novel Gorgon Times cost £100. I challenged commenters to better it for the same sum. FigMince responded and here is his idea. He says he doesn’t want the money, but we’ll see about that. Anyone else?