This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.
Never talk about it?! You should be writing a book about it - just the sort of thing to inform the public how charlatanism can easily affect scientific endeavour!
Write a book? I wrote one called Sorry wrong number! and made a point of including in the first chapter an anecdote about my only direct experience of the happenings. There is no one more cunning than the self-deluding charlatan. What was going on in the basement below my feet, in what was officially a store room, had been unknown to me, though it was apparently well known to little old ladies in long black dresses on the psychic circuit.
As for Laithwaite, doing what he did in front of trusting children was unforgivable. It was more Tommy Cooper than Michael Faraday. He added gyros and piled in the pivots, adding further degrees of freedom and creating quasi-stable patterns of motion that were virtually non-analysable. Instead of shining a light, he sowed confusion.
Trivial demonstrations of magnetic levitation were at that time common open-day attractions. I remember remarking that the lack of sideways restraint represented a dangerous aspect of transport applications. I believe that the levitation lobby was grossly unfairly treated when its test track was explosively demolished on the orders of opposing bureaucrats, but the hostility had been exacerbated by Laithwaite’s intransigent insouciance. I am also not sure that a case can be made for the originality of his own scientific contribution.
'There were other London figures involved too, including, I believe, a professor at Kings.'
Would that be Prof John Taylor by any chance?
Taylor? Rings a bell.
Thank you for the links.They were very interesting.I have n't anything to add except to say that I remember attending a lecture that Eric gave on MagLev.He was a strikingly charismatic lecturer as I remembet, but strangely this was n't so apparent in those RI Christmas Lectures?
MagLev seemed to be an energy efficient development with a promising future.
I wonder why it has been so little used?
In reply to Edward, as I remember it the last time anybody suggested we should build maglev high-speed trains in the UK was George Osborne about ten years ago. But Osborne would only be making such suggestions as part of David Cameron's "Vote Blue Go Green" campaign, where the Conservative opposition tried to appear to be even more Green-leaning than the Labour government of the time.
The main reason maglev is so little used is that its costs are prohibitive, about five times the cost of a conventional railway system according to this 2006 BBC news article:
Wiki has good article on maglev.
However I had thought the French had investigated this. I seemed to remember seeing a section of abandoned track in a documentary - probably by Jonathan Meades - but it was perhaps instead the Aerotrain.