History’s biggest quiz show

It will involve five thousand scientists from fifty nations last eighteen months cost 300 million dollars and its answers may change all human life. Here's the story behind the coming scientific blitz on the mysteries of the world

McKenzie Porter March 16 1957

History’s biggest quiz show

It will involve five thousand scientists from fifty nations last eighteen months cost 300 million dollars and its answers may change all human life. Here's the story behind the coming scientific blitz on the mysteries of the world

McKenzie Porter March 16 1957

History’s biggest quiz show

It will involve five thousand scientists from fifty nations last eighteen months cost 300 million dollars and its answers may change all human life. Here's the story behind the coming scientific blitz on the mysteries of the world

McKenzie Porter

History’s biggest quiz show

McKenzie Porter

It will involve five thousand scientists from fifty nations last eighteen months cost 300 million dollars and its answers may change all human life. Here's the story behind the coming scientific blitz on the mysteries of the world

For centuries man has been asking questions about the mysteries of the universe, an infinite constellation in which the earth corresponds to a single grain in the Sahara sand. Yet even the solar system, man’s own minute corner of the universe, in which a few planets revolve around one of a trillion trillion stars that is known as the sun, continues to baffle him.

Answers to a few of man’s cosmic queries may emerge from a scientific crash program that begins July 1. Since it continues until December 31, 1958, the program’s name—the International Geophysical Year—is somewhat slipshod. But there is nothing slipshod about the IGY’s organization. It will be the most intensive and extensive study ever undertaken of the earth and its environment. Twenty years of research will be compressed into eighteen months. Five thousand scientists from more than fifty countries will join forces in investigations costing three hundred million dollars.

Among the raddles they'll try to solve are the ten displayed in the panel above.

In probing these puzzles the physicists, meteorologists, seismologists, oceanographers, astronomers and many other specialists will be aided by a multitude of electronic instruments, includ-

ing several developed since World War Two.

Some of the instruments will be carried on dog sleds and snowmobiles across the Arctic and Antarctic wastes. Others will be taken in cages down the world’s deepest mines. Still more will be placed aboard submarines and diving bells bound for the ocean depths. Another group will be built into rockets destined for the frontiers of space. The most spectacular of all the instrument-carrying vehicles will be U. S. and Russianbuilt artificial satellites, or man-made moons, that will circle the earth in orbits three hundred to eight hundred miles high.

Most of the instruments provide information by their responses to the projection of radio impulses into various dynamic forces. .Some instruments, for example, responding to radio impulses directed vertically downward, have already suggested that the earth's core is not a ball of fire, which was once widely supposed, but a hot liquid about as thick as plasticine. Some, responding to radio impulses shot obliquely out into space, have indicated that mineral properties in other stellar constellations correspond to those in the solar system, thus strengthening the theory that the universe abounds in planets similar to earth.

Here are some of the questions they’ll try to answer:

Can Aurora Borealis be used to bounce TV impulses around the world?

Is the earth really getting warmer?

Will polar ice caps eventually melt and flood continental coastlines?

How do glaciers, ocean currents and electricity in the atmosphere influence climate?

What does Earth look like from the heavens?

When can we expect the first interplanetary flights?

How soon will space stations he feasible?

How can a space ship be brought back to earth?

Why do cosmic particles affect radio and telephone communication?

What effect have cosmic ravs on human life?

The knowledge supplied by such instruments during the IGY will be shared by all participating countries, whether capitalist, fascist, socialist, communist or feudal. Countries committed to the project range in size and influence trom the United States to Tunisia, from the United Kingdom to Colombia, from the USSR to Spain, from the Peoples' Republic of China to Iceland, and from Canada to Bulgaria.

The polyglot teams of scientists will seek more knowledge about the vagaries of earthquakes and tidal waves, the pull of gravity, the circulation of sea water, the expansion and contraction of glaciers, the formation of clouds, the density of the air toward its outermost limits, the characteristics of myriad electrical charges that shoot through space, and the effect of the sun’s rays beyond the thin protective skin of the atmosphere—all matters of fundamental importance to the scientific improvement of human life.

Although some of the information gleaned will have little practical value for centuries to come, much of it will bring early benefits to humanity. The first big developments are expected in the fields of meteorology, radio and aviation. Many scientists believe that IGY experiments will lead within a generation to weather forecasts for twelve months ahead, to intercontinental television broadcasts, and to preparations for the first flight to the moon.

If these hopes continued on page 35

History’s biggest quiz show

Continued from page 23

With long-range forecasts we'll know months ahead when to run for the hurricane cellars

materialize incalculable economic, social and political changes will ensue. The IGY may well be remembered by posterity as the first successful effort of many governments to unite in a single global aim. Alan T. Waterman, director of the United States National Science Foundation, said recently that the IGY will be “one of the most significant undertakings in the history of man.”

Aptly enough the IGY has been timed to coincide with the peak period in an eleven-year cycle of eruptions on the face of the sun. The sun controls to some extent all earthly phenomena and during its phase of greatest disturbance the nature and degree of its authority may be most easily determined.

Despite the immensity of its scope the IGY is amazingly simple in origin and organization. The idea was first suggested in April 1950 by a U. S. geophysicist, L. V. Berkner. at an informal scientific gathering in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The chairman of the IGY is England’s Professor Sydney Chapman, the world's leading authority on magnetic forces. Dr. D. C. Rose, of the Division of Pure Physics at the National Research Council, Ottawa, and a celebrated expert on cosmic rays, is in charge of Canada’s effort.

Several hundred Canadian scientists will take part. Dr. Rose says: “The IGY will see the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. Pure science is not necessarily concerned with how knowledge is employed.” Even so, most scientists agree that the IGY will bring about major advances in the field of meteorology.

Everything man does is dictated by weather, which is a working fluid created by the action of the sun’s heat, light and electrical energy on the earth’s crust and atmosphere. Water evaporates to make cloud. Warm air rises and cool air falls. A circulation we know as the wind distributes heat from the tropics to northern and southern climes and drives moisture from the oceans to fall as rain on the land. Yet science knows so little about the movement of these air masses that today it is impossible to make accurate weather predictions for any one spot on earth more than eight hours ahead.

Present weather forecasts are based largely on studies in civilized countries of the pressures, temperatures, humidity and wind velocity of the lower atmosphere. For longer-range predictions meteorologists need information gleaned simultaneously from all over the earth, from deep down in the earth and from hundreds of miles above the earth. During the IGY this requirement will he met for the first time. From concurrent observations ofthe ocean currents, the glaciers, the polar ice caps, the equatorial vapors, the incidence of earthquakes and the electrical forces in and above the atmosphere it is hoped to discern an over-all pattern of world weather which will lead to the lengthening of forecasts to periods of up to twelve months.

This, if it succeeds, will bring about an economic revolution. Farmers will know exactly what to plant and what not

to plant; exactly when to sow and when to reap. The certainty of bad crops in some places and good crops in others will eliminate stock-market gambling in futures. Countries will be driven by a knowledge of their forthcoming shortages and surpluses to negotiate with other countries to adjust the equilibrium of their harvests. A trend toward planned global balance in crops will be a natural development.

Industry hopes for similar advantages from the IGY. Construction companies should one day be able to extend their schedule of work on assurance of a long summer or to remove their crews and equipment from the field at an economic moment when forewarned of an early winter. The cost of snow removal in cold countries like Canada will be sharply reduced if municipalities know exactly how many men and ploughs they’ll need on a given day.

Shipping companies may plan sailing dates and routes to avoid hurricanes and high seas. Airlines may run supplementary flights during clear weather and eliminate flights during impenetrable fogs. Reduction of insurance rates would make travel cheaper and help place vacations in distant lands within easier reach of the average man.

Where do the glaciers go?

“It is fascinating,” says Doctor J. H. Meek, a physicist on the staff of the Defence Research Board. Ottawa, “to play around with the possibilities of long-range weather predictions. Through its upper-atmosphere, deep-sea, polar and equatorial research the IGY should add immeasurably to the range of forecasts.”

During the IGY the world’s permanent weather stations will be reinforced by special chains of additional stations running from the North to the South Pole down three lines of longitude; one through Canada, the United States, the West Indies and South America; a second through Western Europe and Africa; and a third through Asia, Japan and Australia. In the ocean gaps between the land-based stations some seventy ships of various nationalities will preserve the longitudinal link. Synchronized observations will result in the most comprehensive global weather picture ever drawn up. Into the picture will be painted facts of supplementary significance from scores of other sources.

Typical of these is an outpost to be manned by Canadian glaciologists under the leadership of G. F. Hattersley-Smith, an English-born Arctic expert on the staff of the Defence Research Board. For. twelve months Hattersley-Smith’s expedition will measure the fluctuation of glaciers at the northern tip of Ellesmere Island, only five hundred miles from the North Pole. It will also observe the movement of ice floes that break off the polar mass, swirl into the Lincoln Sea and drift southward down the Kane Basin. In the Kane Basin, which separates Ellesmere Island from Greenland, the ice floes collide with warm currents surging up from the North Atlantic. The

melting, vaporization and cloud formations that result influence weather throughout the Northern Hemisphere.

Tied in with Hattersley-Smith’s efforts will be those of Canadian oceanographers like H. B. Hachey of the Canadian-U. S. Joint Commission on Oceanography, St. Andrew’s, New Brunswick, and F. C. G. Smith of the Hydrographic Service of the Canadian Department of Mines and Technical Surveys. They will co-ordinate the findings of many other Canadian oceanographers aboard RCN vessels in

the Atlantic and Pacific to study the flow of deep sea currents.

Although it is certain that deep ocean currents help to shape climatic conditions science knows little of their courses. Only surface currents like the Gulf Stream, which arcs over the Atlantic from the Caribbean to the British Isles, have been charted precisely. Oceanographers are aware that one of the biggest global exchanges of water takes place between the equator and the Antarctic. But whether the shift takes a

hundred or ten thousand years nobody has yet found out. That is one reason for elaborate expeditions to the Antarctic, an uninhabited continent as big as Canada, where advance parties are already building camps and erecting scientific equipment.

There a joint British Commonwealth expedition, including Sir Edmund Hillary, conqueror of Everest, will collaborate with American, French, Russian, Norwegian, Japanese, Argentinian and Chilian teams to analyze forces in the icy climate which have a profound effect on world weather conditions.

Above the Antarctic hovers a huge blob of frigid air, as wobbly as jelly. From time to time a shivering hunk peals off and flops into the air streams that eddy around the globe. It pushes the warm air before it, or charges the warm air aside, to create rain, hail, snow, hurricanes and high seas wherever it goes.

1GY scientists will provide the world for the first time with daily weather maps of the Antarctic over an eighteen-month period. Some information included will be derived from rockets that will probe the secrets of the upper Antarctic atmosphere.

And northward, all the way up three lines of longitude to the opposite pole, other teams of British Commonwealth, American, French and Russian scientists will be projecting further rockets to great altitudes. At Churchill, on Hudson Bay, for example, ITS. teams accompanied by Canadian observers will fire forty-one rockets. One rocket of U. S. design will be handed over to the Canadians to fire for themselves.

The rockets will be carried fifteen miles up from Churchill by balloon. Then they will be automatically fired to rise another forty miles on their own fuel. At a rocket’s zenith, sixty miles up. computors will record data beyond the reach of conventional meteorological balloons.

A curiosity of the upper atmosphere to be examined by rocket-borne instruments will be the polar jet air streams that whistle around the top quarter of the earth at speeds of between three hundred ánd four hundred miles an hour. So far most of what is known about this westto-east circuit has been supplied by airline pilots who occasionally catch on to it and cut two hours off the flying time from Montreal to London.

But the use of rockets will not be limited to the cause of meteorology. Rocket-borne instruments will also record information for the radio industry.

Ever since Marconi sent the first radio signal across the Atlantic in 1901 longrange wireless communications have depended on a region high above us that is known as the ionosphere. This is an envelope of electrically charged particles that completely encloses the earth. It stands fifty miles clear of the earth and is two hundred and fifty miles thick.

Its existence was proved in 1925 when scientists projected a radio impulse vertically. The impulse hit the ionosphere and bounced down again to be picked up by a receiver standing next to the transmitter. The experiment showed that long - range radio transmissions rise obliquely to the ionosphere and glance downward again, like billiard balls off the cushion, to distant receivers.

If the ionosphere were stable radio communications would be easier. But the ionosphere is subject to constant and violent convulsions. It alters radically with the time of day and the seasons, and also from year to year. This is because it is affected by the hour-to-hour variations in the sun’s eleven-year cycle of radiations. A flare on the sun is often accompanied by ionospheric disturbances.

Radio messages are then blotted out by static. The daily BBC broadcast relayed across Canada by the CBC becomes inaudible. Ships at sea lose radio contact with land and other vessels. Airlines have to abandon radio navigational aids and turn to slower methods of position fixing. Hours of time are lost by businessmen because the radio telephone is out of service.

The caprice of the ionosphere prompted the British Post Office, the American Telephone and Telegraph Co. and the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corp. to lay, at a cost of forty million dollars, the recently opened cable that has made trans-Atlantic calls as clear as local calls. This most expensive form of telephonic link may be the last of its kind.

Instrument-laden rockets sizzling up to the ionosphere from many points in the world will provide radio scientists with clues to its temperament and may enable them to cut through or avoid its periodic rages.

During the IGY, experiments in the principle of bouncing radio signals off ionospheric and other celestial bodies will be conducted by Dr. P. A. Forsyth, formerly of Saskatoon, and now of the Defence Research Board in Ottawa. With cheap low-power equipment Forsyth has already found it possible to carom a signal off the trail of particles left by a meteor and transmit it to points a thousand miles away. Because each meteor can be used for only a second or so. transmission of messages must take place at tremendous speed. So the message is fed into a transmitter equipped with an “electronic brain” which memorizes it and shrinks it into capsule form. The “electronic brain” then looks out for suitable meteors and on spotting one alerts the transmitter. The transmitter aims the capsuled message at the meteor trail in a single rapid burst of impulses. A distant receiver catches the message on the rebound and utters it at normal printing speed through teletype machines. One Toronto company is now developing the system for military and commercial use. Its code name, recently re mo vex I from the secret list, is Janet.

Forsyth will also be interested in rocket-produced records of the Aurora Borealis, a subject in which Canada will make its major contribution to the IGY. A disturbance of the ionosphere by the sun's radiations is often followed by the appearance over the North and South Poles of the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis. The vast shifting sheets of many-colored lights in the sky are due to the sun’s bombardment of the atmosphere with streams of charged particles which give rise to visible electrical rays.

Beautiful though it is to watch, the Aurora Borealis interferes seriously with radio communications. It even sets telephone lines spitting with sparks and disrupts calls. But implicit in its nuisance is one factor that promises dazzling possibilities in television advances: at the moment television broadcasts are carried on radio waves that will not pass through the earth’s curvature. Yet television viewers on this continent have picked up blurred images which turned out to be programs transmitted by London far away over the earth's arc. These receptions have coincided with the most brilliant demonstrations of the Aurora Borealis. Are the impulses reaching the Aurora and bouncing down to sets on the

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At 4,000 miles an hour, satellites will leave earth’s orbit and swing in space like a yo-yo

other side of the Atlantic? Could this freakish condition he controlled and exploited for the purpose of intercontinental television broadcasting?

These are among many questions to be answered by Canadian scientists whose efforts will be co-ordinated by Doctors P. M. Millman and A. G. McNamara of the National Research Council and by Doctors B. W. Currie, A. V. Jones and D. M. Hunten of the University of Saskatchewan. Fourteen observatories, from The Pas. Man., to Alert in the Arctic, and from Victoria, B.C.. to Ottawa, will watch the Aurora Borealis during the IGY.

One of the instruments to be used is an auroral recorder which takes pictures every minute of the celestial efflorescence. The camera’s impressions are passed automatically to an adjacent electronic device which punches a tape with symbols. The symbols tell the time of the recording, the brightness of the auroral display, its position on a particular meridian. and the incidence of cloud and haze that tended to obscure it.

Radio scientists hope that as a result of ionospheric and auroral studies many people now living may one day see television broadcasts from stations on the other side of the world. The improvement will stem from radio impulses bounced off reflectors in the sky.

As a radio-wave reflector for longrange television nothing could be more effective than a man-made satellite built for the purpose. Satellites will be the highlight of the IGY program. A dozen

are being prepared in the United States and a so-far-unknown number in Russia.

The first U. S. satellite will be launched in 1958. or possibly earlier, from the Patrick Air Force Base. Cape Carnaveral, Fla. It is a twenty-pound metal sphere a little bigger than a basketball and as highly polished as a mirror. A three-stage rocket will carry it to the limits of gravity. The first stage will lift the rocket forty miles in two minutes and then burn out. By this time the rocket w ill be climbing at four thousand miles an hour.

During the second stage the rocket will reach eleven thousand miles an hour. At an altitude of a hundred and thirty miles the second-stage fuel will be exhausted. But now the rocket will be soaring so fast that it will coast up to a height of three hundred miles.

Here a third rocket will turn it into an orbit parallel to the curvature of the earth and kick it up to a speed of eighteen thousand miles an hour. At this speed the satellite will be held in delicate poise between centrifugal force and gravity. With no resistance from air to slow it up the satellite will maintain its speed even when its last rocket is dead. It will be like a yo-yo swung around at the full extent of its string. Centrifugal force will keep it clear of the earth, and gravity, playing the part of the string, will hold it prisoner in its orbit.

The satellite will encompass the earth once every ninety minutes, not around the equator but at an angle of forty degrees to the equator in order to give scientists in as many countries as possible

a chance to keep track of it. On bright moonlit nights it may be visible to the naked eye as a silvery streak in the sky. Canada will be off the track of the first American satellite but later may see one of the other satellites orbiting at different angles and heights.

There is no channel of IGY research that satellites will fail to serve. Their electronic instruments may reveal for the first time the unknown source of cosmic rays, those charged particles from space that bombard the earth in such numbers that mankind is literally bathed in them. Cosmic rays pass through the average man’s skin at the rate of one per square centimeter per second and with such force that they bury themselves up to ten thousand feet deep in the earth. An excess or deficiency of cosmic rays is believed to account for the breakdown of genes in animal and vegetable life and to cause the kind of mutations that result in webfooted babies, two-headed lambs and the reversion of hybridized plants to their original primitive forms.

A covered wagon to the stars

Satellite instruments will also shoot electronic impulses at the earth and, from the responses, determine the thickness and composition of its crust at many different points, thus speeding up the search for oil, gas, iron, precious metals and other minerals.

Other instruments will provide endless data about the densities of the upper atmosphere, data that is vital to aircraft designers. AVRO (Canada) Ltd. has on the drawing board an airliner that will fly at fifteen hundred miles an hour and cover the distance from Montreal to London in two and a half hours. Such speeds pose a new challenge to aviation: the challenge of heat from air friction. Satellite-borne instruments will help metallurgists to compound the kind of heat-resistant alloys required for airframes and to determine the type of cooling devices that will be necessary for the comfort of passengers.

And finally satellites will be covered wagons heralding the epoch of interplanetary flight. On their performance, designs for the first permanent space stations, the departure points for flights to the moon, Mars and Venus, will be based. But before that day comes many problems will have to be solved. It has been

estimated that a rocket powerful enough to carry a six-seat passenger satellite beyond the grasp of gravity would have to have a fuel tank as big as the Empire State Building. That estimate is based on the capacity of known fuels. Already experiments are being carried out with the object of applying nuclear energy to rocket propulsion.

But even if effective atomic-powered rockets are developed the difficulties in the way of interplanetary flight will not be over, as will be seen in the fate of the IGY satellites. They will circle the earth for a number of days, weeks, months or years. Nobody knows for sure how long. One thing, however, is almost certain. The prototypes will not have enough height or velocity to remain up for ever. Sooner or later the pull of gravity will overcome the pull of centrifugal force and draw the satellites back toward earth. As they plunge at eighteen thousand miles an hour into the earth’s progressively thickening atmosphere they will melt in the tremendous frictional heat.

With limitations of this kind remaining there will be no hope during the IGY of getting back such fascinating exhibits as pictures taken of the earth from three hundred miles away, or of making an early beginning on man-carrying satellites. Yet to modern science even this hurdle is not insuperable.

The University of Toronto’s Institute of Aerophysics at Downsview Airport, on the outskirts of the city, is experimenting —on a grant from the United States Navy —with the object of finding alloys capable of withstanding the kind of heat expected in upper-atmosphere flights at great speeds.

Amid wind tunnels and shock chambers two dozen young Canadians are working under the direction of Dr. Gordon Patterson, a forty-eight-year-old aerodynamist, with metals subjected to reproductions of velocities in various densities of air. While Canada has no direct part in the launching of the IGY satellites the Toronto program is vital to the development of later models.

“Getting a satellite up,” says Dr. Patterson, “is relatively easy. Our job is to get it down.” If there is a hint of pessimism in the last sentence there is enough optimism in the first to make man stand aghast or agog before the wonders promised by the International Geophysical Year. *