Eastercon Diary – Easter Monday 28th March 2016 – Jodrell Bank And Science Fiction

Photo taken by me – A model of Jodrell Bank displayed at the Beetham Hotel throughout the convention.
Preston, England
March 31, 2016 10:14am CST
The last full presentation event I attended before the Mancunicon Convention’s closing ceremony was a fascinating talk by Tim O’Brian, himself a member of staff at Cheshire’s famous giant radio telescope and its companion installations. The Jodrell Bank property near Macclesfield has been used by Manchester University’s astronomy and physics departments since 1939. After the war Professor Bernard Lovell bought up some second hand discarded radar equipment to use in a search for cosmic rays, a mission that was never actually successful in itself. The vast parabolic telescope most associated with Jodrell Bank and visible from across much of North West England on the flat Cheshire Plains, was built in 1947. It was then the biggest in the World. Jodrell Bank was dangerously short of money until it was used timely to track early Russian Soyuz space-craft. From then on the centre’s future was secure. Jodrell Bank never transmits signals into space. It exists purely to receive signals and we were treated to the amazing sounds of captured supernovas in action. The arrays are open to public visits for much of the year and some convention attendees went there on a field trip at the start of this weekend. I last went with my school in the 1970’s. The centre has been referenced in many science fiction works. Lovell’s first name was quite intentionally taken by Nigel Kneale for his own science boffin creation Bernard Quatermass in four features, and the last of these, starring John Mills, and made for TV, included scenes filmed on location at Jodrell Bank. The centre is also mentioned in Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy when its astronomers are too busy drinking tea in the canteen to detect the Vogon invasion fleet arriving. Tim O’Brian showed photographs of staff using the canteen to suggest jokingly that Adams might have been on to something there. Two Doctor Who stories were to feature scenes there, The Hartnell/Troughton crossover story The Tenth Planet and the Tom Baker to Peter Davidson regeneration story Logopolis. An open air screening of Kubrick’s 2001; A Space Odyssey was presented at Jodrell Bank which was lit up specially for the occasion to look like a giant eye-beam from the Hal 9000 computer seen in the movie. This was a fabulous talk that really makes me really want to revisit Jodrell Bank very soon. Arthur Chappell
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8 responses
@Hate2Iron (7260)
• Canada
31 Mar 16
I think that we are going to pencil it in for our next vacation to England. The place sounds fascinating and I recognize a lot to the shows that you mentioned especially Dr Who and then for A Space Odyssey... just have to see this place!! Will start saving my pennies. :)
1 person likes this
• Preston, England
31 Mar 16
@Hate2Iron it wasn't used in the 2001 movie itself - the movie got a special screening at Jodrell Bank - here is a Youtube of footage of Jodrell Bank
Suns out, nd16 test at the end, impressed...
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@Hate2Iron (7260)
• Canada
31 Mar 16
@arthurchappell I had no idea that it would be so big!! Awesome. Still want to go and see it up close and personal!!
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• Preston, England
31 Mar 16
@Hate2Iron it is colossal - you can see it from several miles away
@Ronrybs (7084)
• London, England
1 Apr 16
I knew of the appearance in Dr Who, but didn't recognise it in 2001
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• Preston, England
2 Apr 16
@Ronrybs it wasn't in the movie Rob - the movie was screened outdoors at Jodrell which was dressed up for the occasion in 2014
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@Ronrybs (7084)
• London, England
2 Apr 16
@arthurchappell That explains that then!
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@Jessicalynnt (48199)
• Centralia, Missouri
1 Apr 16
hey now, any polite invaders would wait until tea time is over.
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• Preston, England
1 Apr 16
Quite right too, it's just not cricket to attack while the kettle is on
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• Centralia, Missouri
1 Apr 16
@arthurchappell polite society would certainly delay.
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@celticeagle (111860)
• Boise, Idaho
31 Mar 16
Very interesting. I'd like to hear some of the signals received.
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• Preston, England
1 Apr 16
@celticeagle they mostly sounded like surges of static - thrilling to know they had travelled across the galaxy over many light years though
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@celticeagle (111860)
• Boise, Idaho
2 Apr 16
@arthurchappell ....Yes, it would be for me as well.
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@teamfreak16 (32018)
• Colorado Springs, Colorado
31 Mar 16
Am I confusing this? Was it Tim O'Brian who wrote The Things they Carried, or am I way off?
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• Preston, England
1 Apr 16
@teamfreak16 Two different men with the same name - Jodrell Bank's Tim O'Brian is a professor of Astrophysics - the other is a US author and historian noted for his books on Vietnam.
@Fleura (5377)
• United Kingdom
31 Mar 16
That sounds interesting. I've never visited Jodrell Bank even though I grew up not that far away. Must go there with the girls one day!
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• Preston, England
31 Mar 16
@Fleura well worth it - they have a terrific planetarium there too
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@Corbin5 (70644)
• United States
31 Mar 16
Thank you for introducing us to this very interesting person! I never knew of him or his work.
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• Preston, England
31 Mar 16
@Corbin5 Bernard Lovell is one of the greatest astronomers of the 20th century
@ElicBxn (59954)
• United States
15 May 16
I would LOVE to go there. Not just because I'm a Doctor Who fan, but I'm a space science fan too... oh, and I love history...
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