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Mountbatten pink is a color invented by and named after Admiral of the Fleet Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten (1900-1979), the 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, KG, GCB, OM, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO, DSO, PC, FRS, and the last Royal viceroy of India. Mountbatten was a nobleman and a Royal Navy officer (as you could probably tell from his rank and title there). In 1940 he was escorting a convoy carrying vital war supplies, when he noticed that one ship would constantly vanish from vision at twilight. This phantom ship was still painted a strange grayish pink color from pre-war days. Mountbatten became convinced that the pink was an ideal camouflage color and he had all of the destroyers of the Fifth Destroyer flotilla painted in the same shade (which not surprisingly came to be identified with him).
Mountbatten pink was a mixture of medium gray with a small amount of Venetian red. The resultant neutral pink mimicked ocean and atmospheric colors of dawn and dusk. Additionally, the German navy used pink marker dye to identify their shells, so Mountbatten pink ships often threw off spotters who were unable to tell ship from clouds of smoke (at least according to some Naval historians). One cruiser, the HMS Kenya, was even nicknamed the Pink Lady because of its color and panache.
Other British captains also painted their ships in Mountbatten pink (or used it as a component of the dazzle camouflage) either because of its effectiveness as battle camouflage, or to suck up to Lord Mountbatten, or out of genuine fondness for the surprisingly attractive lavender-pink, however the color had a critical flaw which ultimately caused the Royal navy to abandon it. Although Mountbatten pink blended into the offing at dawn and dusk, it stood out against the ocean at midday. By 1942 the color was phased out for large ships (although some smaller ships still had the color for a while). Most photos and films of the day were black and white. Imagine that some of the grim British fighting ships engaged in life & death fire fights with the Germans were actually pink!
Back in 2011, as the space shuttle program wound down, Ferrebeekeeper published what seemed like an elegy to spaceplanes—mixed-use vehicles capable of operating both as spacecraft and aircraft (most notably the space shuttles). The dwindling national interest in science and exploration once seemed to indicate that the shuttle program would be the last spaceplane program for a long time. However, as the United States abandons its interest in cutting-edge Aerospace projects, other nations and private interests are picking up the slack.
Skylon is a British spaceplane concept from a private company, Reaction Engines Limited. During the eighties, Rolls Royce and British Aerospace, poured money and knowledge into the creation of a vehicle named HOTOL (an awkward acronym which stands for HOrizontal TakeOff and Landing). Although huge amounts of human energy went into HOTOL, it was canceled because of lack of funding. Reaction Engines Limited is trying to build on the extensive HOTOL designs.
Skylon certainly has a futuristic look. It has a long slender needle-like fuselage with stubby delta wings sticking out midway. Each of these wings is mounted at the end with a SABRE (Synthetic Air Breathing Engine). These next-generation engines are the real key to achieving single-stage-to-orbit spaceflight (a milestone which has long proven elusive for space engineers). Ideally the plane could take off from a runway and speed up to Mach 5.4 as it left the atmosphere and entered orbit. After deploying its payload it could then glide back down to Earth like a normal plane.
Skylon would be constructed of a carbon fiber frame with heat resistant ceramic tiling and it would employ liquid hydrogen as a fuel to loft its 82 meter long (269 ft) body into near-space (before switching to internal liquid oxygen as it left the atmosphere). Like HOTOL before it, Skylon was stuck in funding purgatory for a long time, but recently a huge chunk of funding became available to test the viability of the various systems. These tests were successfully completed in November of 2012 and Reaction is now moving forward with the building of Skylon.
Skylon is designed to be vastly cheaper than the shuttle or any current rocket programs (and it would cut down on space debris). Engineers estimate that one of the crafts could be ready to launch again in only two days after a successful landing (as opposed to the shuttle which required months of refitting). Let’s hope the technology works out. Although unmanned interplanetary craft are accomplishing great things, it has been too long since there was a flashy achievement
The latter half of the summer is the silly season for journalism. During August, in particular, when legislative bodies are on break and the titans of finance are estivating in Gstaad, the papers are filled with stories about pie-eating contests, surfing dogs, and other similar bucolic follies. The evocative Swedish phrase for this indolent time is “rötmånadshistoria” which literally means rotting month—a time when every Swede is on holiday elsewhere and the forgotten leftovers rot in the fridge.
Well that is how it is supposed to be anyway. This summer the paper is filled with disasters. America’s leaders have collectively decided they would prefer to see the country ruined as long as the opposite party is blamed. US Government bonds have been downgraded. The markets are crashing. Darpa’s experimental scramjet is lost. London is on fire. Internecine wars grind on in west Asia. Bullet trains are crashing in China. Syria is taking another step on the road to genocidal civil war. This year seems like a dark literal version of rötmånadshistoria–in which everything is revealed to be rotten. The silliness is simmering over into madness.
Sadly there are no facile solutions for any of those problems here. This post is not meant to be a blueprint for fixing society, but rather a paean to the traditional summer silliness we should be enjoying. Instead of concentrating on the bad news, let’s pretend none of it is happening! Sit back, imagine that it is a traditional silly season, and enjoy this post dedicated to frivolity. In keeping with the finest tradition of Erasmus we will embrace absurdity and literally praise folly—or actually follies. So here is the first half of a two-part post concerning garden follies–extravagant ornamental structures intended solely for the amusement of bygone aristocrats. Such structures were expressly built not to be useful. Oftentimes follies were purposefully manufactured as ruins or were designed with a glaring structural anomaly—like a tower without stairs, or a greenhouse without windows. A folly was often the centerpiece of a large garden and tied together the disparate themes. Additionally, like powdered wigs, hoop skirts, and most other luxury goods, the very uselessness of a folly was testament to a nobleman’s power and prestige: he could afford to throw away princely sums on a decorative building.
Follies originated just prior to the 17th century. It was customary for gentlemen of that era to take a grand tour of southern Europe when they came of age. As they traveled through Italy and southern France these elite tourists were exposed to actual Roman ruins. When they returned to England or northern France they built copies of Greco-Roman temples to symbolize various classical virtues and ideals (which were already enshrined in the educational system of that time). Although the first wave of garden follies in the Seventeenth century was motivated by classical and religious ideas, the craze for extravagance and eccentricity deepened in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As France and England reached the apogee of their economic power, the ruling classes of those nations went all out to show their taste, sophistication, and rank with increasingly lavish and increasingly novel garden architecture. Follies proliferated and took the shape of the eclectic pursuits of the lords commissioning them. An interest in the Levant filled England with orientalist fantasies. The gothic revival led to a host of spooky medieval towers and pseudo-crypts. The Earl of Dunmore, a Scottish Earl who loved tropical fruit commissioned an immense stone pineapple as a cupola for his hothouse.
Follies were meant to be beautiful and/or striking. Since they were designed specifically to be interesting ahead of all other concerns they often possess unique fantasy flourishes. In many cases the purpose of an architectural folly was to provide a direct allegorical lesson, however, even when no clear lesson was meant the structures clearly reflected the nature of human beliefs and desires…
I have a book deal! Well sort of anyway… I have been contracted to create 75 craft projects out of recycled materials (aka common household rubbish). These projects are themed around “things that go” and will ultimately be incorporated by gifted editors into a project book for dexterous and clever children (and others). I’ll keep you updated on the publishing progress of this project. Wish me luck with my crafting!
In the real world what this means is that I have been spending a lot of time affixing cardboard and wooden wheels to myself with a hot glue gun (I suspect the dexterous children will be deft enough to avoid such burns and the clever ones will use a less molten adhesive). It also means I have been spending a great deal of time looking at illustrations of cars and other vehicles. When I was making some classic racecar models, I noticed that older racecars are almost always certain colors. I have noticed some of these relevant colors before on color lists which I have been consulting for my color topic: British racing green and bleu de France are particularly lovely colors that I contemplated writing about in the past.
As you could probably tell from the names, it turns out that these are national racing colors. In the era before commercial sponsorship completely took over every facet of automobile racing, national competition was a big part of the sport. In that era, which lasted from the 1900s up to the early 1970s, the nationality of the car or driver was denoted by standardized colors. The obvious colors which even casual racing fanciers know are British racing green for United Kingdom competitors, bleu de France for French competitors, rosso corsa (“racing red”) for Italian racers, white or silver for Germans, white with a red sun for the Japanese, and white with blue Cunningham stripes for Americans. Bleu de France was a traditional color for the livery of the kings of France since as early as the 12th century. Emperor Mommu used a flag of a red sun in his court in 701—hence the Japanese motif. Silver accurately reflects the German national character: although they originally used all white and maintained the rights to that scheme, an engineer realized that the car would weigh less with no paint and thereafter they left the shiny aluminum metalwork unpainted.
Italy apparently got to choose first–since bright red is a splendid color (also the Italian accounts of how this color was chosen are so…demonstrative…that I can’t figure out the truth).
The other colors are a bit more obscure and mysterious in origin. It turns out that British racing green—that quintessential elegant dark green which is eponymous with British-ness—came from a quirk of English law. The winner of the Gordon Bennet Cup, a prestigious early race named for a crazed industrialist, was expected to host the next year’s race. An English automobile had won the 1902 race from Paris to Innsbruck, but automobile racing was forbidden in England proper. The 1903 race was held in Ireland, and out of respect for this Irish surrogate, the English team chose a bright green. The color stuck, even though it darkened into a near black over the years.
The United States had two color schemes: white with blue racing stripes or blue with white racing stripes. This tradition was begun comparatively late by Briggs Cunningham, a racing aficionado (and evidently a lover of stripes) who wanted America to win the Le Mans race—an effort which proved to be a gallant failure.
Naturally the other nations of the world had their own racing colors as well (even if these did not always become as storied as rosso corsa or British racing green). The Cubans had an insectoid color combination of yellow with a black hood. The Hungarians raced cars which were white in front and green in back with red bonnets. Polish cars were the same as Polish flags: the top half was white and the bottom was red. Mexican cars were gold. Dutch cars were orange. A few nations which arrived late were stuck with very odd racing colors: like the Egyptians who raced in pale violet and the Brazilians who were stuck in pale yellow cars with green wheels. Here is a complete list of nations and colors.
Ironically, in the future, most cars will probably come from India and China–which never had racing colors and still seem to have none.