Monday, 25 June 2018

to boldly go

The always engrossing Futility Closet podcast introduces us to the eminent figure of the Swiss physicist, explorer and aviation and submarining pioneer Auguste Antoine Piccard (*1884 - †1962) who along with his twin brother and collaborator Jean Felix were the inspirations and the namesake first for Professor Cuthbert Calculus in The Adventures of Tintin and later for Gene Roddenberry’s character, Jean-Luc Picard, implying that the captain is one of their descendants, with their actual lineage continuing in the spirit of exploration and adventure. Within the decades of the 1930s (with some years to spare), Piccard remarkably designed both a pressurised aluminium gondola that allowed him with a hot-air balloon to ascend to an unprecedented altitude of fifteen kilometres above the Earth, taking ground-breaking measurements on atmospheric conditions and newly discovered cosmic rays, and six years later, a bathyscaphe, a free-diving, self-propelled deep sea submersible, ferrying its crew down to a depth of over four-thousand metres and observing some of the alien denizens of the deep in proper context.