“Castles in the Sky” is a BBC Two biopic about Scottish physicist Robert Watson-Watt (Eddie Izzard), the man who invented radar. Here is the film’s trailer. The movie opens in the 1930s. Nazi Germany is rearming itself, building thousands of warplanes and will soon far outstrip Britain’s own defense capacity. An obscure government science committee puts out requests for proposals. What they wanted was some kind of sci-fi like death ray, but the only halfway plausible proposal comes from Watson-Watt. He proposes to make the “invisible visible” by bouncing radio waves off of approaching aircraft and using these returned signals to track their location. They grudgingly agree to fund his proposal, but when the initial field test almost completely fails and at best can only track an airplane a mere mile away, they threaten to cancel the program. The upper-crust Air Ministry hierarchy continue to hold Watson-Watt and his “little weathermen” in disdain even after success finally begins to arrive. The show’s title comes from a meeting with Winston Churchill. Watson-Watt explains the principles of radar to him, by falling back upon English history and compares his proposed line of coastal radar stations, what would become the British Home-Chain, to Edward II’s coastal castles. He called the coastal radar stations castles in the sky.
Fast-forward to today, where the Congressional Budget Office denied our protest over the bomber contract that we lost. Not altogether unexpected news, but still disappointing. I expect that in the coming days younger colleagues of mine will be tendering their resignations and leaving to go work for Northrup. If I were their age, I certainly would be doing that, because the longterm prospects for making the visible invisible here in Saint Louis is not very good.