mscroggs.co.uk
mscroggs.co.uk
Click here to win prizes by solving the mscroggs.co.uk puzzle Advent calendar.
Click here to win prizes by solving the mscroggs.co.uk puzzle Advent calendar.

subscribe

Blog

 2017-06-03 
As a child, I was a huge fan of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Gerry Anderson's puppet-starring sci-fi series. Set in 2068, the series follows Captain Scarlet and the other members of Spectrum as they attempt to protect Earth from the Mysterons. One of my favourite episodes of the series is the third: Big Ben Strikes Again.
In this episode, the Mysterons threaten to destroy London. They do this by hijacking a vehicle carrying a nuclear device, and driving it to a car park. In the car park, the driver of the vehicle wakes up and turns the radio on. Then something weird happens: Big Ben strikes thirteen!
The driver turning on the radio. Good to know that BBC Radio 4 will still broadcast at 92-95FM in 2068.
Following this, the driver is knocked out again and wakes up in a side road somewhere. After hearing his story, Captain Blue works out that the car park must be 1500 yards away from Big Ben. Using this information, Captains Blue and Scarlet manage to track down the nuclear device and save the day.
A map of London with a circle of radius 1500 yards drawn on it.
After rewatching the episode recently, I realised that it would be possible to recreate this scene and hear Big Ben striking thirteen.

Where does Big Ben strike thirteen?

At the end of the episode, Captain Blue explains to Captain Scarlet that the effect was due to light travelling faster than sound: as the driver had the radio on, he could hear Ben's bongs both from the tower and through the radio. As radio waves travel faster than sound, the bongs over the radio can be heard earlier than the sound waves travelling through the air. Further from the tower, the gap between when the two bongs are heard is longer; and at just the right distance, the second bong on the radio will be heard at the same time as the first bong from the tower. This leads to the appearance of thirteen bongs: the first bong is just from the radio, the next eleven are both radio and from the tower, and the final bong is only from the tower.
Big Ben's bongs are approximately 4.2s apart, sound travels at 343m/s, and light travels at 3×108m/s (this is so fast that it could be assumed that the radio waves arrive instantly without changing the answer). Using these, we perform the following calculation:
$$\text{time difference} = \text{time for sound to arrive}-\text{time for light to arrive}$$ $$=\frac{\text{distance}}{\text{speed of sound}}-\frac{\text{distance}}{\text{speed of light}}$$ $$=\text{distance}\times\left(\frac1{\text{speed of sound}}-\frac1{\text{speed of light}}\right)$$ $$\text{distance}=\text{time difference}\div\left(\frac1{\text{speed of sound}}-\frac1{\text{speed of light}}\right)$$ $$=4.2\div\left(\frac1{343}-\frac1{3\times10^8}\right)$$ $$=1440\text{m}\text{ or }1574\text{ yards}$$
This is close to Captain Blue's calculation of 1500 yards (and to be fair to the Captain, he had to calculate it in his head in a few seconds). Plotting a circle of this radius centred at Big Ben gives the points where it may be possible to hear 13 bongs.
Again, the makers of Captain Scarlet got this right: their circle shown earlier is a very similar size to this one. To demonstrate that this does work (and with a little help from TD and her camera), I made the following video yesterday near Vauxhall station. I recommend using earphones to watch it as the later bongs are quite faint.

Similar posts

Proving a conjecture
Mathsteroids
Building MENACEs for other games
Tube map kaleidocycles

Comments

Comments in green were written by me. Comments in blue were not written by me.
 2018-11-16 
@g0mrb: Thanks for letting me know, I'll look into it...
Reply
Matthew
 2018-11-15 
There is no sound in this video, using Safari in iOS 12.1.1 Beta.
Reply
g0mrb
 2017-06-04 
This is awesome and wonderful. I salute you.
Reply
Ben Sparks
 2017-06-03 
Wow! This has made my weekend.
Reply
Tony Mann
 Add a Comment 


I will only use your email address to reply to your comment (if a reply is needed).

Allowed HTML tags: <br> <a> <small> <b> <i> <s> <sup> <sub> <u> <spoiler> <ul> <ol> <li>
To prove you are not a spam bot, please type "rebmun" backwards in the box below (case sensitive):

Archive

Show me a random blog post
 2019 

Dec 2019

Christmas card 2019

Nov 2019

Christmas (2019) is coming!

Sep 2019

A non-converging LaTeX document
TMiP 2019 treasure punt

Jul 2019

Big Internet Math-Off stickers 2019

Jun 2019

Proving a conjecture

Apr 2019

Harriss and other spirals

Mar 2019

realhats

Jan 2019

Christmas (2018) is over
 2018 
▼ show ▼
 2017 
▼ show ▼
 2016 
▼ show ▼
 2015 
▼ show ▼
 2014 
▼ show ▼
 2013 
▼ show ▼
 2012 
▼ show ▼

Tags

oeis flexagons probability php national lottery video games royal baby programming tennis matt parker game of life propositional calculus arithmetic estimation chess reuleaux polygons london underground ternary big internet math-off python polynomials gerry anderson interpolation triangles graph theory machine learning talking maths in public bodmas plastic ratio coins pac-man christmas card chalkdust magazine misleading statistics sport christmas platonic solids rugby error bars asteroids raspberry pi latex electromagnetic field hats london mathsjam pythagoras people maths statistics craft stickers wool mathsteroids final fantasy golden spiral light folding paper nine men's morris countdown rhombicuboctahedron news martin gardner world cup palindromes folding tube maps fractals realhats braiding menace mathslogicbot manchester science festival map projections noughts and crosses weather station manchester logic twitter binary inline code radio 4 european cup dataset puzzles hexapawn go speed dragon curves captain scarlet approximation advent calendar golden ratio frobel curvature javascript pizza cutting geometry cambridge dates games sound a gamut of games draughts the aperiodical football bubble bobble chebyshev trigonometry data tmip reddit books harriss spiral sorting accuracy game show probability cross stitch

Archive

Show me a random blog post
▼ show ▼
© Matthew Scroggs 2012–2019