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Science on the web - the black box

Science on the Web – Part one, Australia



The Australian Approach

I see Australia as being an underdog. One can sift through pages and pages of old newspaper articles, scientific reports, ‘whose who’, through People Magazine and come up with Mel Gibson. So in the last 400 years Australia came up with Mel Gibson. Don’t be fooled – here is country with exceptional people. The statistics are there – patents, brilliant inventors, innovators, entrepreneurs but yet they lack the back slapping and ego of lesser nations.


Some snippets of importance… Inventors, Improvements and Dedication

Ralph Sarich, John Ettridge and The Orbital Motor.

This is a difficult one.  Australians Ralph Sarich and John Ettridge are credited for patenting and building their own orbital/rotary engines.  Sarich used the vane in stator route, whilst Ettridge took the vane in rotor approach. Sealing proved to be a major problem – see patent 4219315 and  4191515 – 4191515 (John Ettridge Apr 1978) and 4219315 (Ralph Sarich May 1978). Co-incidence or a race against time? Ettridge later invented the Gemini Electric Motor, a high torque, low current motor.  I read a few old articles on Sarich where the media tries to discredit him, as the media would. Ralph Sarich sold off his remaining shares to his business in 1992. Although now a property tycoon he won’t be forgotten – his company is best known for improving two stroke technology, making them even more efficient with lower emissions using the ‘Orbital Combustion Process’.  Read the book ‘Sarich, the Man and his Engines’ by Pedr Davis. Amazon does have this book – it does give very good insight into the man Ralph Sarich, his team and the obstacles he faced before his fame.

Dr. David Warren (1925-2010)

Science on the web - the black box
Dr David Warren – prototype Black Box – courtesy Australian Dept. Defence.

Most people would be surprised to hear that an Australian invented the first voice and data recorders used in flight. In 1952 he was part of the team that investigated the first commercial jet aircraft crash, a Comet. Although a specialist in aircraft fuel his electronics background led him to wonder about the importance of having an electronic log to capture the voice commands in the cockpit.  He designed the first voice recorder using a reel of steel wire to capture 4 hours of sound and basic data. Pilots and their unions were not impressed by this idea as they felt that the airlines and authorities had no right to eavesdrop on their conversation. This changed when the chief executive of the Air Registration Board, Robert Hardingham from the U.K. realised the importance of Dr. Warren’s invention. Dr. Warren was subsequently sent to England where his ‘Black Box’ concept was turned into reality – a mandatory installation on all Australian and British aircraft. Now used world wide.


Qantas Airlines is regarded as one of the world’s safest airline in the world.

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