Having been applauded for its good looks, the new skyscraper at 20 Fenchurch Street in the main business (and space insurance) district of London, now nicknamed the “Walkie Talkie” building due to is concave sided shape, has had a setback. It melts automobiles. Apparently, the Walkie-Talkie skyscraper’s designers disregarded what satellite communications antenna engineers have known for a while: parabolic shapes can focus electromagnetic radiation rays at a point.
For just as ancient mathematician and engineer, Archmedes, reportedly concentrated reflected solar rays from soldiers shields to ignite the attacking Roman fleet in the Syracuse harbour during the 3rd Century BC, so drivers and cyclists parking near the “Walkie Talkie” have found parts of their vehicles melted by similar solar heat ray. Likewise nearby shops noted heat damage to their buildings exteriors. The mystery heat ray has now been been formally traced to the buidling’s concave shape and window glass reflectivity. Apparently, the architects of the building did not, in fact, forget had, forget the heating effect of reflected sunlight but they had mainly discounted it.
So really it is one up for Archimedes, one down for the building berks! (For those non-Londoners, “berk” by the way is a mild way of saying “stupid person” – though its London cockney-rhyming-slang derivation is amusingly too rude to print here).
Post Script: Your correspondent has to admit being a bit of solar ray berk himself. During his own “refraction heat ray experiment” as a foolhardy 14 year-old schoolboy (a good few decades ago) he managed to accidently set light to his mum’s garden swinging chair using the Sun and a magnifying glass. When this writer says “accidently”, in truth he means it was a ”burning hole experiment” which unexpectedly went out of control. The fire, which destroyed the chair’s canopy and singed the cushions, was thankfully put out by a next door neighbour using her garden hose. When his mum and dad came home, your subdued and regretful correspondent was duly admonished and had his pocket money cut off for several weeks after that in reparation. With the ending of his accidental arsonist/pyromaniac career this writer learned an important lesson: there is always trouble when there is arson around.