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The Calculus Affair: What exactly does Professor Calculus make?

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tintinroxs
Member
#1 · Posted: 4 Feb 2012 02:20
I was just reading The Calculus Affair, and I am still clueless on what the Professor made that caused such a big fuss. What is it?
rose_of_pollux
Member
#2 · Posted: 4 Feb 2012 02:36
It was some sort of ultrasonic device that could potentially use sound waves as a means of destruction--which is why there was such a squabble over getting the plans.

The shattering glass in the beginning was the professor making some tests on a prototype; if I remember right, it was stolen at some point after the Captain and Tintin had left Marlinspike.
calculite
Member
#3 · Posted: 4 Feb 2012 02:49
Pollux is right, and it is funny that the actual device was never made; only a prototype.
tintinsgf
Member
#4 · Posted: 5 Feb 2012 12:19
calculite:
Pollux is right, and it is funny that the actual device was never made; only a prototype.

And yet the Bordurians held such a high pride on the prototype!
Balthazar
Moderator
#5 · Posted: 5 Feb 2012 13:03
calculite:
it is funny that the actual device was never made; only a prototype.

I think it's necessary for the plot of the book that the invention has only reached prototype stage. If Calculus had already taken it to the next stage and built a fully working machine capable of destroying whole cities at long range, the Bordurians and Syldavians wouldn't need to kidnap Calculus for his knowledge or his microfilms; they could just have stolen the machine (and reverse engineered it to build others) and there wouldn't really be a convincing reason for a kidnap story, nor an ending where Calculus is able to destroy the microfilm and permanently put a stop to his line of research.
mct16
Member
#6 · Posted: 5 Feb 2012 13:24
Which makes you wonder why he started work on it in the first place?

Calculus always comes across as a pacifist. He creates things to benefit mankind, not destroy it. When, in "Destination Moon", he tells Tintin and Haddock about the Centre he makes it clear that its purpose is to protect mankind from nuclear weapons, not make them.

He may have started work on the device as part of a general interest in ultrasonics but the fact that he made plans for a WMD and put them on microfilm indicates that he went well beyond just simple curiosity.

In the context of the story, why do you think he built such a device to the point that he thinks: "I don't like the way this is going. I'd better have a serious chat with Topolino first and see what he thinks."
tintinsgf
Member
#7 · Posted: 5 Feb 2012 13:42
As for pacifist purpose, I think Calculus' ultrasound machine can be used for old building deconstruction when it had been fully developed. But I don't think Calculus had thought of that, so then he met professor Topolino to talk about the prospects of this machine (like what could be its good for mankind, how should he develop this machine, and so on).

In case the machine is fully developed, the story line could have been more diabolical; Calculus might be accidentally killed by either agents, but since this killing would not be necessary, it might happen because the agents are pushed by the situation to do so (I don't know how the plot might be going, oh my head, I can't think well, sorry).

But this post is surely not the only opinion. Any other opinion for it?
mct16
Member
#8 · Posted: 5 Feb 2012 14:02
tintinsgf:
Calculus might be accidentally killed by either agents

I doubt if Herge would have had this kind of storyline. After Calculus' first appearance, he always intended him to be a permanent character.

I don't have the book on me, but I recall that Sponsz tells Castafiore that he intends to get the plans and then hand Calculus over to the Red Cross. Calculus was to tell them that he went to Borduria of his own accord and voluntarily worked for them.
Balthazar
Moderator
#9 · Posted: 5 Feb 2012 14:34
Regarding why Calculus even started investigating such a destructive technology, I agree that he must have thought there might be some benign and useful non-warlike applications. In the previous moon books he has, as mct says, been finding a non-warlike use for nuclear technology that was born out of the race to develop an atom bomb. And even more pertinently for the Calculus Affair, his moon rocket also draws heavily on the Nazis' V2 missile technology. This mirrors reality, of course, with Werner von Braun being scooped up by the Americans at the end of the war to develop their real-life space programme and eventual moon rockets. Maybe Wolff was one of von Braun's wartime team. Calculus's moon rocket looks even more like a V2 test rocket than the Apollo rockets, especially that red-and-white chequered colour scheme (a similarity we're explicitly reminded of on the cover of that real-life book which Calculus and Topolino have been studying.)

So, having borrowed from Nazi wartime technology to create his moon rocket, Calculus was presumably hoping that this other real-life line of Nazi research, into ultrasound, might throw up similarly non-warlike uses for mankind. Perhaps it's only at the end of the book that he realises that he's been a bit naive. (He certainly seems to scale back his work in subsequent books, to become more of an amateur inventor again - motorised roller skates being his project in the next one!)

On the subject of Calculus's naivety, I wonder if by the end of The Calculus Affair, after the Syldavians had shown themselves to be as ruthless and immoral as the Bordurians, Calculus might have been wondering if it was a good idea to have previously helped Syldavia develop the makings of a world-leading nuclear missile programme!
tintinsgf
Member
#10 · Posted: 5 Feb 2012 15:15
I admit that it is a weak plot, after all I was thinking about sprucing up Balthazar's possible plot.

Calculus was to tell them that he went to Borduria of his own accord and voluntarily worked for them, after he was handed by the Bordurians to the Red Cross, but he was forced to do so by Sponsz, or at least that was what I perceive from the book.

Calculus might regret worked at Syldavian atomic centre at Sprodj, but I think he just regretted a bit, for he knew it was indeed for the good of science and mankind.

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