An Engineer in Wonderland – Mr Laithwaite’s chart arrives

Thanks to the kind contribution of Mr Williams from Swansea, I now have a copy of Professor Eric Laithwaite’s informative chart, which puts the physical world in perspective by equating its metrics to electrical parameters.

Actually, Mr Williams sent it to me over a month ago, but I mislaid the email, for which I apologise to him.

So, here is the table:

Electrical world Magnetic world Thermal world Inertial world
emf mmf temperature difference force
current flux heat flow acceleration
resistance reluctance thermal resistance mass
conductivity permeability thermal conductivity .
inductance transference thermal capacity intractance
capacitance convertance ? ?
reactive volt/amp . . momentum-less motion

He did point out that there may be some errors, the question marks are where Laithwaite though the most interesting mysteries lay, and the full stops are a sign of my failure to get the html to deliver a nice table any other way.

Although I first saw this in Professor Laithwaite’s wonderful BBD Christmas Lectures – aimed at children, without the slightest hint of dumbing-down – Mr Williams got the table from the book of the lectures: Engineer Through The Looking-Glass.

I have now bought my own copy, and what a marvellously written, informative, and interesting book it is.

Amongst other things, it reveals that several experiments really were done live in the lecture for the first time ever, as it was his view that he and his team could not fake spontaneity convincingly.

How different to employing an actor who fakes well, but knows nothing of what he fakes.

I despair in a world where TV programmes have to be ‘edgy’ and understood by everyone.

Keep up the good work Dr Adam Heart-Davis and Dr Jonathan Hare

And you too Professor Brian Cox, with a few more facts though?

Anyway, the table partly comes from Laithwaite’s attempts to identify Ohm’s laws for the different worlds by finding equivalents to volts and amps, which is easy, then identifying Requivalent in the equation


At the back of the book, he publishes letters received as a result of the lectures – some of them heavy with maths – which further fill out the table.

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