Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
In the late 1890s Guglielmo Marconi discovered that his new wireless telegraph leaped further over the horizon at night. Physicists put forward several explanations for this phenomenon. Two of these physicists, the Irish-American Arthur Kennelly and the Brit Oliver Heaviside, independently proposed the existence of a reflective ionospheric shield high in the earth’s atmosphere. As the shield retreated further from the earth’s surface at night, it bounced radio waves a greater distance. Scientists who later located the ionospheric region responsible for the reflections dubbed it the Kennelly-Heaviside Layer. Popular literature soon shortened the name to “Heaviside layer.”
I learned about the Heaviside layer from my high school science teacher. My children probably learned about it from the eminent physicist and occasional song writer, Andrew Lloyd Webber. By expanding a line from an unpublished T. S. Eliot poem in his musical Cats, Webber imprinted on an entire generation an image of the Heaviside Layer as cat heaven ( to the song “Journey to the Heaviside Layer” from the Lloyd Webber musical.).
The Heaviside Layer is a slice of the ionosphere heavy enough to bounce radio waves. A hefty minority of web pages (possibly 5% or more) spell “Heaviside Layer” as “Heavyside Layer.”
We also find on the web a few examples of “heavenside layer:”
: “2. What is the Heavenside Layer? Cat Heaven”
: “Wise and benevolent leader Old Deuteronomy announces which of the Jellicle cats will go up to the heavenside layer and be reborn into a new Jellicle life.”
Last edited by kem (2011-08-26 23:44:46)
Heavenly. Out of curiosity, I went looking for the origins of the surname Heaviside. The heaviness in there has nothing to do with mass, it developed out of an OE name, Hefa. Since that time it has flirted with manifestations looking like hive, have, and heave.