The Harwell organ

British physicist Terence Price had a way with words as well as numbers. In his autobiography, he recalls the start-up of what we would now call a minor research reactor, but was then significant. Bepo—British Experimental Pile 0—clicked into life on July 3, 1948. Price recalls his amazement that it was “painted in a colour that I had not previously encountered—heliotrope” (I too had to look it up, it is pink-purple). And the reactor sang:

When the blowers were switched on for the first time this [expansion joint] vibrated, exciting the chimney as though it were an organ pipe. But what a pipe! It must have been the largest in the world and, moreover, one driven by 2,500 horsepower. Several hundred yards away, on the steps of the staff mess, the noise was so loud that shouted conversation could be carried on only with the utmost difficulty. Inside the blower house it was as though a giant were shaking one’s chest. An acoustics expert from the National Physical Laboratory quickly found that the expansion joint at the base of the chimney was acting like an oboe reed. A small re-design silenced the Harwell organ.

Price, Terence. 2004. Political Physicist. Book Guild, Sussex, pp. 88-89.