Saturday, April 7, 2012

humans and flight

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Flying Humans


The ability to fly has always been part of the human psyche and imagination. From the earliest civilizations of the Greeks and Egyptians, to the Roman and Chinese and later civilizations, flying has always enthralled humanity. Man has been able to walk, climb, swim, run, and jump just like any other animal, but the ability to fly had always until the twentieth century eluded him as Bayla Singer explains “Human flight is not a simple matter of science and technology. It is a continuing epic of dreams and obsession, of yearning and striving to harness the intellect in the service of the emotions.” The advancement of technology and the creation of the plane by the Wright brothers changed fantasy into reality, Humans denied through biology and nature to be creatures of the land, had through his own intellect and dreams created out of the elements a machine that could give him the ability to fly and be master of not only land but now also the sky. Within decades Man was not only able to fly in the sky, but also go to space and land on the Moon. The technology to fly has dramatically changed Human civilisation and has changed our culture and society. There are many ways for Humans now to travel in the air and fly, Planes of all sizes, hand gliders, parachutes, hot air balloons, rockets, but these have always been objects that have been out of reach of most Humans, not all of us can fly a plane or use a hand glider, as these needs skills and a fair amount of courage, the ability to just fly by ourself, without the need of others has until recently been like flying itself, a dream. The recent news of an Austrian man and him becoming the first person to fly across the English Channel without the benefit of an aircraft, gliding from England to France wearing only a specially designed suit. And on a science magazine, Popular Science an article on a suit that can give us the ability to glide in the sky, and fly and on Channel Two, the program catalyst about a machine that is half car, half plane could change our future just like the plane did a century ago.


The Austrian man or as the media termed him, the birdman, became the first person in history to fly over the English channel, from England to France without a plane. Felix Baumgartner did jump from a plane over England but managed to glide all the way across the channel and then used a parachute to land. Baumgartner, who reached a speed of about two hundred kph an hour during his flight, was wearing an aerodynamic suit fitted with a 1.80m long carbon-fibre wing for the 5km flight across the channel. Felix Baumgartner said to the Associated Press, (Pg.) “ Its exactly 100 years ago that the Wright Brothers were doing the first flight with a plane, and now Im here, with my little wing.” The success of the flight was important in the sense that technology now permits us as individuals to fly, although Baumgartner needed the help of a plane to lift himself up and then a parachute to land safely, he was able to safely glide his way through a great distance protected by a special suit to protect him from the glare of the sun and the wind and also a special breathing device. The ability to fly as individuals has been a human dream ever since Daedalus and his son Icarus of Greek mythology used wings to escape his prison. Baumgartner even named his mission flight after Icarus. The importance of this flight shows us that dreams can come true and also it is possible as technology gets more advances, we can even beat gravity as individuals, and the effect it will have on society will depend on the number of people who want to able to fly and wether laws will be formed to traffic the sudden evolution of men into birdmen with the help of technology.


The Magazine Popular Science also has an article on the Birdmen, with the exception that the equipment is made of different materials, although it is built for the same purpose, for us to become birdmen and fly. While Baumgartner’s birdman suit was made out of carbon fibre, the material for this birdman suit is made out of the same material as a parachute. The material is put between the arms and the torso and between the legs, so giving the impression once in the sky of looking like a flying squirrel and whence its name the flying squirrel jumpsuit. The suit gives the person to glide through the sky using his hands like a wing, although he cant fly like a bird, the wings does give the birdman the opportunity to lift himself just like a bird. For those who wish to become just like the birds, this suit gives them the perfect opportunity, although like the birdman suit a person needs to jump of a plane and use a parachute to land although as one birdman Kuosma pointed out (Pg.60), “ Maybe we have to add a little engine to the back for thrust and definitely need to improve the over profile of the flier. But the ultimate goal is to fly to the ground and land without a parachute”. The chances of those taking up this sport, with the exception of those who are into extreme sports are slim, first because it is dangerous, second because seventy-two of the seventy five active birdmen from 10 to 160’s died in the attempt although new technology has permitted more advanced equipment to be produced. The advance and safer creation of the birdman suit and the flying squirrel jumpsuit will eventually probably get more people to want to become birdmen.


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The future to us is uncertain, and the technologies that await us the same, although in movies such as back to the future and programmes such as beyond 000 attempt to show us the way we will live, the flying car has been one of the most desired objects, not only because it will be faster and easier for us to reach our destination, it will give us as individuals, where once only those who were pilots, to fly. The show Catalyst on Thursday, 8 August 00 broadcast a program on the pursuit of one man to make the dream of a flying car into a reality. Inventor Dr Paul Moller has built a prototype of his Sky car. A cross between a car, small plane and helicopter, Paul believes his invention is the car of the future, just like what we see on TV and cartoons such as George Jetson. Dr Paul Moller said on Catalyst, “ This vehicle will be in the hands of 5% of the population within 10 years and about 0% of the American population within 5years”. The changes and effects of a flying car would be dramatic, as every sector of society; economic, social, cultural would be effected by such a creation as the Sky car if it succeeds although Professor John Hansman says, “the laws of aerodynamics will mean cars will remain cars and planes will remain planes”. The advance of technology and the will of humans would be the deciding factor of whether Dr Paul Moller or Professor John Hansman is right.


The birdman suit, the flying squirrel jumpsuit and the sky car are all so far just experiments, but so was once the plane and other inventions such as trains, cars and all of them once just a figure of imagination for their creators is now for us a necessity of everyday living. Should the three flying devices ever become successful, they would have profound effects on our society as we would have to adapt the equipment to our way of life and our way of life would have to adapt to the equipment, just like a car is now a necessity, so could the sky car become a necessity for humans in the future and the birdmen suit and flying squirrel jumpsuit would become a object of recreation as is a bike or a skateboard today. Where the world would be in the next ten to twenty years and in what way technology would give us the opportunities to make dreams into reality is to be seen, for as we advance more technologically and how our society can adapt to this new technology have to be seen, as the narrator for Catalyst, Graham Phillip said, “Whether this scene from the cartoon turns out to be real life, time will tell” .





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