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  • feedwordpress 08:01:40 on 2017/08/16 Permalink
    Tags: , Chang, Eng, , flying, gliding, , , ,   

    “The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss”*… 


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    The oldest gliding mammals ever discovered are strengthening the case for taking to the skies.

    Well, they couldn’t exactly soar like the eagles, but the two new species, discovered in China, at least sampled the aerial life. Both date to around 160 million years ago during the Jurassic Period, when mammals as a lineage were first getting off the ground — both metaphorically and literally. They’re not directly related to the gliders of today, however. Gliding instead seems to be advantageous enough that it has appeared several times throughout our evolutionary history…

    Both fossils belong to a group of ancestral mammals that have long been extinct. As such, there is no line connecting them to gliding mammals today, indicating that mammalian aerial skills disappeared and re-emerged at least once throughout history. Using birds as an obvious example, flight is a powerful advantage to have. Even as a (temporarily) airborne creature you expend less energy, move faster and evade potential predators — all benefits that make the evolutionary trade-offs worthwhile. It’s not just mammals either, many frog species and even some fish have gained the ability to glide, with evidence that the trait has appeared more than once in those species as well…

    The full story at: “Oldest Gliding Mammals Shed Light on the History of Flight.”

    * Douglas Adams on flying, in Life, the Universe and Everything

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    As we take to the air, we might recall that it was on this date in 1829 that Chang and Eng Bunker, arrived in Boston aboard the ship Sachem to be exhibited to the Western world.  The original “Siamese Twins,” they were  joined at the waist by a band of cartilage, about 8 in. circumference and 4 in. long.  In 1828 British merchant Robert Hunter “discovered” them and paid their family to let them be exhibited as a curiosity during a world tour; at the end of that engagement, the brothers went into business for themselves.  In 1839, they visited Wilkesboro, N.C. with P. T. Barnum; they found the town appealing, settled there, took the surname “Bunker,” became United States citizens, and in 1843 married two sisters with whom they raised 10 children. Only after their death was it discovered that the cartilage that connected them could have been easily and safely removed.

    Click here for Mark Twain’s short story, “The Siamese Twins,” based on Chang and Eng.

    Chang and Eng Bunker

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:03 on 2014/08/28 Permalink
    Tags: , drone, flying, Gossamer Condor, Paul MacCready, , pterosaur, , ,   

    “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”*… 


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    Welcome to travelbydrone.com! We want to give you the chance to discover the world from the perspective of drones. The video footage of the area you are most interested in is as accessible as never before.

    On this site, everyone can share YouTube videos and add the corresponding location. It will appear on the map with a pin where the video footage has been recorded. After submitting a request to share a video, a dedicated team will review the material before validating the request. As soon as the request has been validated, the shared video will be visible on the map.

    For a share request to be validated, the video needs to be taken by a drone (not of a drone), be of good quality and clearly show the area in which the drone flies. A video will not be accepted if it is taken indoors, is from a military drone or is of promotional nature (promoting a product or has a political, religious or other personal message)…

    Around the world in 80 clicks at Travel By Drone.

    * Augustine of Hippo

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    As we rename our index finger “Phileas,” we might spare a thought for Paul MacCready; he died on this date in 2007.  An accomplished meteorologist, a world-class glider pilot, and a respected aeronautical engineer trained at California Institute of Technology, MacCready’s many accomplishments ranged from developments in cloud seeding to the creation of a full-sized flying replica of a pterosaur (Quetzalcoatlus) for the Smithsonian Institution.  (The model can be seen in flight in the Smithsonian’s 1986 IMAX film On the Wing.) But MacCready is surely best remembered as the designer of the “Gossamer Condor,” the first successful human-powered aircraft (and thus, winner of the first Kremer Prize in 1977), and of the first viable solar-powered aircraft.  The Gossamer Condor hangs in the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:36 on 2014/05/05 Permalink
    Tags: Amy Johnson, , David McDonagh, flying, , Miley Cyrus, , , , wrecking ball   

    “Everybody’s a critic”*… 


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    In her latest hit, Miley Cyrus sings that she “came in like a wrecking ball.”  David McDonagh, a third-year natural sciences student at The Centre for Interdisciplinary Science at University of Leicester, did the math and concluded that it’s probably a bad idea to literally smash someone’s walls with your body:

    An ordinary wrecking ball is a massive, incredibly durable object. It has to be to break down the buildings and structures we take so much time putting up. An average ball could be anywhere from 1,000 to 7,000 kilograms of solid metal. The material helps, but what really gets the work done is the swinging. When you swing a massive object, it gains a lot of momentum. And when that momentum suddenly changes—when the ball hits a wall—a huge amount of force is produced. That’s what makes it through concrete and steel and brick. So how good a wrecking ball would Miley be?

    Miley is nowhere near as heavy as an average wrecking ball, so to produce the same momentum, she would have to come in incredibly fast. Assuming she weighed 125 pounds, she would have to come in like a wrecking ball at over 390 miles per hour to generate the same momentum.

    And what happens when this Miley ball hits a wall? Assuming a rapid deceleration, Miley pulls 350 G’s impacting the wall with over 198,000 Newtons—a force equivalent to getting hit with all the force rocketed out of a 747 engine at once.

    If Miley really did come in like a wrecking ball, she would never again hit so hard in love, because she’d be dead.

    Read more at Discover, and read David’s paper, “The viability of coming in like a wrecking ball,”  Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics, here.

    * cliche (c.f., here)

    ###

    As we have second thoughts about our similes, we might  recall that it was on this date in 1930 that Amy Johnson left Croydon, south of London, on on a flight to Darwin, becoming the first female pilot (or in the language of the time, “aviatrix”) to fly solo from England to Australia, a journey of 11,000 miles.  She had learned to fly only a little more than a year before.

    The first British-trained women qualified as a ground engineer, she went on to set a number of long-distance flying records in the 30s, both solo and flying with her husband, Jim Mollison.  She flew in the Second World War as a part of the Air Transport Auxiliary, where she died during a ferry flight in 1941.

    The second-hand de Havilland DH.60 Gipsy Moth she bought to make the Australia flight is on display in London’s Science Museum.

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