Saturday, March 3, 2012



I remember once, when I was little, the womenfolk of the house were sitting around doing something with fabric.  There were rolls of material and piles of scrap in all kinds of textures and colors, strewn all about the floor.  I was playing with the discarded pieces when I found a largish piece of netting or mesh.  I'm not familiar enough with fabric to know what it would be called exactly -- I suppose it was a kind of crinoline or some such.  While playing with it, marveling at its combination of lightness and stiffness, I conceived a brilliant idea.  I drew a pair of wings on the stuff and asked some one of the group to cut them out for me.  This being done, I had them pinned to my shoulders.  I climbed the stairs to the landing, made sure the wings were securely affixed to my shoulders, and took a leap.

How disappointed I was when nothing unusual happened!  While I certainly had not expected to be able to fly around like a butterfly -- I don't remember how old I was then, but I certainly knew not to expect such miracles -- I had hoped and somewhat expected that the wings would at least slow my fall a little (good thing I had not gone all the way up to the top of the stairs!).  That day probably could be counted as the sad day I recognized there is a difference between reality-as-you-think-it and reality-as-you-find-it.

Anyway, thinking about that childhood experience over the years has resulted in another brilliant idea, and a prediction based upon it:  in the future, when mankind has colonized the Moon, one of the most popular sports will be flying.  Real flying, like a bird flies.

Here is how it would work:  a giant domed space would be built;  it would be much larger than any indoor stadium existing today (easy enough in the weaker gravity of the Moon).  It would have air blowing upward from the floor at designated spots, to simulate rising thermal currents and assist with climbing.  The would-be flyer would come in, put on protective gear and step into a light framework made of carbon tubing.  The frame holds the body horizontal like a hang glider, but it would not look like a hang glider;  it is equipped with a large pair of wings, hinged at the shoulders and the arms would be strapped into them.  The joints are rigged with springs to keep the wings open by default in the optimal gliding position (to keep the arms from getting tired), but they allow the flyer to move his arms and flap the wings as necessary.  There are also pull-cords, controlled by the fingers, to change the shape of the wings for fine control, just like a real bird's wings.  The flyer climbs up to a launch pad, pushes off, and buoyed up by strong rising currents, glides up, up and away.

EDIT:  Apparently someone is looking for sponsors to launch a business doing something very much like this!  Balloon-assisted personalized indoor flying!  There's a video on YouTube -- search under 'ParaBounce'.

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