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Posts Tagged ‘balloon

“Why haven’t we seen a photograph of the whole Earth yet?”*…

 

Detail from the “Balloon-Prospect” image, featured in Thomas Baldwin’s Airopaidia (1786) [source]

Although it is often dismissed as a comedy moment, an amusing episode in the history of flight, ballooning had a profound effect on the epistemological model of being in the world and viewing landscape. That balloons are innately comic is undeniable, and their physical attributes were a gift to satirists of the late eighteenth century, who riffed delightedly on the graphic and semantic associations of this new and somewhat unlikely technology. Furthermore, in the first few decades of ballooning, its utility was unclear. Although flight had been achieved, the power to navigate had not, so balloons could not be used as aerial transport. Once airborne, balloonists were dependent on the mysteries of the upper air and its currents to carry them along. In this captive state, aeronauts set about conducting experiments with a full array of scientific instruments, their own senses and perception being among these. Tasting ginger to see if it was as spicy, or undertaking a complex mathematical equation to test mental acuity at altitude, went alongside checking height and air pressure.

In some cases, science funding had got them up there in the first place. The first successful manned balloon flights were conducted in France with state support. The ascents themselves became known as “experiments”, and were concerned with an exploration of the upper air. In Britain, the Royal Society withheld support from such endeavours, so the first British ascents were underwritten, in the words of one early balloonist, by “a tax on the curiosity of the public”. This affected the cultural profile of ballooning in England: it was always more of a spectacle than a science. In 1785 Tiberius Cavallo, a member of the Royal Society and author of the first English history of ballooning, concluded that:

…many, if not the greatest number of the aerial voyages, though said to be purposely made for the improvement of science, were performed by persons absolutely incapable of accomplishing this purpose; and who, in reality, had either pecuniary profit alone in view, or were stimulated to go up with a balloon, for the sake of the prospect, and the vanity of adding their names to the list of aerial adventurers….

The late-18th Century version of Stewart’s impulse: “‘For the Sake of the Prospect’: Experiencing the World from Above in the Late 18th Century.

* Stewart Brand, as part of his 1966 campaign to have NASA release the then-rumored satellite image of the entire Earth as seen from space

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As we jettison the sandbags, we might send high-flying birthday greetings to Amelia Earhart; she was born on this ate in 1897.  An aviation pioneer and author, she was the fist female to fly solo across the Atlantic (a distinction for which she received the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross).

Earhart set many other records, wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences and was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots.  She joined the faculty of the Purdue University aviation department in 1935 as a visiting faculty member to counsel women on careers and help inspire others with her love for aviation, and was a member of the National Woman’s Party, and an early supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment.

During an attempt to make a circumnavigational flight of the globe in 1937 in a Purdue-funded Lockheed Model 10 Electra, Earhart disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean.  Fascination with her life, career, and disappearance continues to this day.

 source

 

Written by LW

July 24, 2016 at 1:01 am

“You got to be worried when they’re agreeing about anything… Prophets. That’s the last bloody thing you want prophets to do”*…

 

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We may define future shock as the distress, both physical and psychological, that arises from an overload of the human organism’s physical adaptive systems and it’s decision-making processes… Put more simply, future shock is the human response to over-stimulation…

– Alvin Toffler

The film above is a documentary based on Future Shock, the book written in 1970 by sociologist and futurist Alvin Toffler…

Released in 1972, with a cigar-chomping Orson Welles as on-screen narrator, this piece of futurism
is darkly dystopian and oozing techno-paranoia… A great opening features a montage of car crashes and civil unrest intercut with two figures walking in a green field (while creepy synthesizers play in the background) who are soon revealed to be automatons with creepy robot faces — a nice metaphor for the fear of the unrecognizable, cold, and chaotic future society that Toffler thought we were all headed for…

More background in the notes accompanying the film.

(After watching the film, take a whack at being a futurist yourself; try the card game, “The Thing From the Future“…)

* China Miéville, Kraken

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As we brace for change, we might recall that it was on this date in 1797 that André-Jacques Garnerin accomplished the first successful parachute jump.  He ascended to 2,230 ft. above the Parc Monceau, Paris, with a balloon, then released it and unfurled a silk parachute.  Lacking any vent in the top of the parachute, Garnerin descended with violent oscillations– as a result of which, he suffered the first case of airsickness.

Garnerin releases the balloon and descends with the help of a parachute, 1797. (Illustration from the late 19th century.)

source

 

Written by LW

October 22, 2015 at 1:01 am

“In a flat country a hillock thinks itself a mountain”*…

In 2003, the Annals of Improbable Research released the results of a study that was not so much groundbreaking as it was ground-battering: Kansas, the tongue-in-cheek analysis found, was flatter than a pancake. The researchers Mark Fonstad, William Pugatch, and Brandon Vogt used polynomial equations to calculate the flatness of the famously flat state, and discovered that—as compared to the topography of an IHOP pancake—it was indeed flatter than a flapjack.

Their finding was not incorrect. Parts of Kansas are, in fact, flatter than a pancake! But the study’s focus on Kanas, it turns out, was also misleading. Because there are states—six of them, to be specific—that are even flatter than Kansas. The states flatter than a pancake, you could say, could be served in a short stack.

This latest flatness finding comes courtesy of geographers at the University of Kansas, who just published a paper, “The Flatness of U.S. States,” inGeographical Review, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Geographical Society…

The top 10 flattest states, per their results? [Results charted on the map above differ as they reflect a slightly different analysis; c.f., the link below.]

Florida

Illinois

North Dakota

Louisiana

Minnesota

Delaware

Kansas

Texas

Nevada

Indiana

Get level at “Science: Several U.S. States, Led by Florida, Are Flatter Than a Pancake.”

* Turkish proverb

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As we reach for the maple syrup, we might send lofty birthday greetings to Albert William Stevens; he was born on this date in 1886.  An career officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Stevens was a pioneering balloonist and aerial photographer who took the first photograph clearly showing the Earth’s curvature (1930) and the first photographs of the Moon’s shadow on the Earth during a solar eclipse (1932).  In 1935 Stevens and a colleague made a record balloon ascent near Rapid City, South Dakota.  20,000 watched– and millions listened to a live NBC broadcast– as their sealed gondola, Explorer II, climbed to 72,395 feet, nearly 14 miles, a record that stood until 1956.

 source

Written by LW

March 13, 2014 at 1:01 am

First in Flight?…

 

For years, Ohio and North Carolina have argued over the bragging rights to the Wright Brothers: Ohio on the grounds that the brothers developed and built their design in Dayton; North Carolina, because Kitty Hawk was the site of the Wright’s first powered flight.  Ohio’s license plates proclaim “Birthplace of Aviation” (more recently, “Birthplace of Aviation Pioneers”, to include not only the Wrights, but also astronauts John Glenn and Neil Armstrong, both Ohio natives); North Carolina’s, “First in Flight.” And the rivalry has even been drawn on quarters:

But it’s looking as though both states may need to re-tool their plates and dies…

Newly found evidence supports earlier claims that Gustave Whitehead (a German immigrant, born Gustav Weißkopf, “Whitehead” being the literal translation of “Weißkopf”) performed the first powered, controlled, heavier-than-air flight as early as August 14, 1901–  more than two years before the Wrights took off– and in Connecticut (near Fairfield).  There’a a detailed analysis of the evidence here… evidence sufficiently compelling to convince the venerable Janes.

The photo at the head of this post is a woodcut rendering of Whitehead’s first flight; this photo shows Whitehead and his crew with his monoplane outside his shop; daughter Rose sits on Whitehead’s lap, and the engine that powers the front landing-gear wheels is on the ground in front of the others.

Well, it’s not as though the Tar Heels don’t have more important things to worry about; ditto, the Buckeyes. And as for Connecticut, well, if they ever tire of “Constitution State,” there’s a new slogan at the ready.

… or there might be.  It turns out that there’s yet another claimant to the “first powered flight flight” title: the Brazilian Alberto Santos Dumont.

[TotH to Slashdot]

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As we marvel at mechanical miracles, we might send lofty birthday greetings to Albert William Stevens; he was born on this date in 1886.  An career officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Stevens was a pioneering balloonist and aerial photographer who took the first photograph clearly showing the Earth’s curvature (1930) and the first photographs of the Moon’s shadow on the Earth during a solar eclipse (1932).  In 1935 Stevens and a colleague made a record balloon ascent near Rapid City, South Dakota.  20,000 watched– and millions listened to a live NBC broadcast– as their sealed gondola, Explorer II, climbed to 72,395 feet, nearly 14 miles, a record that stood until 1956.

 source

 

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