Sunday, 1 July 2012

The order electrus

From time to time I search the internet in a search for interesting machines that could lend themselves to be turned into an animal design, or that represent a technical version of a -much older- biological principle. For past examples, see here or here.

While doing so, I came across a website of a countryman of mine, one Jarno Smeets, who was apparently working on human powered flight. That has been done more than once, using propellers driven by a bicycle gear and chain transmission. But what this inventor proposed was that he was going to take of using his arms to provide the propulsion, by flapping the wings. Now that is simply not going to work: human arms are not strong enough to flap wings large enough to lift a human. I lost interest, until my attention was drawn to the site by other sources: now the site had a video purporting to show that he had actually done it. I did not believe it, which was just as well as otherwise I would have been one of many people fooled by the blog: it was all a hoax! The artist/perpetrator was Floris Kaayk. Here it is.

The video is cunningly made: it has all the nice clumsiness of a rather poorly executed home video. There is even someone shouting excitedly into the camera that the flight should have been recorded with another camera, from in front. What you do see is something flapping into the air from quite some distance, and then there are some shots of him flapping, and shots taken from a flying vehicle.

I was intrigued by the elaborate nature of the hoax and found that he Mr Kaayk had done more work bordering on the fantastic. I would like to show you one video in particular, 'The Order Electrus', as it comes close to the usual topics of this blog. It is a documentary showing 'life forms' consisting of electronics parts, running around like little robots. If ever artificial life comes into being, and I cannot think of any reason why this should be impossible, it will not look like this. But that does not matter too much here. As is often the case, when there is enough of a sense of humour, the need to be critical evaporates. I love the film's tongue in cheek attitude. As nature documentaries go, this is a very nice one. It follows here, but if you wish to see it in more detail, please visit Mr. Kaayk's website.


Evan Black said...

That first video is an extremely convincing hoax. I have a hard time seeing the clues that it's a fake.

The Order Electric is just the kind of whimsy I enjoy in speculative evolution. Sure, it's not plausible, but it's entertaining, insightful, and thought provoking. I like to see a similar level of entertaining humor in projects that follow the science closer, and I think that Furaha has it.

Mozchopz said...

Our weight to arm strength ratio is too wrong, for sure, but I like to think that some clever chaps out there can use the laws of physics (like the pulley system) to magnify our strength, using artifical mechanics/muscles, much like the amputated leg runners can propel themsleves. Maybe one day!

Sigmund Nastrazzurro said...

Evan: thank you.

Mozchops: welcome here! When I first read about the project of this 'Flying Dutchman' I wondered whether it would be something like you describe. With the military developing exoskeleton to augment a soldier's strength, perhaps one day such technology may be used to augment arm strength, enabling people to fly by flapping their arms. I would be first in line for such a device (perhaps second in line would be wiser, though...)

Christopher Phoenix said...

The "Human Birdwings" hoax is well done, but I could not believe it for a moment either- we just don't have the right strength-to-weight ratio to fly by flapping wings.

However, the commentators have missed one easy way to experience the wonders of flying by flapping wings attached to our arms- go to the Moon!!! In the lower Lunar gravity, we could in fact fly by flapping our arms- or so I have heard. I have not done the calculations myself, but given that the Moon has only 1/6 of Earth's gravity, it does not sound implausible. Now, we just to book a ticket on the Lunar ferry rocket... XD

If this does work, human powered flight could be one of the activities offered by tourist destinations on the Moon. Find a large enough colony dome, and rent some wings, and you'll be all set. Obviously this is not right around the corner, with the way human spaceflight has been going (or rather, not going).

I rather like pseudo-documentary "The Order Electrus" video. It is hilarious how the commentator describes insects haphazardly assembled from capacitors, microchips, and wires in as serious, documentary-style tone!!