1896

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Heavier-than-Air Flight Is Proven Impossible

People have been building flying machines ever since Leonardo Da Vinci's helicopter leapt skyward, and plummeted earthward. Professor Langley had charts and graphs proving that a 1 horsepower steam engine strapped to a fuselage of his design could do it. He had several small-scale models powered by rubber bands to demonstrate. Professor Samuel Langley is the director of the Smithsonian Institution, and if he can't get the job done, no one can. A few years ago, the government funded his project to build a full-scale flying machine... presumably to be used as a war machine... but he can't make it work. He is so frustrated that he actually builds a full-scale model powered with a rubber band! (It must have been a VERY BIG rubber band!) His most spectacular failure is a contraption that looks like two butterflies crashing head-on. After it sinks into the Potomac, the press ridicules him mercilessly. Professor Langley gives up. God has reserved flight for the birds. But we know what the problem is. The Professor needs a more efficient engine... a gasoline-powered engine, but the best engines are under development in Germany (if you want to call those explosions going someplace to happen, "engines"). The Professor's dream has come too soon. That is how two high school drop outs (Orville and Wilbur Wright) will become the first to build a real flying machine. They are born into a generation when all the pieces needed for success will come together. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
I am reminded of that line from the movie "I, Robot" when Detective Spooner, convinces Dr. Calvin to hop on the back of a motorcycle. Dr. Calvin shouts, "Please tell me this doesn't run on gas! Gas explodes, you know?" Yes, it does, and AC electricity is shockingly dangerous, but we didn't worry overly much about bursting into flames, crashing into the ground or electrocuting ourselves. The rule of the day was to seek out fame and adventure. There was always danger wherever one went, but to die trying to be the greatest, the first, the most... that was worth an honorable death. There are still some who are willing to risk, but the new generation has decided that herd safety is the better path. I don't call people "sheep." Everyone provides for their safety in the ways they think best, but when we fail to risk, we fail to learn. When I entered college I barely knew how to turn on a computer. (It's that Big Red Switch on the side. Right?) By the time I left college I could build one from scratch. Could the coming generation do the same? They don't have to, but what is the next adventure, the next horizon? Is the coming generation willing to draw forth Excalibur from the stone? Professor Langley tried and failed, yet he is still remembered kindly.

Food Storage: A Birdseye View

Clarence Frank Birdseye the 2nd is born in Brooklyn, New York this year. That is his real name. As the story goes, an English page shot a bird on the wing with an arrow right through its eye. The Queen witnessed this marvel and named the young man "Birdseye" which became the family name. There is no evidence to support this bit of hokum WHATSOEVER, but the family is sticking to it. At ten years old Clarence will trap muskrats and sell them to an aristocrat in England to earn money to buy a shotgun. He will hunt and preserve his own food. While ice-fishing he will conceive of the idea of flash-freezing food. But his contributions to society will be greater than inventing a machine that can flash freeze 800 pounds of peas in an hour. Quite honestly, people didn't want to eat frozen foods because the food turned to mush when defrosted and it tasted terrible. He invented an entire industry of frozen foods. He held hundreds of patents on things like a modified harpoon, an automatic fishing reel, the frosted light bulb, and the infrared bulb that he will use for dehydrating foods. [9] [10]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Clarence Birdseye was an exemplary 19th century man. He was willing to take on hardship, and make his world better no matter what it took. If something had never been done before or if everyone said "We've always done it this way", Clarence would find another way. It was his obsession. When Birdseye died, Sarah Robbins guided her little lobster boat out of Gloucester Harbor to where it meets the Atlantic. Clarence's wife, Eleanor, and his son, Henry "Birdseed" Birdseye carried a ceramic urn containing the ashes of Clarence Birdseye. The idea was to cast his ashes onto the sea but to the shock and surprise of all, Henry chucked his father's ashes, urn and all, off the bow of the boat. The urn floated. Henry's sisters distracted their mother while he jabbed at the urn with a boat hook. He finally broke it and the urn sank to the bottom. [11]

Journey to the Center of the Earth... in a Balloon

The current belief is that the Earth is hollow with an opening at the North Pole. This idea was made popular by Jules Verne in his novel "Journey to the Center of the Earth." The idea has been kicking around for a long time, but this is the age of heroes. In the modern day these heroes would be certified as insane, but in 1896, they are just one more exploration team seeking the North Pole for fame and glory. S.A. Andree is a Swedish explorer with a grand idea. He will fly to the North Pole in a balloon! OK. I know what you are thinking, but the answer is no. He is not a moron. He is just overly-enthusiastic, and he knows all about flying balloons. After all, he has been a passenger a balloon several times. How hard could it be? When asked how he will control the direction the balloon takes, he replies that he has worked out a system of dragging weights across the ice. He figures that he will cross the North Pole, drop a message buoy and keep on going. Maybe he will land in Russia. As his balloon disappears over the horizon, his fellows wonder if they will ever see the expedition again. [12]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
They were seen again.... several times, in various places. It was like an Elvis sighting. There were rumors they had walked into a Russia village asking for supplies. One of the buoys from the expedition was found, increasing the hope that they might still be alive, but off course. Years passed. Finally, in 1930 a Norwegian sloop out sealing, finds S. A. Andree's body and that of his fellow explorers... along with a diary and a camera. The film was still usable. A picture shows a balloon on the ice, laying on its side with the envelope partially deflated. The men of the expedition look on. The photograph is misty and washed out. The men seem like ghosts which is what they were. They just didn't know it yet. The balloon had been hit by a windstorm. Andree's scheme of dragging weights across the ice didn't work out. They were dragged hundreds of miles off course. Another expedition passed within a few kilometers of them, but couldn't get their attention. It is not clear what killed them in the end. They survived on the provisions they had brought and bear meat. Andree's body was brought back to Sweden to a hero's welcome. Yet in later years he was criticized. From generation to generation what seems sensible at the time seems crazy in the next. We look back and point out the errors. Maybe we laugh, but I wonder. What obvious errors are we making right now? In 100 years, will they laugh at us? I guarantee it. [13]

In Other News

  • The campaign to establish a Jewish Homeland begins. It is a secular movement begun by a Jewish journalist, Theodor Herzl. [14]
  • Phillip Sousa composes the Stars and Stripes Forever march. It will remain a popular patriotic march into the modern day.
  • The Klondike gold rush begins. If you bought gold last year, your investment will not pay off until well over 100 years from now. Gold prices are going to drop like a stone. [14] [15]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1806, Wikipedia.


See Also


References

  1. Samuel Pierpont Langley: Aviation Work - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  2. History of the Internal Combustion Engine: 1860-1920 - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  3. Langley, S. P.. Experiments in Aerodynamics. The Smithsonian Institution. 
  4. Aerospaceweb.org - Ask Us - Samuel P. Langley. aerospaceweb.org (2016). Retrieved on 26 October 2016. “By this point, Langley was now secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, where he began a new series of experiments with small powered models. These models allowed Langley to test nearly 100 different aircraft configurations, but he eventually gave up this effort after learning little from the frail, breakable models. He then pursued a new and more sophisticated approach using steam-powered sub-scale flying machines that he called 'aerodromes' (from the Greek aerodromoi, or 'air runner'). Seven different aerodrome designs, numbered 0 to 6, were constructed, and Aerodrome no. 5 proved to be the most successful. Weighing in at 26 lb, the design featured twin tandem wings with highly cambered airfoils and two propellers driven by a 1-hp steam engine.”
  5. Science and inventions of Leonardo da Vinci: Flight - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 9 January 2015.
  6. Leonardo Da Vinci flying machine! The Flight of Genius!. leonardo-da-vinci-biography.com (2014). Retrieved on 9 January 2015. “1496, 3rd of January: An entry made in one of the Leonardo's notebooks stated that he had unsuccessfully conducted a flight test. This tells us an interesting point about the great inventor. Leonardo may have produced and tested more of his designs than we realise.”
  7. Da Vinci unsuccessfully tests a flying machine, January 3, 1496 - EDN. edn.com (January 3, 2015). Retrieved on 9 January 2015. “Unsuccessful designs were not common for the engineer. While many of his engineering designs languished in his notebook as their builds were impossible in da Vinci's lifetime, including a calculator, he did manage to build a flying machine resembling a helicopter (see drawing from the inventor's notebook below).”
  8. Alex Shrugged notes: Some of the material I've used here is adapted from a posting I made on the Survival Podcast web site. Here is a link to the posting: [Episode-1431- Listener Feedback for 9-22-14].
  9. Kurlansky, Mark. Birdseye: The Adventures of a Curious Man. New York:Doubleday. May 2012. (BOOK)
  10. Clarence Birdseye - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  11. Alex Shrugged notes: I am drawing heavily from Mark Kurlansky's book "Birdseye: The Adventures of a Curious Man".
  12. Wilkinson, Alec. Ice Balloon: S. A. Andree and the Heroic Age of Arctic Exploration, The. Alfred A. Knopf. 
  13. Alex Shrugged notes: I'm a little light on references right now. I updated my web browser and now the normal tools I use for documentation are not working. I borrow heavily from the book I recently read, "The Ice Balloon: S. A. Andree and the Heroic Age of Arctic Exploration" by Alec Wilkinson. I recommend it.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 450-451. 
  15. Sowell, Thomas. Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy. Basic Books. ISBN 9780465081387. 

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