The Ridiculous Fake Flying Men

Article excerpt

MANILA, Philippines - The power of the Internet, of social media in particular, to educate and its ability to dumb down people were quite evident last week.

The blogging world, along with a considerable portion of the IT media, was buzzing with videos posted on YouTube showing a purported Dutch mechanical engineer, a certain Jarno Smeets, taking off and flying by flapping a pair of wings he said he invented.

Seemingly doing what Leonardo da Vinci would have done had he had access to an Android phone and Nintendo Wii controllers, Smeets claimed to have developed the wings over a period of eight months, taking inspiration from the albatross.

Fulfilling every other fellow's fantasy of flying (in a way that doesn't involve getting onboard a claustrophobia-inducing airplane), Smeets' "achievement" promptly created as much controversy as the buzz it generated.

Experts with the required credentials, as well as those from the deluded kind, have been having a field day for the past week or so, arguing for or against the videos and Smeets' so-called feat. Airline pilots, hang gliders, parachutists, even a host of a reality TV show have contributed their two cents to the issue.

When I wrote this piece, the doubters were clearly outnumbering, thought not out-arguing, those who said they believe the videos are showing the real thing. The most vicious of the naysayers, however, included tech blogs wired. …