The Engines of Our Ingenuity: An Engineer Looks at Technology and Culture

By John H. Lienhard | Go to book overview

8
Taking Flight

T he recurring fantasies of my childhood were dreams of flight. I doubt I differed from other children in my imaginings, and in my childish way I seriously tried to achieve flight. I jumped from the garage roof into snowbanks. I scaled trees and cliffs. I swung on ropes. It's a good thing my mother never learned just how hard I worked at leaving the earth.

Sprained ankles and bruised ribs eventually convinced me that my body was earthbound even if my mind was not. I turned to model airplanes. I lived inside those lovely, light, buoyant structures. They carried me with them into the sky. My inner eye gazed down on the land from their vantage above.

This craving to fly is bred in the bone of our species. The old legends come out of the past with such conviction that we know some core of truth must undergird them. In Chapter 2 I refer to documented experiments with flight in the ninth and eleventh centuries. The Chinese flew humans in kites as early as the sixth century. 1

One of the oldest and oddest intimations of early flight came out of the Cairo Museum in 1969. An Egyptian doctor named Khalil Messiha was studying the museum's collection of ancient bird models. He found that all the models but one were similar. That one was made of sycamore wood. It was a little thing with a seven-inch wingspan. It caught Messiha's attention because he saw it through the eyes of his childhood. He remembered the shapes and forms he had worked with when he built model airplanes as a boy. This was not a bird at all; it was a model airplane, and that was impossible.

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The Engines of Our Ingenuity: An Engineer Looks at Technology and Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Preface vii
  • The Engines of Our Ingenuity *
  • 1 - Mirrored by Our Machines 3
  • 2 - God, the Master Craftsman 20
  • 3 - Looking Inside the Inventive Mind 35
  • 4 - The Common Place 55
  • 5 - Science Marries into the Family 70
  • 6 - Industrial Revolution 86
  • 7 - Inventing America 96
  • 8 - Taking Flight 115
  • 9 - Attitudes and Technological Change 126
  • 10 - War and Other Ways to Kill People 139
  • 11 - Major Landmarks 153
  • 12 - Systems, Design, and Production 167
  • 13 - Heroic Materialism 179
  • 14 - Who Got There First? 193
  • 15 - Ever-Present Dangers 209
  • 16 - Technology and Literature 219
  • 17 - Being There 229
  • Correlation of the Text with the Radio Program 241
  • Notes 243
  • Index 255
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