Friday, March 17, 2006

Prescient prescriptions for innovation.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."AC Clarke third law.

I have a collection of old periodicals dating from the 19th Century.The format and skill of the editors in blending prose,innovation,feedback as well as the lithographs and detail in both the main body of text and the variety of innovation in the classified advertisements still hold me in amazement.Indeed the problems and solutions far exceed the excellence we could expect in innovation today,and I wonder if the suppression of the individuals innovation today is a constraint for evolution.

This piece from the Scientific American september 8 1860 in response to the prize offer from Thadeous Hyatt for a flying machine ...

Of all the inventions of which it is possible to conceive in the future,there is none which so captivated the imagination as that of a flying machine.The power of rising up into the air,and rushing in any direction at the rate of a mile or more a minute,is a power fo which mankind would be willing to pay for liberally.What a luxurious mode of locomtion!To sweep along smoothly how perfectly it would eclipse other means of travel by sea and distance of land.

This magnificent problem so alluring to the imagination and of the highest practical convenience and value,has been left heretofore to the dreams of a few visionaries and the feeble efforts of a few clumsy inventors.We,ourselves have thought that,in the present state of human knowledge,it contained no promise of success.But considering the greatness of the prize and the trifling charecter of the endeavours that have been put forward to obtain it,would it not make sense,as our correspondents suggest ,to make a new and combined effort to realize it,under all the power of modern science and mechanism.?

What little attention of this subject has heretofore received form inventors has been almost wholly confined to two directions-flying by muscular power and the guidance of balloons.Both of these we have been accustomed to regard as impracticable.But as Mr Hyatt suggests,the flying by muscular power is afield of invention that has not been thoroughly explored.Though it may be impossible for a man to raise his own weight by rapidly beating the air,the sustaing of his weight and moving it horizontially is another problem.In the bird the wings are moved by the most powerful muscles in the system.Has this hint been acted upon,and the muscles of the legs and shoulders,been brought to bear upon the wings in the most efficient manner?Again ;has the constancy of the rotary motion been available in a flying machine?If spiral fans were used ,of course ,two sets would be required to prevent the machine from turning in the direction opposite to the direction of the fan.

But the thing that is really wanted is machine driven by some natural power.so the flyer may ride at his ease.For this purpose,we must have a new gas,electric ,or chemical engine.What we require are two or more substances ,solid or liquid,which by bringing into contact ,would be converted into gas.Place these in the reaction or Avery engine,which by running at high velocity,would yield a large power in proportion to its weight,and it is possible-yes probable-that the machine would drive spiral fans with sufficient force to lift itself from the gorund.Would not the binoxoyd of hydrogen and charcoal fill these conditions.This engine would run with such velocity that the fans would have to be very small by proportion;and it is probable that a widening of the arms themselves giving spiral inclination -would be the true plan.There might be two generating vessels that supply the engine that when was was exhausted the other would fulfill its requirements.

We might add severl other hints to inventors who desire to enter on this enticing field;but we will conclude with only one more.The newly -discovered metal aluminium,from its extraordinary combination of lightness and strength,is the proper material for flying machines.

An extraordinary piece of engineering prescience from 1860 ,what I find interesting is the hints to the inventors very interesting.

The Scientific American September 8 1860 page 165.

2 Comments:

Blogger sagenz said...

what an exceptionally polite blogger you are. linking something nearly as old as New Zealand. fascinating stuff.

10:15 AM  
Blogger maksimovich said...

In science and engineering the perception that the concept or invention is of the 21st or 20 th century.Nearly every technology we use dates from the 19th.The innovation of these inventers to create something from nothing is what seems amiss in todays environment.
If to use the automobile in 1899 the consumer had the option of 3 power sources ,petroleum,steam and electricity.
Interestingly was the speed and range of the electric cars,that operated on batteries ,charged in 3 hours from the household connection and had a range of 120 miles on mud roads.
This was the technology of 1899 we have not come far and this is 1 example.

1:30 PM  

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