Future Flight (1 of 2) — Gareth Mitchell meets the engineers who will transform the way we fly around the world. He finds out how aircraft may take on new shapes in the future.
Tagged with “flight” (8)
This edition of the fiction podcast will take a break from the regular format and will feature Colum McCann reading his own story "Transatlantic." The regular format will resume at the beginning of May, with Matthew Klam reading Charles D’Ambrosio’s "The Point." "Transatlantic" was published in the April 16, 2012, issue of The New Yorker. McCann is the author of two collections of stories and five novels, including the National Book Award-winning "Let the Great World Spin."
The 404 903: Where the good Lord continues to bless the Internet (podcast) | The 404 Podcast - CNET Blogs
The Internet caught fire an hour before we recorded today, so our apologies if we’re still reeling from the ‘news’ for the first few minutes of the podcast. No clue what we’re talking about? Enjoy the show. Read this blog post by Justin Yu on The 404 Podcast.
Big Ideas presents Seth Lloyd of the Massachusetts Institute for Technology on Quantum Life, how organisms have evolved to make use of quantum effects.
The natural world’s long-distance flight champions are seagoing birds that fly up to 6,000 miles nonstop. But now, two scientists are proposing to give the honor to the pterosaur, a massive creature from the distant past.
Above the dinosaur exhibit at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History, a giant pterosaur skeleton hangs from the ceiling. This is a Quetzalcoatlus, thought to be the largest flying animal that ever lived. It has a massive skull with a beak-like mouth, and its wingspan takes up almost the entire ceiling.
"It would have been a very bizarre animal to see fly above you or walk around on the ground," says Mike Habib, a specialist in biomechanics from Chatham University. "It would look like a strange amalgamation of a classic modern reptile, bird, giraffe and bat all squeezed into one."
EnlargeJoshua Franzos for Carnegie Museum of Natural History A pterosaur skeleton looms over two T. Rex skeletons at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. The pterosaur is thought to be the largest flying animal that ever lived. Too Big To Fly?
The pterosaur’s wingspan and size have spawned comparisons to dragons. But recently some scientists wondered whether the creature was too big to fly. A pair of papers recently asserted that the biggest pterosaurs may have been too heavy to get off the ground.
That seemed implausible to Habib. After all, the biggest birds often have the longest flight range. And Quetzalcoatlus, with its 35-foot wingspan, certainly fits the bill for gigantic.
So Habib teamed up with Mark Witton, a British paleontologist, to plug in factors like wingspan, weight and aerodynamics into a computer model.
The results, which they presented at a conference last month, were staggering: They revealed an animal that could fly up to 80 miles an hour for 7 to 10 days at altitudes of 15,000 feet. The maximum range, Habib says, was probably between 8,000 and 12,000 miles.
"That doesn’t mean necessarily they did, doesn’t mean necessarily a specific number, just that it would be long enough to say, cross an ocean," Habib says.
Habib and Witton further spelled out the lizard’s flight mechanics in a paper published this month in the journal PLoS ONE. Their hollow bones, strong wing muscles and a powerful launch mechanism all point to an animal literally built to fly, they argue.
David Unwin, a paleobiologist at the University of Leicester in England, agrees with Habib that Quetzalcoatlus could fly, but he’s not convinced about the distance.
Video: Pterosaur Takeoff Pterosaurs, with their 35-foot wingspans, may have launched themselves airborne by using all four limbs — their wings and legs.
Source: YouTube "Where we get into more difficulty is in some of the claims about flight performance," he says. Unwin says these types of projections are premature for a fossil as mysterious as this one.
Only one adult skeleton of Quetzalcoatlus has ever been discovered. And that consists of fragments of just one wing. That makes estimating a basic feature like body mass a near crapshoot. Without a deeper fossil record, Unwin says, there are only a few conclusions one can make about these animals.
"Yes, we had giant pterosaurs, and yes they could fly, and yes they lived at end of Cretaceous, and we can’t say a whole lot more," he says.
Unwin and Habib say there may be more to say in the years to come. That’s because dig sites in Germany, Brazil and China have turned out to be hotbeds for pterosaur fossils. Habib is hoping that in one of these beds lie clues to how fast and how far these ancient animals could fly.
Dickie Shannon chats with NASA Solar System Ambassador, Patrick Wiggins about everything up above, from space travel to star parties.