Ming the Mechanic:
The Sky's the Limit

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 The Sky's the Limit2002-12-12 23:59
picture by Flemming Funch

The guy was obviously crazy, but he had vision and he had guts, and he followed his dream and did something nobody else had done. That makes him a hero in my book.
When Larry Walters was 13 years old, he went to a local Army-Navy surplus store and saw the weather balloons hanging from the ceiling. It was then he knew that some day he would be carried aloft by such balloons. This obsession would be with him for the next 20 years. On July 2nd, 1982, Larry tied 42 helium-filled balloons to a Sears lawn chair in the backyard of his girlfriend's house in San Pedro, California. With the help of his ground crew, Larry then secured himself into the lawn chair which was anchored to the bumper of a friend's car by two nylon tethers. He took with him many supplies, including a BB gun to shoot out the balloons when he was ready to descend. His goal was to sail across the desert and hopefully make it to the Rocky Mountains in a few days. But things didn't quite work out for Larry. After his crew purposely cut the first tether, the second one also snapped which shot Larry into the LA sky at over 1,000 feet per minute. So fast was his ascent that he lost his glasses. He then climbed to over 16,000 feet. For several hours he drifted in the cold air near the LA and Long Beach airports. A TWA pilot first spotted Larry and radioed the tower that he was passing a guy in a lawn chair at 16,000! Larry started shooting out a few balloons to start his descent but had accidentally dropped it. He eventually landed in a Long Beach neighborhood. Although he was entangled in some power lines, he was uninjured.
From Mark Berry who has made it his hobby to be obsessed with the story.

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13 Dec 2002 @ 11:57 by sharie : "I CAN FLY"
I saw the video of this *dream* ... there was his family and friends on the ground to see him off, and there he goes lifting off ... because... that was his dream... I'm thinking, "this is suicide, how can his family and friends help him do this!" There was clearly inadequate research or preparation. I'm glad he wasn't killed.

A couple summers ago, a guy flew overhead sitting in a chair with a fan behind him and some kind of glider wings. He was maneuvering that contraption a few hundred feet in the air.

I have my own dreams about flying in the sky. My grandfather owned a helicopter company and was an expert pilot... so I guess I inherited it from him. I've been developing energy efficient *mobile* homes that take living to new heights. They set down on land or water, and can also fly ... a mobile home in the sky... with a bathroom, mini-kitchen, hammocks, laptops with internet, CD players... all lightweight... so you can communicate with people all over the world... and outdoor decks so you can land on mountains in summer and enjoy the sunrise and sunsets. I'm incorporating a number of existing technologies - gyroscopes, LED's, and so on.

I suppose you have dreams of flying too?  

13 Dec 2002 @ 13:58 by ming : Flying Homes
Now there's an idea. I'd certainly like one of those too.  

14 Dec 2002 @ 12:52 by sharie : YOUR CUSTOM-DESIGNED SKY HOME
Yep, and these aren't corporate jets. They have vertical lift-off, they're very earth-friendly, very light-weight, extremely energy-efficient, inexpensive - cheaper than a car - and motor-free so you won't need gasoline.

I know you know a lot about alternative technologies so if you have some special ideas you'd like me to incorporate into your custom-designed Sky Home, let me know.

Would you like yours to sleep six?

Any other special features?

They're the size of motorhomes (small to large) so people can set down in parking spaces at restaurants or parks or resorts or wherever they want to go.

I'm thinking of creating special resorts for people adopting this new lifestyle, so people can resort hop (kind of like "bar hop") anywhere they want to go around the world.

It's a beautiful way of life, but it won't be ready for Christmas.

Maybe next year.  

14 Dec 2002 @ 15:21 by ming : Sky Home
So, they would be moved by helicopter, or what? Or with balloons? Anyway, yeah, I'd like to bring my family. We're five people. And I need an Internet connection.  

17 Dec 2002 @ 16:39 by sharie : Thanks for askin'

Several other mechanisms for *lift-off* and *flight* are being employed... (Helicopter blades aren't energy efficient). All these alternative mechanisms are from existing technologies (proven to work), although not all these technologies are currently used for aeronautics.

I'm continuing to look for the ideal combination of mechanisms... two or three light-weight mechanisms onboard is best.

I prefer the vortex lift-off used successfully for millions of years by a variety of insects. Vortex energy is created by the shape and motion of their wings, and has been demonstrated in slow-motion video with the hawkmoth (a moth) in a wind tunnel. I prefer this technology because there's a great deal of convincing evidence that Nature tends to be more intelligent and efficient than humans. So vortex-powered lift-off is in the Sky Home design; the back-up technologies are variable.

Vortex Wing Power can be mechanically re-created rather easily. Here's a bit of background: http://www.nature.com/nsu/010823/010823-10.html

This is an important follow-up to it: http://bombyx.biol.tsukuba.ac.jp/~ando/research/index-e.html

If you're really interested: http://www.efluids.com/efluids/gallery/features_newscientist.htm

The two hard questions are:

1) How do you power it? That's easy.
2) How can you monitor, manage and integrate wing-motion with the wind and vortex energy to create maneuverability? That's not so easy. So I'm using back-up systems.

Hot air lift is my favorite back-up. How do you create the hot air? Solar heat magnified by three convex glasses and water (Walter Russell's idea). This way you don't need gas or other fuel (making it fuel efficient). After dark or on cloudy days, it's useless though, but the Sky Home isn't intended for 24-hour a day flight.

The idea with the Sky Home is that rather than using heating and cooling systems for environmental comfort, you just travel to where Nature is providing 60-75 degree temperatures. Phase I will offer simple amenities. Phase II is more elaborate with thermal settings, and faster flight. But I'm focusing on getting a simple version - ready.

Yes, all Sky Homes have internet connection... helping people be physically and mentally free.

Thanks for askin'.

Any other questions?  

17 Dec 2002 @ 18:06 by ming : Insect Flight
Very interesting stuff about the insect inspired flight methods. Yeah, sure, I want one.  

19 Dec 2002 @ 17:11 by sharie : wings... windspeed... wind direction...
I think we need a computer program to monitor the windspeed, to respond with the wing motion. That's what we need for this. And I'm not a computer programmer. Different people will want different propulsion systems. I want pedal power. This is because I have strong legs and I love working out. A lot of people won't want pedal power and they'll have other mechanisms, but I want pedal power to drive the wing motion. I'm realizing I need a computer program to moderate between the wind direction and windspeed. Thanks for your feedback on this. Would you want pedal power or something else?

The idea is to hook up a gear system with the pedals so that you lift yourself using pedal power to activate the vortex energy created by the wings.


19 Dec 2002 @ 17:29 by ming : Solar
How about solar power, stored in fuel cells. And maybe pedals for emergencies.  

21 Dec 2002 @ 11:54 by sharie : Fuel cell storage
Sure! Keeping an open mind to putting together what works is best I think. Can the fuel cells *be* the materials used for the wings, and the Sky Home's framework?

Making materials double and triple duty, that's essential... for making it energy-efficient. (Commercial planes don't do this at all.)

I was reading a story written by a woman who'd watched some baby birds learn to fly. Two of the babies learned right away. The third baby was scared, and wouldn't try. The parents kept encouraging it, and finally got it out of the nest, and after a long while, eventually walked it over to an opening, with one parent on each side of the baby, chirping away, encouraging it to flap its wings. Finally the baby got going and off she went. So I was thinking "Maybe this flying business isn't so hard after all". If a baby bird can figure it out on the first try, surely it isn't that hard, right?

Birds use two wings that bend. Insects actually have two - three wings on each side, and their wings don't *bend*. They all just move independently. That's where aviation has gone wrong... putting out stationary wings... they're wasting their greatest source of power. When you get the wings moving, you can create lift with a lot less power, which means they'll be considerably more energy-efficient and more *affordable*... which means *a huge market*... because almost everybody wants to be physically and mentally free.

Since different people have different sources of strength... some love to pedal, some will not want pedals at all, and so on, fuel cell storage is a great idea. I don't know that much about fuel cells... and there's alway new innovations going on. I'd like to offer some Custom-Design options for the Sky Homes so everyone has what works for them... so long as it's environmentally-friendly. Some people, for example, may want bio-diesel fuel, and that would be fine (although I'm not a fan of *enginges*). But bio-diesel fuel is a renewable resource, non-polluting, and they get great mileage.

The important thing is to offer a whole new way of life that mentally, physically and financially freeing, and a lot of fun.

I've noticed a number of states have passed laws allowing EV's on the roads. I'd like the Sky Homes to hover a few inches above the ground (for safety reasons) and people could use the roadways, although not really touching the ground. When it's time to rise 50 feet or so above the trees, they could do that too, but for safety reasons - and less wind resistance - I think it's best to keep them hovering just above the ground. By not touching the ground, there's less resistance, so the power requirements will be considerably less, see?

Do you know about some fuel cells that you could recommend for this?  

23 Dec 2002 @ 01:20 by ming : Fuel Cells
I don't know any manufacturers. But it is a field in very rapid evolution. It is said to be more efficient than any type of battery, so a rather small fuel cell can store much more energy than much bigger and heavier batteries. In a year or two it will be practical to have fuel cells in laptops or cell phones.

I'm a bit skeptical on the scalability of the mechanisms birds or insects use to fly. We don't really see any role models in nature at the scale we would want. Pterodactyls weren't terribly big either.  

24 Dec 2002 @ 14:29 by sharie : Huge Wings
Think of the butterfly's body compared with the wing size. That's the relation, with the wings made of a light-weight material - latex (for stretch) and nylon (for strength) - something like that. The more I think of this the more do-able it is. The Sky Home frame is light-weight, the hammocks are light-weight, the laptop is a few pounds... there's not a lot of weight to lift, so the wings will be smaller than the ratio you might figure based on *size*. I'm gonna go do some online searches. I really appreciate your feedback on this.  

25 Dec 2002 @ 15:59 by ming : Big Wings
I'm not much of a math or science wiz at this point in my life. But I'm pretty sure that it isn't just the ratio we're talking about. Designs for flying don't just scale proportionally, but some of the factors will increase with maybe the square of some of the dimensions. Like, just imagine scaling the hummingbird approach up to something with 20ft wings. If they need to buzz up and down that fast, it would take enormous force, and would excert enormous force on the wings. We can't just do by scaling up the dimensions of the hummingbird. I'm sure it is a problem with scaling certain types of constructions. An ant can easily balance stuff several times its own weight over its head, but no bigger animals can do anything like it. A fly can walk on water because its weight doesn't break the surface tension. But a 5ft fly would drown.

There might of course still be inspiration to get from what those little expert fliers are doing, and the natural principles might be implemented in ways that don't produce impossible material stresses and that don't require impossible amounts of power.

But, otherwise, I would look towards the approaches that do scale fairly proportioinally. A balloon with twice the volume can lift twice as much weight, roughly. That scales very well.

So, ideas: A house with helium in the walls. Hard to make the cavities big enough, I guess.. But then how about containers made of strong enough, but light, material that they can contain nothing but vacuum. Vacuum is obviously lighter than helium or anything else, so it would provide better lift. But it normally takes very heavy materials to hold it while keeping the walls from collapsing.  

26 Dec 2002 @ 15:22 by sharie : Incredible amounts of power
Think about the force required to lift a hummingbird, or the energy to propel the speed of the hummingbird wings. Hummingbirds have flown right in front of me before, I've seen their wings flutter so fast it's nothin' but a blur. What incredible stamina! Unbelievable! Think of the force it would take for an ant to lift eight times it's bodyweight. Doesn't it seem likely that the PHYSICS of the hummingbird and ant are different from the PHYSICS we're taught to believe in? Wouldn't it make more sense if establishment physics just doesn't have all the answers yet?

There's a place in Florida called the Coral Castle that I visited a few years ago. A man built the place all by himself - all out of coral - using laws of physics that no one else seems to have figured out yet. http://www.coralcastle.com/home.asp I bought the books he'd written - haven't read them yet though!!! But it's yet more evidence that PHYSICS is not what we're taught it is.

I love the idea of big wings because I want to use pedal power to propel the wing motion... more fun than bicycling! I know it'll work - if not for lifting a *home* than at least for personal levitation and travel. Strong, lean people would have an easier go of it than others, of course, but what fun! My question is *would we be more energy efficient than a machine or would it take less energy (less food) to use something else (gas, solar, fuel cells)?* That's another reason for having back-up systems like stored solar cells or fuel cells or bio-diesel... safety, reliability, fun AND energy efficiency.  

26 Dec 2002 @ 15:57 by ming : Physics
Oh, I certainly think there's physics that's either hidden or not quite found yet.

But there is also well known math that would explain some difficulties in scaling.

However, we probably haven't heard the last of that. Some of the dinosaurs were impossibly huge, having 30ft necks they shouldn't possibly have been able to support. So I'm sure there's stuff that's different from what we thought.  

18 Sep 2006 @ 07:22 by creamcakes @ : amazing
the force that a rocket would make would be unbelievable, in 2seconds the rocket will propel to 100km, and in a few minuets it is doing about 23,000 km. i mean, what about the frames of these things, there would be so much bend and wait on the structure you would think it would snap. but anyway, thats what i think  

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