0962: "The Corliss Resolution"

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muntoo
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Re: 0962: "The Corliss Resolution"

Postby muntoo » Mon Oct 10, 2011 7:56 pm UTC

There is an art, or rather a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. (Douglas Adams)

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; entry RECREATIONAL IMPOSSIBILITIES wrote:The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. Pick a nice day.

The first part is easy.

All it requires is simply the ability to throw yourself forward with all your weight, and the willingness not to mind that it's going to hurt. That is, it's going to hurt if you fail to miss the ground. Most people fail to miss the ground, and if they are really tyring properly, the likelihood is that they will fail to miss it fairly hard.

Clearly, it is this second part, the missing, which presents the difficulties. One problem is that you have to miss the ground accidentally. It's no good deliberately intending to miss the ground because you won't. You have to have your attention suddenly distracted by something else when you're halfway there, so that you are no longer thinking about falling, or about the ground, or about how much it's going to hurt if you fail to miss it.

It is notoriously difficult to prize your attention away from these three things during the split second you have at your disposal. Hence most people's failure, and their eventual disillusionment with this exhilarating and spectacular sport.

If, however, you are lucky enough to have your attention momentarily distracted at the crucial moment by, say, a gorgeous pair of legs (tentacles, pseudopodia, according to phylum and/or person inclination) or a bomb going off in your vicinity, or by suddenly spotting an extremely rare species of beetle crawling along a nearby twig, then in your astonishment you will miss the ground completely and remain bobbing just a few inches above it in what might seem to be a slightly foolish manner.

This is the moment for superb and delicate concentration.

Bob and float, float and bob. Ignore all considerations of your own weight and simply let yourself waft higher.

Do not listen to what anybody says to you at this point because they are unlikely to say anything helpful. They are most likely to say something along the lines of "Good god, you can't possibly be flying!"

It is vitally important not to believe them or they will suddenly be right. Waft higher and higher. Try a few swoops, gentle ones at first, then drift above the treetops breathing regularly.

DO NOT WAVE AT ANYBODY.

When you have done this a few times you will find the moment of distraction rapidly becomes easier and easier to achieve. You will then learn all sorts of things about how to control your flight, your speed, your maneuverability, and the trick usually lies in not thinking too hard about whatever you want to do, but just allowing it to happen as if it were going to anyway.

You will also learn about how to land properly, which is something you will almost certainly screw up, and screw up badly, on your first attempt.

There are private flying clubs you can join which help you achieve the all-important moment of distraction. They hire people with surprising bodies or opinions to leap out from behind bushes and exhibit and/or explain them at the critical moments. Few genuine hitchhikers will be able to afford to join these clubs, but some may be able to get temporary employment at them.


Excerpt from Life, The Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams. Compilation Edition The More Than Complete Hitchhiker's Guide, Wings Books, Random House, 1994.

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Tomlidich
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Re: 0962: "The Corliss Resolution"

Postby Tomlidich » Mon Oct 10, 2011 8:03 pm UTC

meatyochre wrote:If we can make wingsuits, are birdsuits with flappable wings around the corner? :O


already working on it as we speak. nothing working yet of course, but soon.

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Re: 0962: "The Corliss Resolution"

Postby Eutychus » Mon Oct 10, 2011 8:16 pm UTC

muntoo wrote:There is an art, or rather a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. (Douglas Adams)

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; entry RECREATIONAL IMPOSSIBILITIES wrote:The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. Pick a nice day.

The first part is easy.

All it requires is simply the ability to throw yourself forward with all your weight, and the willingness not to mind that it's going to hurt. That is, it's going to hurt if you fail to miss the ground. Most people fail to miss the ground, and if they are really tyring properly, the likelihood is that they will fail to miss it fairly hard.

Clearly, it is this second part, the missing, which presents the difficulties. One problem is that you have to miss the ground accidentally. It's no good deliberately intending to miss the ground because you won't. You have to have your attention suddenly distracted by something else when you're halfway there, so that you are no longer thinking about falling, or about the ground, or about how much it's going to hurt if you fail to miss it.

It is notoriously difficult to prize your attention away from these three things during the split second you have at your disposal. Hence most people's failure, and their eventual disillusionment with this exhilarating and spectacular sport.

If, however, you are lucky enough to have your attention momentarily distracted at the crucial moment by, say, a gorgeous pair of legs (tentacles, pseudopodia, according to phylum and/or person inclination) or a bomb going off in your vicinity, or by suddenly spotting an extremely rare species of beetle crawling along a nearby twig, then in your astonishment you will miss the ground completely and remain bobbing just a few inches above it in what might seem to be a slightly foolish manner.

This is the moment for superb and delicate concentration.

Bob and float, float and bob. Ignore all considerations of your own weight and simply let yourself waft higher.

Do not listen to what anybody says to you at this point because they are unlikely to say anything helpful. They are most likely to say something along the lines of "Good god, you can't possibly be flying!"

It is vitally important not to believe them or they will suddenly be right. Waft higher and higher. Try a few swoops, gentle ones at first, then drift above the treetops breathing regularly.

DO NOT WAVE AT ANYBODY.

When you have done this a few times you will find the moment of distraction rapidly becomes easier and easier to achieve. You will then learn all sorts of things about how to control your flight, your speed, your maneuverability, and the trick usually lies in not thinking too hard about whatever you want to do, but just allowing it to happen as if it were going to anyway.

You will also learn about how to land properly, which is something you will almost certainly screw up, and screw up badly, on your first attempt.

There are private flying clubs you can join which help you achieve the all-important moment of distraction. They hire people with surprising bodies or opinions to leap out from behind bushes and exhibit and/or explain them at the critical moments. Few genuine hitchhikers will be able to afford to join these clubs, but some may be able to get temporary employment at them.


Excerpt from Life, The Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams. Compilation Edition The More Than Complete Hitchhiker's Guide, Wings Books, Random House, 1994.
Ahem.
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Re: 0962: "The Corliss Resolution"

Postby jonadab » Mon Oct 10, 2011 10:11 pm UTC

The Fermi paradox assumes facts not in evidence.

You've heard the joke about the biologist, the physicist, and the mathematician, right? They take a vacation together and visit Scotland, and while riding the shuttle bus from the airport to the hotel, they look out the window and see a beautiful picturesque hillside with a black sheep grazing on it. The biologist says, "Oh, look, the sheep in Scotland are black!" The physicist says, "Well, some of the sheep in Scotland are black, anyway." The mathematician says, "There exists in Scotland at least one sheep, and at least one side of it is black."

So yeah. We know that there is at least one planet in the universe capable of sustaining life. We do not know that there are any more. We do know that there are more hunks of matter orbiting stars, so in that sense there are "other planets", but all the ones we know about, besides Earth, do not appear to be capable of sustaining life (in any form we would recognize without a microscope), so far as we can tell based on actual evidence. If you want to argue the contrary, you have to name another known non-fictional planet that you could in practice live on (without first altering it significantly to make it more Earth-like; you're allowed to assume you could get there, but not that you could take a bunch of atmosphere or plants or biodome habitats or whatever with you from Earth).

Can't name any? Neither can anybody else. None are known. Just Earth. People who talk about "lots of habitable planets" are speculating -- wildly. We only know of the one.

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Re: 0962: "The Corliss Resolution"

Postby CatOfGrey » Mon Oct 10, 2011 11:36 pm UTC

jonadab wrote:The Fermi paradox assumes facts not in evidence.


This was my first thought, too. Of course, that also ruins the punchline of the comic.

And most importantly, wingsuit material comes in 11 colors! I'm ready to fly.

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Re: 0962: "The Corliss Resolution"

Postby Maxpm » Tue Oct 11, 2011 2:21 am UTC

The last few panels read like an A Softer World strip.

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Re: 0962: "The Corliss Resolution"

Postby DVC » Tue Oct 11, 2011 3:14 am UTC

Last and First Men was the first thing I thought of. Anyone else have that reaction?

jonadab wrote:The Fermi paradox assumes facts not in evidence.

You've heard the joke about the biologist, the physicist, and the mathematician, right? They take a vacation together and visit Scotland, and while riding the shuttle bus from the airport to the hotel, they look out the window and see a beautiful picturesque hillside with a black sheep grazing on it. The biologist says, "Oh, look, the sheep in Scotland are black!" The physicist says, "Well, some of the sheep in Scotland are black, anyway." The mathematician says, "There exists in Scotland at least one sheep, and at least one side of it is black."

So yeah. We know that there is at least one planet in the universe capable of sustaining life. We do not know that there are any more. We do know that there are more hunks of matter orbiting stars, so in that sense there are "other planets", but all the ones we know about, besides Earth, do not appear to be capable of sustaining life (in any form we would recognize without a microscope), so far as we can tell based on actual evidence. If you want to argue the contrary, you have to name another known non-fictional planet that you could in practice live on (without first altering it significantly to make it more Earth-like; you're allowed to assume you could get there, but not that you could take a bunch of atmosphere or plants or biodome habitats or whatever with you from Earth).

Can't name any? Neither can anybody else. None are known. Just Earth. People who talk about "lots of habitable planets" are speculating -- wildly. We only know of the one.


Your reasoning is off. You asked for habitable planets not inhabited planets. Habitable shouldn't require that there already be plants there. In which case I could happily migrate to 50 km altitude, Venus. There the temperature and pressure is the same as at the surface of the Earth. There is a paper by Landis showing how you could have floating bubble cities in that part of the atmosphere. Furthermore the most recent results from the Kepler mission indicate that something like 1 in 3 star systems are likely to have Terrestrial planets in the 'habitable zone.' I was at a conference just 2 weeks ago where a speaker argued that was a lower limit, and there will, in fact, be more than that. So, even if I agree that Fermi assumes facts not in evidence, I would say that those assumptions are becoming increasingly likely based on the results we are seeing.

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Re: 0962: "The Corliss Resolution"

Postby ijuin » Tue Oct 11, 2011 3:54 am UTC

"Habitable" in the conventional sense usually implies a planet that requires zero terraforming beyond bringing in your preferred species to colonize it (and possibly eradicating some annoying native pests). The simplest measure of whether a planet is habitable to humans or not is: Can humans breathe its unfiltered atmosphere? If not, the planet is not habitable, though it may be terraformable.

That said, I think that we will eventually find a lot of what I would term "Cold Venuses"--planets that have a geochemistry and temperature sufficiently close to pre-life Earth that they could be terraformed. We may find a few planets with microbes on them but nothing possessing a brain (over 80% of life's existence on Earth was like this). We may even find a couple that have advanced fauna on them. But a non-human civilization advanced enough to be our rivals in galactic conquest rather than being so primitive or so advanced that the more advanced would crush the less advanced one without breaking a sweat? No way. Even without faster-than-light travel, humanity could potentially settle the entire galaxy in only a million years. Given a potential span of thousands of times as long as this in which to take over the galaxy before humanity even arose, why hasn't anybody done it? Therefore there must not have been any galaxy-spanning species before us who would have considered Earth of their era as desirable real estate.

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Re: 0962: "The Corliss Resolution"

Postby bmonk » Tue Oct 11, 2011 4:38 am UTC

feyayeruka wrote:what, you all can't fly?

In your dreams!

No, that's in my dreams!
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Re: 0962: "The Corliss Resolution"

Postby Anachrome » Tue Oct 11, 2011 9:29 am UTC

I think any process of determining whether or not a planet is 'habitable' is going about it backwards - life-forms adapt to their surroundings, for the most part - it's not important that a planet be able to support life as it is for a planet to watch the genesis of *some* kind of life, and let evolution take it from there.

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Re: 0962: "The Corliss Resolution"

Postby fanofbangelthor » Tue Oct 11, 2011 2:57 pm UTC

thret wrote:
Randomness wrote:That is an interesting assumption, that things that CAN fly still dream of flight. Wouldn't they dream of something they couldn't do?


I imagine it's like sex, so much fun that you think about it even when you're not doing it.


Perhaps they'd dream of swimming?

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Re: 0962: "The Corliss Resolution"

Postby sean_b » Tue Oct 11, 2011 5:18 pm UTC

It's odd to me that even though Hitchhiker's Guide has been mentioned already, no one has mentioned the dolphins, since that was MY first reaction to the strip....
For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much — the wheel, New York, wars and so on — whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man — for precisely the same reasons.


and thanks to this page for helping me avoid having to paraphrase from memory...
http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/The_Hitchhiker%27s_Guide_to_the_Galaxy#Chapter_23

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Re: 0962: "The Corliss Resolution"

Postby RowanE » Tue Oct 11, 2011 6:56 pm UTC

fanofbangelthor wrote:
thret wrote:
Randomness wrote:That is an interesting assumption, that things that CAN fly still dream of flight. Wouldn't they dream of something they couldn't do?


I imagine it's like sex, so much fun that you think about it even when you're not doing it.


Perhaps they'd dream of swimming?


Wouldn't they be better at swimming than us monkeys are?

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Re: 0962: "The Corliss Resolution"

Postby Belgand » Tue Oct 11, 2011 8:41 pm UTC

I must be unique in not wanting to fly. It just strikes me as about the most frightening, horrifying thing ever. Flying in a plane? OK, I have no problem there. It's very safe, nicely enclosed, nothing to worry about. Flying by myself? Tenuously soaring as gravity tries its best to smash me into the ground, where even the slightest mistake is likely to lead to my death? Scary beyond belief.

Even having evolved the ability to fly naturally doesn't seem very appealing. There are just too many ways for it to screw up while you're in mid-air.

Tomlidich wrote:
meatyochre wrote:If we can make wingsuits, are birdsuits with flappable wings around the corner? :O


already working on it as we speak. nothing working yet of course, but soon.


Almost certainly impossible. The issue critically comes down to power/weight ratios and humans just don't have it. Even among birds you'll note that the larger ones almost exclusively utilize locked-wing gliding rather than flapping-wing flight. The birds that do flap their wings have evolved their entire body structure to be capable of doing it. The only possible method I can imagine would involve utilizing some sort of exoskeleton that amplifies movement enough to provide the needed power, but at that point why are you even bothering? It's not a sensible or reasonable design and do you really want something where you have to worry about tiring yourself out while hundreds of meters in the air? Or, for that matter, expend the effort in the first place when there's no real need to do so?

Behold! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ornithopter

OK, so people have successfully tested human muscle-powered ornithopters in the past. It is possible. But look at the distances achieved. This is simply not an area where it's ever going to be sensible. Also keep in mind that none of this is through flapping your arms. If you absolutely feel the need to do this sort of thing stick with hang gliders and wing-suits.

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Re: 0962: "The Corliss Resolution"

Postby drakvl » Tue Oct 11, 2011 8:47 pm UTC

I've been thinking about the very thing mentioned in the rollover text. Here's my question: since flying creatures tend to have bones that are less dense, how could they reach escape velocity without breaking a few?

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Re: 0962: "The Corliss Resolution"

Postby AvatarIII » Tue Oct 11, 2011 9:00 pm UTC

DVC wrote:Last and First Men was the first thing I thought of. Anyone else have that reaction?


Yeah, it was the last book I read, I mentioned it earlier in the thread.

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Re: 0962: "The Corliss Resolution"

Postby Tomlidich » Tue Oct 11, 2011 9:10 pm UTC

Belgand wrote:

Almost certainly impossible. The issue critically comes down to power/weight ratios and humans just don't have it. Even among birds you'll note that the larger ones almost exclusively utilize locked-wing gliding rather than flapping-wing flight. The birds that do flap their wings have evolved their entire body structure to be capable of doing it. The only possible method I can imagine would involve utilizing some sort of exoskeleton that amplifies movement enough to provide the needed power, but at that point why are you even bothering? It's not a sensible or reasonable design and do you really want something where you have to worry about tiring yourself out while hundreds of meters in the air? Or, for that matter, expend the effort in the first place when there's no real need to do so?

Behold! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ornithopter

OK, so people have successfully tested human muscle-powered ornithopters in the past. It is possible. But look at the distances achieved. This is simply not an area where it's ever going to be sensible. Also keep in mind that none of this is through flapping your arms. If you absolutely feel the need to do this sort of thing stick with hang gliders and wing-suits.


well yeah, mine is a powered suit, still much development work, but early prototypes by mid next year should be working....

its not exactly about doing the "sensible" thing, its more about doing it because you can. just to see if it is even possible.
im sure it can be, if it is designed correctly.

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Re: 0962: "The Corliss Resolution"

Postby neoliminal » Tue Oct 11, 2011 10:26 pm UTC

The only difference between flying and swimming is the substance one is traveling through. I feel at some future point the two words will merge into one. Flimming, most likely.
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Re: 0962: "The Corliss Resolution"

Postby Freiberg » Wed Oct 12, 2011 12:19 am UTC

DVC wrote:Last and First Men was the first thing I thought of. Anyone else have that reaction?



Dang it, I thought I was the only one who had ever heard of that book. Yep, that's what I thought of too.

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Re: 0962: "The Corliss Resolution"

Postby DVC » Wed Oct 12, 2011 3:06 am UTC

Belgand wrote:I must be unique in not wanting to fly. It just strikes me as about the most frightening, horrifying thing ever. Flying in a plane? OK, I have no problem there. It's very safe, nicely enclosed, nothing to worry about. Flying by myself? Tenuously soaring as gravity tries its best to smash me into the ground, where even the slightest mistake is likely to lead to my death? Scary beyond belief.


You do realise walking is just controlled falling right?

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Re: 0962: "The Corliss Resolution"

Postby ijuin » Wed Oct 12, 2011 6:24 am UTC

Anachrome wrote:I think any process of determining whether or not a planet is 'habitable' is going about it backwards - life-forms adapt to their surroundings, for the most part - it's not important that a planet be able to support life as it is for a planet to watch the genesis of *some* kind of life, and let evolution take it from there.

Depends on who we expect to inhabit it. If we want a planet that we can colonize with humans who will walk outdoors on the surface without air tanks, then either it needs to already have air that we can breathe, or we have to be able to alter it to be so. (The third option is to radically alter human biochemistry to something that's unlike anything in the terrestrial Animal kingdom--e.g. to breathe methane air and to get oxygen from food. The resulting incompatibility with terrestrial life and humans--and the social implications of being effectively a different species--might be considered a greater price to pay than the expense of terraforming a planet to fit our existing biochemistry.)

If instead what we want is to "explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before", then the range of valid conditions suddenly becomes a lot wider--we need only to look for a planet that is obviously massively outside of chemical equilibrium (e.g. having large amounts of gases that do not coexist stably, such as the Oxygen and Methane in Earth's atmosphere). Said disequilibrium would mean either life extracting energy (some version of photosynthesis or whatever) or else some VERY interesting non-biological chemistry.

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Re: 0962: "The Corliss Resolution"

Postby typo » Wed Oct 12, 2011 9:53 pm UTC

Speaking of flying and space colonization, "The Menace From Earth" is one of my favourite Heinlein stories. It's about a teenage girl who lives in the moon and whose hobby happens to be flying. It's possible because of the low gravity. Another reason to go back there, darn it!

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Re: 0962: "The Corliss Resolution"

Postby PM 2Ring » Thu Oct 13, 2011 5:57 am UTC

typo wrote:Speaking of flying and space colonization, "The Menace From Earth" is one of my favourite Heinlein stories. It's about a teenage girl who lives in the moon and whose hobby happens to be flying. It's possible because of the low gravity. Another reason to go back there, darn it!

That was always one of my favourites, too. I re-read it about a year ago, and it was just as good as it was in my teens. :)


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