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26 September 2008

Air Travel is Absurd

"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."
- Lord Kelvin, President Royal Society, 1895

Oh my. Me thinks Lord Kelvin was as wrong as a wearing suspenders with a belt.

The first of many heavier-than-air flights occurred in 1848, a full 47 years before Lord Kelvin captivated his fellow royals with his profound words; and the lastest heavier-than-air flight was about 7 seconds ago at New York's LaGuardia Airport (trust me). Perhaps too many cocktails were being served at the Royal Society that day.

The first powered flight in America wasn't until 1896 by a stud named Sam Langley. Ol' Sam was a former military man and had a can-do attitude. He also knew enough to include other big thinkers on his project so he invited other inventors, engineers and the like. Hearing about their work, Langley tried to collaborate with the Wright Brother's too, but they repeatedly turned him down. Langley eventually launched his "Aerodrome" (Greek for 'Air Runner') even though it was more of a flier than a lander. His only means of landing was a controlled crash into the Potomac River (so his pilot wouldn't get hurt crashing on land). Of course, people focused on the crashes, however intentional they may have been, and not on the spectacular nature of the powered, manned, air flight. Years later, the Wright Brother's were famously credited for flying - and landing - a much smaller, less powerful machine, but with a steering and landing mechanism, and therefore they are largely known as the originators of flight in America. The brothers also sued Langley relentlessly over his flight claims after the Smithsonian Museum displayed his Aerodrome as the first "powered, manned, self sustaining aircraft." Langley Air Force Base in Virginia? Yep, that's named after him.

So thanks for those adventurers! As anybody that has ever tried to get out of Omaha in January before a blizzard hits and closes everything down can tell you, we are grateful for the expediency and effectiveness of air travel.

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Tune in to the next Absurdity Tour when we visit the Workplace!

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