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Argos
2006-Mar-06, 06:20 PM
Humanīs desire to emulate birds led to the development of the airplane. Rockets were an extension to the concept of airplane. So, our spacefaring is almost directly linked to the existence of birds.

Birds spend much energy to fly. I think we could say theyīre on the limit. Had Earthīs gravity been slightly bigger, birds (flying ones at least) wouldnīt have arised, and we wouldnīt have airplanes and rockets.

Could the idea of flying have ever occurrred to mankind if birds didnīt exist? What about other technological civilizations? No birds > no rockets > no spaceships > no spacefaring > no close encounter with mankind. What do you think?

jfribrg
2006-Mar-06, 06:34 PM
I'm not sure I agree with your assertion that there would be no birds if gravity was stronger. Perhaps they would be different, but I dont see any obvious argument that they would not have evolved. Nonetheless, I suspect that the airplane and rocket would have been developed in the absence of birds. We didn't start making progress until we stopped trying to imitate birds. I doubt that the Chinese developed the rocket 1000 years ago while trying to imitate birds. From time to time you would get a true visionary genius , one of whom is almost guaranteed to envision heavier-than-air flight. Leonardo da Vinci envisioned it and others no doubt did as well over the centuries, but the technology did not yet exist to actually build the machine. Then along comes the gasoline engine, and all we need is the Wright visionary to put it all together. I suspect something similar is guaranteed to happen even if birds do not exist.

farmerjumperdon
2006-Mar-06, 06:44 PM
My guess is that the desire to lob things at animals or other humans would have led to flight eventually anyway.

Mancunian Lee
2006-Mar-06, 06:52 PM
Id say wanting to fly would of been a natural progression even if we didnt have flying animals. And again getting into space is just another progression of the want to fly.

So yes, we would still have planes and space travel if we had no flying animals imo :)

Doodler
2006-Mar-06, 07:15 PM
Might have required a different path than pure emulation, but I think we'd have eventually gotten airborne.

Swift
2006-Mar-06, 08:24 PM
I'm not sure I agree with your assertion that there would be no birds if gravity was stronger. Perhaps they would be different, but I dont see any obvious argument that they would not have evolved.
I suspect the critical thing to flying animals (lots of insects fly too) is not just gravity but air pressure/density.

I'm not sure about Argo's original question, if there were no flying animals would we have wanted to fly. I generally agree that I think the answer is yes, but I'm not completely sure. How about this variation on the question - no flying animals and a cloudy world - you can't see the sun, the stars, a moon or moons - would the civilization develop flight and space travel? Do you reach for the stars when you can't see them?

Melusine
2006-Mar-06, 11:33 PM
I How about this variation on the question - no flying animals and a cloudy world - you can't see the sun, the stars, a moon or moons - would the civilization develop flight and space travel? Do you reach for the stars when you can't see them?
Sure, we can't see deep into the ocean but we desired to explore it. Even if we just saw clouds, we'd want to go beyond them to see what's there. So, yes.

soylentgreen
2006-Mar-06, 11:41 PM
Might have required a different path than pure emulation, but I think we'd have eventually gotten airborne.

I agree. Humans always strive, in one way or another...though they also allow their reach to prematurely exceed their grasp. The only question would be how much "painful learning" would be involved in blazing an alternate path(s)?

What was it that Icarus said? Oh yeah..."AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...... .." ;)

Enzp
2006-Mar-07, 04:36 AM
We didn't climb the mountains because birds roost there. We wanted to go "up there." What if we could go up there and touch those clouds, what would they feel like. Not only those Chinese rockets, but I suspect the Montgolfier Bros were not emulating birds. If someone discovered balloons, someone would most certainly have thought, well what if we made one large enough, it could lift me up and I could look into the other village. Whatever we see, we want to go to it. Birds were just one way.

Yes I think we would have chased after flight, absent the birds.

Nicolas
2006-Mar-07, 08:15 AM
Mankind has a really strong exploratory sense and is attracted to everything he cannot (yet) do. While this is fatal to many individuals, it does advance (wahtever that means :)) mankind as a whole.

We did not need birds to get crazy enough to try to fly. While some elements from birds did help us (tails), we would have gotten there without them as well. Other elements of birds (flapping wings) did not help us in our flying abilities up to now, and it was a serious dogma to pass. There are always bright people wondering about their surroundings, and even people that can imagine things totally unlinked to their surroundings. The theory of lifting wings would have been developed without birds as well. People looking at falling leaves, the behaviour of moving flat objects through air or water...their are countless triggers for our imagination. At some time, one mind must start to think about increasing the effect up to the point where the air carries a mass.

Now that we know how to fly, we do watch birds and other flying animals to try to learn things from them. I'm still daily amazed by some flying tricks birds do. Not like our jets can't pull a trick, but birds have their own particulars that are very interesting to me.

I think rockets are "totally" independent from birds. And quite independent from aircraft. Look at fireworks and early rockets: very little links with aircraft.

Melusine
2006-Mar-07, 11:29 AM
If someone discovered balloons, someone would most certainly have thought, well what if we made one large enough, it could lift me up and I could look into the other village. Whatever we see, we want to go to it. Birds were just one way.

Yes I think we would have chased after flight, absent the birds.
That's what I was thinking--kites, ship sails. Anybody who has wrestled with a sail, blanket or kite on a very windy day knows the kind of pull/lift one can get. Sailing ships to steam powered ships --> kites, to balloons to airplanes. Engine power overcame the unpredictable wind. Like Nicolas said, birds may be models for aerodynamic design, but I think we would have figured out the use of "wings" anyway by trial and error without birds. Humans are problem solvers by nature.

Tog
2006-Mar-07, 11:46 AM
What was it that Icarus said? Oh yeah..."AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...... .." ;)

:lol::lol::lol:

I agree that someone, some where would have thought about flying if there were no flying animals. Plants that scatter seeds could have been the catalyst. In fact, with no flying animals, more plants would need to develope their own methods of scattering seeds and pollen.

Bows may never have been developed in this case also. Until artificial fletching was available, flight feathers were attatched to arrows to provide them with a spin for stable flight. I'm not sure if the main feathers of non-flying birds would work for that.

An absence of bows may have delayed or even prevented the development of guns, with all gunpowder being reserved for rockets and bombs.

I think eventually, someone would have stuck a camera on a rocket to see the world from above, and inspired flight. Also, flight could have come frm balloons, through zepplins.

Nicolas
2006-Mar-07, 12:38 PM
Some older rocket models use spin stabilisation. In fact, many top of the line satellites use spin stabilisation. There is a link there :).

I think spin stabilisation of arrows was an accidental discovery. An arrow that spins due to some irregularity and flies nicely stable or things like that. But here too I don't think feathers would be truly necessary. Leaves, trunk, there's a lot around us that can perform similar tasks.

farmerjumperdon
2006-Mar-07, 12:53 PM
While this is fatal to many individuals, it does advance (wahtever that means :)) mankind as a whole.

"It could be that the purpose of some lives is simply for others to learn from."

Argos
2006-Mar-07, 02:28 PM
Itīs possible that rockets resulted from an accident with gunpowder handling in fireworks making. We know that they were first used in fireworks, to drive spinning wheels and such in religious ceremonies. Later, some visionary envisioned its use as flying (like birds!) things.

I agree with jfrbrg that aircraft became better when we gave up attempting to emulate birds. Still, birds inspired the first airplane builders. About baloons, the Brazilain priest Bartolomeu de Gusmao demonstrated (before the Portuguese court) that the flight of the lighter-than-air was possible, using this concept (http://www.passarola.com/images/gusmao.gif). It was called "passarola", for "little bird". It was the year of 1709. Some 30 years prior to the Montgolfier Bros. Thus the influence of birds cannot be dismissed without further considerations.

Swift has also a good point.

publiusr
2006-Mar-09, 10:50 PM
Squids use jet propulsion, and may be near smokers to know what heat is, so any smart squid on another world might wind up with steam and rocket power early on.

epenguin
2006-Mar-10, 01:05 AM
Birds spend much energy to fly. I think we could say theyīre on the limit. Had Earthīs gravity been slightly bigger, birds (flying ones at least) wouldnīt have arised, and we wouldnīt have airplanes and rockets.


Your premise here appears to be wrong, though thought-provoking.
Aerodynamic lift is proportional to atmospheric density. With higher gravity that too would have been higher. So the one effect cancels the other and it looks therefore as if birds are equally likely independently of the gravity of a planet. Never thought of that before.

Of course this is a 'other things being equal' argument. The planet's atmosphere has to be made, and all the planets we know have such different histories and atmospheres, that equal is what other things are not.

I argued in another thread about how balloons might be more likely on other planets.

There is a section about Life in Space in this site where this thread should be IMO

Melusine
2006-Mar-10, 01:13 PM
Itīs possible that rockets resulted from an accident with gunpowder handling in fireworks making. We know that they were first used in fireworks, to drive spinning wheels and such in religious ceremonies. Later, some visionary envisioned its use as flying (like birds!) things.

I agree with jfrbrg that aircraft became better when we gave up attempting to emulate birds. Still, birds inspired the first airplane builders. About baloons, the Brazilain priest Bartolomeu de Gusmao demonstrated (before the Portuguese court) that the flight of the lighter-than-air was possible, using this concept (http://www.passarola.com/images/gusmao.gif). It was called "passarola", for "little bird". It was the year of 1709. Some 30 years prior to the Montgolfier Bros. Thus the influence of birds cannot be dismissed without further considerations.

Swift has also a good point.
Argos, it is an interesting philosophical question, but your de Gusmao example does not address your own question: without flying birds and insects (anything with wings) would we have developed flight? Of course, he modelled his passarola after a bird since there were birds to emulate. However, humans have invented many things that have no model in nature in that way.

Again, humans are problem solvers. Imagine no flying things. As Enzp said, say someone is on a mountain looking down at their village and thinking, "Shucks, I wish I could get there without having to climb all the way down again." It's not a stretch to think, hmm, how can I float over there like a leaf? Use a sail, throw it over my head and fall safely--a parachute. Parachutes fall, how can I stay up? Hence balloons. The Chinese invented kites for religious reasons and used them for fun and weather, as well. An Australian invented the box kite (I have one and it never falls down in the slightest wind). I don't think birds were an inspiration for a box kite. If I built a small kite, I could easily imagine building a huge one that might carry me to that village.

We have always improved upon transportation. A simple wheel to cart to axles to cars, etc. over many years, of course, but we have always wanted to figure out better ways to get from Point A to Point B. The birds led us astray--without them, we wouldn't have made those futile attempts to be like them. Compare it to boats--how did the first boat evolve. Trees float, bind them together, make a raft--oops water splashes, develop sides--how? But other things float on water--nature just provided us with useful trees to develop boats. What in nature would have been useful to soar in the air? I think Nicolas made that point, but it's interesting to ponder.:)

Argos
2006-Mar-10, 01:57 PM
Hmm, yes, I could be wrong. :) Besides insects there are flying seeds, like dandelion.

However, if you´re standing up on a mountain looking to your village in a world without flying things I doubt the solution to your problem would be so obvious. Your experience with gravity would make makes flying a counter-intuitive thing. But yes, it´s possible that some genius would come up with a solution sooner or later. About kites and boomerangs I think they are discoveries, not inventions.

This conjecture is an interesting way to explore the development of the science of flying.

Melusine
2006-Mar-10, 02:16 PM
About kites and boomerangs I think they are discoveries, not inventions.
Not sure I understand. Kites with strings were discovered not invented? How do you figure that?

:confused:

Argos
2006-Mar-10, 02:39 PM
Maybe itīs a bit of a stretch saying that kites were discovered, but I mean people discovered that the wind exerts pressure on surfaces and sometimes lifts things to the air. Later they figured out ways to harness this pressure to lift surfaces in a controlled fashion. Somehow they result from the observation of nature, unlike real inventions, like the lightbulb, or motion pictures.

About boomerangs, itīs obvious to me that people simply copied the shape of some flying seed (http://artgraine.free.fr/) (think of a maple seed) and developed it to perfection. Thus it was a discovery. They were not a product of systematic thinking.

Melusine
2006-Mar-10, 04:01 PM
About boomerangs, it´s obvious to me that people simply copied the shape of some flying seed (http://artgraine.free.fr/) (think of a maple seed) and developed it to perfection. Thus it was a discovery. They were not a product of systematic thinking.
Hmm, I'm not so sure about that one either, Argos. But those are propeller seeds! That's what we called them when kids, and you can break it in half, peel the seed part and stick it on your nose and look like a rhinoceros.

These latest threads are making me reminisce. I will try to sound more academic. No, I'm not sure how one would get a boomerang out of that particular seed. I would think throwing sticks would be enough--throw a triangular stick and it returns, gee what fun. Sticks were used for hunting. Then again, people throw things just because they can. :eh:

Edit: Correction. We called them helicopter seeds, not propeller seeds. I had propellers on my mind. Typo of a to e corrected, too.

Argos
2006-Mar-10, 05:40 PM
I would think throwing sticks would be enough--throw a triangular stick and it returns, gee what fun.

Ok, but thatīs a still an accidental discovery, though I stick with my personal opinion that boomerangs result from mimicking nature - seeds. I can imagine two aborigenes talking: "Hey, look! That seed flies and spins! Thatīs cool! Could we make this stick into a big one?".

Later they discovered that that amusing object was also a pretty good weapon.

epenguin
2006-Mar-10, 07:52 PM
However, if youīre standing up on a mountain looking to your village in a world without flying things I doubt the solution to your problem would be so obvious. Your experience with gravity would make makes flying a counter-intuitive thing. But yes, itīs possible that some genius would come up with a solution sooner or later. ...This conjecture is an interesting way to explore the development of the science of flying.

Buckminster Fuller insistently maintained that what had most made people smart was not mountain village life, but contact with the sea. Being able to sail (+/-) where you want when the wind blows in the opposite direction is counter-intuitive, and is closely related to flying. It took humanity a long time to get the idea though.

Melusine
2006-Mar-11, 02:03 AM
Ok, but that´s a still an accidental discovery, though I stick with my personal opinion that boomerangs result from mimicking nature - seeds. I can imagine two aborigenes talking: "Hey, look! That seed flies and spins! That´s cool! Could we make this stick into a big one?".

Later they discovered that that amusing object was also a pretty good weapon.
Hmm, well there are two problems with this idea. For one, the maple seed (http://www.massmaple.org/treeID.html) doesn't act like a boomerang in any way. It just rotates and flies aimlessly in the sky. At that link you can see the maple trees I grew up with. I don't know if there are maple seedlings like that in Australia or something similar.

But boomerangs most decidedly came from the throwing stick or killer stick, which spun in the air and was used to kill animals. The returning boomerang was not used for killing animals or as weaponry, but mainly for fun. I read one source that says that they would throw it in the air to scare birds who would fly off into traps. So, they already had a stick that flew and spun through the air. What moved them to realize a bent flat one would return? Looking at a V-shaped seed, or by accident when throwing a stick already used or figuring out that something flat, like a bird's wings, could get distance from airlift? I'm not going with the seed in this case. ;)

Here are a few sites:
http://www.rediboom.com/englisch/geschich/

http://www.boomerang.org.au/articles/article-what-is-a-boomerang.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boomerang

*Boomerangs are interesting, because I can absolutely not make one return to me. It must be all in the wrist.

Edit: Fix link

Argos
2006-Mar-11, 01:39 PM
Now you have some strong arguments. :)

For one, the maple seed doesn't act like a boomerang in any way. It just rotates and flies aimlessly in the sky.

But seeing them could give you ideas.

We have several spinning seeds down here (evidently we donīt have maples). Some not only spin but also make open curves. I used to play with them as a kid. Several times it occurred to me to try to replicate them in a bigger size.

All this talk has made me think about this issue (thatīs what debates are for), and Iīm starting to realize that once the Bernoulliīs principle is discovered airplanes will follow, sooner or later. But flying things can help in the process.

Tog
2006-Mar-12, 07:01 AM
*Boomerangs are interesting, because I can absolutely not make one return to me. It must be all in the wrist.

Edit: Fix link

Me niether. I've had my closest successes with a homemade toy version made of 2 popcicle sticks and a rubber band. Lay the sticks over each other to form an X, then hold them in place with the rubber band. Slide the sticks out to one side to make an L shape with about 3/4 inch, (1.5 cm) of each stick on one side of the rubber band. Adjust the position to tune it. I always end up breaking the rubber band before I get the settings right.:sad: