Friday, February 11, 2005

Update on Flash and the Bees

I got a comment from my reader (yes, there is only the one as far as I know) suggesting that the Flash Gordon post was a bit hard to follow. Reading back over it I must admit that it is a bit too dense with links and oblique asides to make for easy reading. What I was trying to suggest is that we live in a world of wonders that our great-grandparents could scarcely imagine. The old Flash Gordon serial is a good example of what they could, and did, imagine. My suggestion was that, if you compare a modern jet taking off to Flash Gordon's spaceship you can get something of the sense of the future (as imagined in the 1930) having arrived.

I had an opportunity to do that yesterday. I had lunch at a restaurant near the airport and, as I was leaving a large jet flew overhead, low, noisy and magnificent, climbing after takeoff and somewhat out of the usual flightpath. Large aircraft always appear to be moving too slowly to fly -- one judges speed by comparing the aircraft's motion to its length -- and this one was a monster. It looked to be approximately 231 feet, 10 inches long. I judged its wingspan to be approximately 195 feet, 8 inches and, squinting against the sun and figuring, I estimated its weight at a bit over half a million pounds -- say, about 640,000, including fuel for a trip to Pennsylvania. Across the parking lot a woman with a baby carriage and a young girl was watching the plane take off. The young girl (six, maybe, or seven) was pointing and jumping up and down. It was the excitement of the young girl that made me recognize the aircraft. From any other angle it's pretty distinctive but from underneath it looks like any other really big jet.

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