Saturday, July 12, 2008

Dan Dennett Forced Into Re-Write?

Events now threaten to force Daniel Dennett to rewrite several of his books and publications, notably Darwin's Dangerous Idea, to change or remove all references to skyhooks, by which Dennett means an engineering impossibility (in his usage, a crane whose arm emerges from thin air). Somebody is fairly sure it's possible, more or less:

This week, Boeing announced it is teaming up with Calgary, Alberta-based SkyHook to develop a “heavy-lift rotorcraft” that can carry a 40-ton load up to 200 miles without refueling. The JHL-40 (couldn’t they come up with a catchier name?) is designed to support drilling and mining operations in the Canadian Arctic and Alaska.
But only fairly sure. The article notes that gigantic load-bearing zeppelins are subject to assorted technical shortcomings and challenges, not least being the high price of helium, limitations of aerodynamic control, susceptibility to turbulence, and a tendency to explode before a shocked newsreel and radio audience.

This kind of crap never happened to Bertrand Russell -- no one looked through a telescope and reported that, in fact, there was a teapot orbiting the sun. Oh the humanity.

(H/T Club Troppo)


Ian McCullough said...

The Hindenburg exploded because it was filled with hydrogen - an extremely flammable gas. Helium is almost completely inert and cannot combust. Zeppelins use helium specifically due to the Hindenburg disaster. The danger of hydrogen explosions is one of it's biggest drawbacks as a potential alternative fuel for passenger vehicles.

Dale said...

Ian, you're right. And you've illustrated the danger of scruples, factual accuracy, and subject matter knowledge pose to the Potentially Interesting Blog Post. Which is why I steadfastly resist all of them.