No sci/tech story for me today. Rachel was out judging a science fair during the 4:00 PM news and there’s a legal limit to how much Geoff the public will take.
As it turns out that was a good thing. The story I planned to do might be a hoax. At this point I can’t be sure.
It all started yesterday when I saw a link about a Dutchman, Jarno Smeets, who’d flown like a bird!
Right here, on this blog I share everything about my crazy plan to build my own wings. My goal? To fly with it! Something Leonardo DaVinci, my grandfather and I dreamed of for a long time. But this summer I decided to really start building it. This blog is the result of my experiences of the project. You’ll find video’s, pictures and text on the progress, my inspiration and all your comments and support.
Smeets put together his flying machine using wings fashioned from strong, but lightweight wood, kite fabric, two small motors and a digital control system fashioned with accelerometers from a cellphones and a Wii controller! He flaps his arms which then controls his craft’s motorized flapping wings.
I saw the video. Mesmerized! His recent flight followed a year’s worth of preparation videos. That’s a lot of backstory for s hoax. Normally this is enough for me.
I often do stories on tech breakthroughs. There’s no way to be there so I’m dependent on user produced videos. They have proved to be trustworthy.
There was just something too good to be true about Smeets. How could this be done in such a low key way? Why was there no major press coverage?
Overnight I began looking at comments from readers on websites where the video had already been posted. There were skeptics! In fact most of the comments came from skeptics.
Time Magazine ran a story on the flight and tagged it:
Update: Some are questioning the veracity of the video above, and since we obviously haven’t seen the flight firsthand, nor has Smeets yet responde to our request for confirmation the flight was real, we can’t vouch for its authenticity at this time (though we can’t yet call it inauthentic, either).
I sent my producer an email. I’d forgotten I wouldn’t be producing a story today, but I told her I might have to bag today’s package because of my growing doubts.
This afternoon Huffington Post added to the intrigue:
But there’s only one problem–the video is an elaborate hoax. At least that’s the opinion of the University of Toronto’s Dr. Todd Reichert.
“I’m tempted to play along, but unfortunately from a physical perspective it’s completely unrealistic,” Reichert told The Huffington Post in an email. “Given an estimated total weight of 100 kg, a wing area of 9 square meters, maximum lift coefficient of 1.0, and an air density of 1.22 kilograms per cubic meter…the vehicle would have to travel at least 49 kilometers per hour to stay airborne.” – Huffington Post.
This hasn’t played out fully yet. There are still those, including Jamie Hynerman, of “Mythbusters” who think it looks real. Smeets himself doesn’t seem to be speaking.
It just looked too good to be true. Maybe it is! I hope not.