Flying Machines and Sweet Dreams

Yes, the title is drawn from a line in a James Taylor song. No, it never thrilled me and is not about a plane crash. But we do want to dream — mayhaps a thought experiment — about designing something better.

We can draw inspiration from living things and also consider how humans built flying machines. Certain aspects of bird wings and bat wings are studied, as are those of dragonflies, for our own purposes. We cannot apply flapping to our device, we can glean principles from creatures.

Using a thought experiment in designing a flying machine, then contrasting this process with evolutionary concepts.
Leonardo's ornithopter image credit: Flickr / James Wink (CC BY-ND 2.0)
It's ironic that those who saddle up and ride for the Darwin brand believe in naturalism and that living things only appear to be designed (a faith-based assertion that has nothing to do with empirical science), but will get on a plane that is engineered through meticulous planning. Even then, living things are far more sophisticated than anything humans devise.

A commercial flying device is required to meet stringent standards of safety. While not entirely irreducibly complex (a plane can fly if the wheels fall off), everything must be functioning correctly for a safe journey from takeoff to landing. The design by the Master Engineer for flying creatures is truly amazing.
Let’s run a thought experiment to compare human design processes to creation. All design efforts start with a purpose. Say our goal is to build the world’s safest, most efficient 200-passenger aircraft capable of 7,000-mile nonstop flights, and money is no object.

We’ll begin by recruiting the most talented and experienced aeronautical designers, pilots, engineers, machinists, technicians, and computer experts available. Only specific applicable skill sets will suffice.

To read the entire article, journey over to "Building a Perfectly Optimal Flying Machine".