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Subject: Re: Macrodactyl Part 2: Modeling a dream

Boyd Percy
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Date Posted: 03:31:38 05/15/16 Sun
In reply to: Wes 's message, "Macrodactyl Part 2: Modeling a dream" on 10:17:21 05/13/16 Fri

>One of the problems of the Internet is the sheer
>amount of data out there, and the fascination you can
>have by learning about a subject that you previously
>only had a mild interest in, but find fascinating for
>some reason. I've never heard of this syndrome being
>defined or named, but it happens to me all the time.
>Last week I wrote a rather fanciful column about a
>dream I had, where I observed what looked to be a
>cow-sized pterodactyl. Now, I wasn't absolutely sure
>how to spell the word, so I turned to the Internet.
>One thing led to another and I blew away the afternoon
>in the process.
>I soon learned that pterodactyls were actually only
>about the size of a goose, or perhaps better, a blue
>heron. But somewhere in the past I remembered that
>there were bigger ones. The flying reptiles of the
>distant past were correctly called pterosaurs, and the
>biggest one known, Quetzalcoatlus northropi,
>had a wingspan that was perhaps as much forty feet.
>That's a size of a small airplane. (I find it
>interesting that the species name, northropi,
>honors Jack Northrop, the man who essentially made the
>flying wing a practicality.) Albatrosses have
>wingspans that reach eleven feet, for example, a
>pretty big wingspan for a bird that weighs less than
>twenty pounds.
>Reading the article about the Quetzalcoatlus
was interesting. There have been
>scientists in the past who have speculated that a bird
>that large couldn't fly. However, it's pretty clear
>that this pterosaur could fly, and as I read down this
>article I came across a name I knew from my own past:
>Paul Macready, who was the guy that proved that the
>old dinosaur could fly well.
>I met Paul Macready briefly once long ago; his
>specific interest was in low-power, low-speed
>high-efficiency flight. In the late 1940s he was three
>times the national soaring champion, and once world
>champion. But he's better known for his work on
>human-powered flight; you might remember the
>Gossamer Condor, which was the first
>human-powered plane to fly a figure eight, and the
>Gossamer Albatross, the first human powered
>plane to fly across the English Channel. He was
>involved with the first solar-powered airplane, too.
>The Smithsonian Institution got Macready interested in
>the problem of pterosaur flight, and in 1984 threw a
>half-million dollars at him to build a half-scale
>model that could be used for an IMAX movie. Without
>getting to the details -- and they are fascinating --
>Macready and his model pterosaur proved that control
>was a lot more complicated than anyone had realized,
>and that wings had to do several things at the same
>time. Macready and his cohorts wound up building a
>battery-powered radio-controlled model, in which a
>small computer handled the wing and other stability
>problems. This is nothing new; most new
>high-performance airplanes today are "fly by wire" in
>which a computer handles the difficult stuff while a
>pilot just tells it where to go. This model had a
>wingspan of eighteen feet, which he reasoned was all
>right to work on a model of an immature pterosaur.
>Anyway, the QN, as it was called, worked. It had to be
>towed to get it off the ground but once there it could
>gain altitude on its own. In the few videos of the QN
>I found on the net, it didn't have the range of motion
>a bird has. I think it would be cool to see it fly,
>but it was destroyed in a crash when the radio control
>link failed. From what I can tell from web searching,
>there have been attempts to build larger versions with
>varying success, but they didn't have Paul Macready
>and a half-million 1984 dollars involved.
>But my curiosity went on from there. I had always
>believed that orthinopters were pretty much a pipe
>dream, but no. A few years ago someone built a
>human-powered ornithopter, and several powered
>versions have been built. I saw another video of a
>small uncontrolled, pterosaur-shaped ornithopter
>flying around inside a guys workshop.
>There are model ornithopters around, and some are
>quite successful. With all the media hassle about
>drones, I think it would be neat to have a bird (or
>possibly even a pterosaur) drone. Alas, I will never
>have that kind of money or interest.
>It was a fascinating search, and it all came about
>because I wanted to spell pterodactyl correctly.
>-- Wes

I can't help but wonder if these dreams are the beginning of another creative writing cycle. You sent me four preliminary versions of books in January and February 2014 (Forgotten Killer and Redeye among them) and three preliminary books in February, 2015 including Down by the Riverside. I guess all your readers will have many more of your wonderful books to read in the next few years. Lucky us!

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