Airships, Sailing Ships and Stars

My regular reader, whoever you are (and provided you haven't thrown yourself out the window after that last blog) will be aware of how much I love the idea of modern airships. They are clean, safe, elegant and timely vessels whose presence can only grow in our skies this century, if we keep our heads and use our advanced science to replace oil-based metal and plastic things with technology that is clever and practical.

I am currently now happier than a Yeti in a Bureaucrat's heart, having discovered this site. It is dedicated to low-tech hi-tech, and contains articles on modern carbon-fibre ships that use sails to take freight across the Atlantic, amongst other things. Today saw the maiden passenger voyage (for journalists) of the MS Beluga Skysails, which uses a kite controlled by computers to massively cut fuel bills. Given that 90 per cent of world trade is still carried by ships (leading to the pollution of the sea lanes) this is a fantastic development that can only improve the world. Here's the New Scientist take from 2005 on the potential of the technology.

I think engineers are great. They can be difficult companions to drink with and talk too, being resolutely practical and not interested in airy-fairy chat; but when they do put their imaginations to the service of their knowledge, what things they can do!

Imagine if the GPS satellites disappeared tomorrow and a solar storm knocked out the internet and electrical items. how many people now know how to sail, or how to navigate according to the stars? The knowledge, once ubiquitous, has been preserved, but a good reason to rebuild it is how much money and effort it would free up to dedicate our science to the grand ambitions that lift peoples and the eyes of individuals to all our benefit. The past and the future are meeting.

The world of low-tech hi-tech is in fact burgeoning. Wind-up torches, radios and laptops are transforming the economics of development in Africa almost as much as they are changing the energy needs of ordinary people. Some people are even talking about wind-up cars based upon torsion batteries, a concept first mooted in the nineteenth century, which was very much towards the end a time of electric cars. President McKinley, as I've pointed out before, was carried away from his assassination in an electric ambulance in the early twentieth century.

Exercise and sensible eating, rather than complicated diets and surgical procedures, are being applied to the obesity crisis as much as prosthetic machines and cyber-technology is helping the disabled to apply their will and human endurance to overcome their difficulties. I've found a great article from Christians in medicine praising nanotechnology and the potential of cybernetics here.

Science at its best in some places; the recovery of lost practical knowledge elsewhere. Maybe the end of the age of oil, which is gathering pace and which will be painful and associated with many dangers and storms, will not be all bad. We just have to keep our eyes and ears away from irrational life hating Greens and mad scientists. Perhaps the future belongs to the engineers.