Sunday, February 19, 2006

Dude, where's my flying car?

The cover of the March Popular Science features the headline "Where's my flying car?"

<-left Aerocar Skycar right->

Interesting. That's also how I start off the introductory chapter to my new book, Adventures from the Technology Underground. (See link at right for more info.)But, I'm not terribly surprised, since its a rather popular topic almost anybody who grew up watching the Jetsons. In my book, I look at how the quest to build a Flying Car exemplifies the ethos of the underground technology enthusiast.

There's been a bunch of people and companies who've tried over time, The AeroCar, the Mizar, a couple of ideas put forward by Norman Bel Geddes, and lately, Paul Moller's wankel powered wonder, the Skycar M400. (the trouble with the skycar is that its' been hyped for a really long time, and as far as I know, still no real, untethered flight.)

I interviewed Moller a few years ago at his office in Davis, CA. Lots of cool stuff: rotary engines galore, hovercraft, flying cars. I must say, he has a great looking shop and factory -- tooling, machinery, wind tunnel, the works. He's a pretty engaging guy.

Fanyway, from a Jetson's standpoint, here's what's come to pass already:
Tiny portable TV's
Tiny, portable telephones
Video phone
--seems like we've got the electronics and telecomm stuff down pat.

But on the mechanical side of things, we're still waiting.

Beside the flying car, here's what I'm still waiting for:
1. Machine that controls weather (remember the silver idodide experiments of the 1950's?
2. High speed levitating trains connecting major cities (they do it Europe, why not in USA?)
3. The foodarackacycle
4. Robot maid (actually, I rather prefer the "monkey butler" concept, first promulgated by Bart Simpson. Seems like more fun. Besides, we only need to train one. (From the Simpson's:

NELSON : How many monkey butlers will there be?
BART : One at first - but he'll train others. )


Prfesser said...

...still waiting for:

5. Useful controlled fusion. I seem to recall in the late 70's that controlled fusion was about a decade away. Thirty years later, the same claim is being made. Oh well.

Prfesser said...

Not only do we have the electronics down pat.... scifi writers have had some difficulty keeping up. In Heinlein's "The Cat Who Walks Through Walls", the hero uses "...Sony Megawafers, each good for half a million words...two centimeters wide, three millimeters thick...." Written in 1985. USB drives now exceed this memory density by a factor of at least 100.

Unfortunately the space habitat where the hero lives hasn't been built yet. Nor will be, for some time to come. Sigh....

M Johnson said...

I'm working on the Monkey Butlers. At least three more years. I've got them to carry trays, but I can't stop them eating the food.