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Video Where are the Flying Cars? (Video; Part Two of Two) 66

Yesterday we ran Part One of this two-part video. This is part two. To recap yesterday's text introduction: Detroit recently hosted the North American Science Fiction Convention, drawing thousands of SF fans to see and hear a variety of talks on all sorts of topics. One of the biggest panels featured a discussion on perhaps the greatest technological disappointment of the past fifty years: Where are our d@%& flying cars? Panelists included author and database consultant Jonathan Stars, expert in Aeronautical Management and 20-year veteran of the Air Force Douglas Johnson, author and founder of the Artemis Project Ian Randal Strock, novelist Cindy A. Matthews, Fermilab physicist Bill Higgins, general manager of a nanotechnology company Dr. Charles Dezelah, and astrobiology expert Dr. Nicolle Zellner. As it turns out, the reality of situation is far less enticing than the dream -- but new technologies offer a glimmer of hope. (Alternate Video Link)

Speaker 4: Would you perceive like a flying car being something that would be jet powered or would it be something that would be powered by say helicopter-type blades. What would you see as being the necessary mode of creating thrust? It wouldn’t be a flying machine based on lift because of obvious limitations in terms of takeoff and landing, so obviously you’re going more with something with hover capability, vertical landing, vertical takeoff in terms of what you would envision it being. I’ve seen some science fiction movies, whether cars with say four directional jets that can compensate with lateral movements and do you see something like that ever being feasible at all in terms of coming to market?

Speaker 2: Yeah, in the movies, I think the nicest flying cars in the movies operate on antigravity because in the movies they can suspend the vehicle from strings and then paint out the strings.

Speaker 6: Hollywood. Grr....

Speaker 2: Right. But speaking as someone who works in a big physics lab, I hate to disappoint you but I don’t think we’re going to deliver antigravity any time real soon. So we fall back on good old Isaac Newton and then we _____ are we thrusting straight down under jets, thrusting – _____ experience tells me that you use up your propellant really, really fast if you try to use a jet engine or god forbid, a rocket engine to stay in the air. And that actually makes you appreciate how clever the Wright brothers really were and how much a little engine, how much benefit you can get from your little engine if you have wings or later on, rotors. Hey, those are actually really nice ways of using much less fuel to stay in the air. And Alberto Santos-Dumont in 1906 experimented with aircraft and early motor cars, lived in Paris, a Brazilian who lived in Paris. He actually built a small rotor driven airship and he would get his minions to take it out of the barn and he would get aboard and he would fly into Paris and moor his airship to a lamppost or something

Audience: To one of his favorite restaurants.

Speaker 2: And his favorite restaurant, yeah, and that was his flying car, okay. I don’t think you could see sort of artists of that time, sort of science fiction artists of that time imagining the sky full of personal airships, I think then we have – we have given that a century and it hasn’t come and maybe we don’t actually want to fill our sky with personal airships, but that’s actually the most efficient way of lifting yourself into the sky, so I think it’s down to something like rotors rather than building high stress jet engines all around your vehicle and for that time – my favorite times are fictional flying cars or you know projected future flying cars from all these dreams have a shrouded rotor, those are called ducted fan vehicles, usually several of them. I think that maybe a fantasy police car has this kind of thing, I don’t know, but what’s another good example.

Speaker 6: Judge Dredd’s motorcycle.

Speaker 2: Okay, Judge Dredd has a flying motorcycle, so I guess that will be my way to bet on practical flying cars if that kind of type two flying car came about.

Cindy A. Matthews: I still think...

Jonathan Stars: Okay, now we are at 12:30, we’ll open it up to some questions or did you have something you wanted to add on, why don’t we do that before that?

Speaker 6: Just a quick one is I actually wanted to ask the panel. We have been talking about creating these things, but we didn’t actually ask what is it we want our flying cars to do, just as if we are talking about flying across the state or flying across the ocean, you need two completely different types of airplanes. Can we do pretty much everything that these flying cars would enable us to do anyway?

Cindy A. Matthews: Why not just go ahead and make it go across town or local?

Speaker 6: All right, so what we need is a transporter. We need transporters. Okay.

Speaker 7: Tardis. I’d settle for a Tardis.

Cindy A. Matthews: Like we say is the world becoming a village and we can live wherever we want, we can live up in the northwest territories and then come down to Toronto everyday and work or however. I can see that especially for a Canadian, you know, but is it something that we really need to fill up our skies with, I don’t know about use of the money right now, but I can say for some people possibly that could seem like it might work, but the thing is it’s kind of like the flying doctors in Australia and in Canada, places like that. It just works when you live in rural areas, but in urban areas, I don’t know why are we not putting more money into mass transit and trying to educate people and change their mindset. Why aren’t we using the mass transit that we have and improve on that? Why don’t we have a bullet train, I think that should revolutionize mass transit, that could be possibly it, but it would be mass transit and not a privately owned flying car.

Speaker 6: I told _____ which is science fiction writers _____ so when we saw the flying cars they were thinking _____ work at home rather than going _____ 100 miles away.

Cindy A. Matthews: Right.

Speaker 2: That was a_____

Cindy A. Matthews: _____ hands on with people. They have to be

Speaker 7: But there is lot of remote control medical diagnoses as well, when you think about like the winter _____ in Antarctica. They are getting their medical diagnosis online.

Audience: There’s still a doctor there.

Speaker 4: Just to expand on Nicole’s ideas, I was at a conference few weeks ago and that’s going to become huge in the U.S. for a doctor that is in India and has a smartphone with a chip in it watching and the lab work is going to be done somewhere else and maybe the surgeon is doing it remotely and that very well could be the future. It’s already here... if I could reach the point where travel becomes something that is done electronically.

Speaker 2: When you develop your successful flying car product and you start selling, you will be selling it to people who live in the world now, so you will be selling it either to people who live downtown or people who live in suburbia or people who live in Saskatoon and want to get to Calgary and you are trying to sell to the people to whom it will be useful and you grow it, but as the market grows, if more and more people start to buy some kind of flying car product, so that will be a reason for social change where more people move to Saskatoon or in the summer move to Saskatoon so there’s two scenarios here, how does this begin and you could write a story about the pioneers who were trying to use the earliest flying cars or selling the earliest flying cars or what happens if it continues for a while, how will a world change after many decades, what would cities look like, what would summers look like, what would the rural area look like is the sky full of flying cars.

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Where are the Flying Cars? (Video; Part Two of Two)

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