Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Dinosaurs as inventors of "biplane" flight?

A story on Microraptor gui includes the text:

Sankar Chatterjee, of Texas Tech University, in this week's online issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, declares that the Microraptor gui is the clear evidence that nature and life itself have discovered a long time before humans the double-winged flight. He suggests that feathers from the legs of Microraptor gui would hinder flight if the small dinosaur were to fly like modern birds. Instead, the feathered legs of the two-pound dinosaur could have been held below the body in flight, creating two staggered wing sections, the upper one slightly ahead of the lower one.

"Aircraft designers have mimicked many of nature's flight 'inventions,' usually inadvertently," Chatterjee wrote. "Now, it seems likely that Microraptor invented the biplane 125 million years before the Wright 1903 Flyer."

Matthew Carrano, curator of dinosaurs at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, quoted by Associated Press, said that the question focuses on what the legs can do, and it's a difficult problem because the fossils are flat and require interpretation as to what they would have looked like in three dimensions.

As recently posted on IPBiz (and directed to Tim Lee):

To give a simple example, the invention of the Wright Brothers pertained to three-dimensional control of flight (not to powered flight, as some believe). Control of two dimensions was well-known before the Wrights, and, ailerons, an element that could control the third dimension (analogously to the wing warping of the Wrights) was also known before the Wrights. A, B, and C were all known. Did that make (A + B + C) obvious? Is the Federal Circuit's definition "absurdly narrow"? If so, propose a new one, rather than hiding with the confusion of the justices.

As a minor aside, the Wright's patent application, written by the Wrights, was filed months before the date of powered flight in December 1903.

Of the text about Microraptor --it seems likely that Microraptor invented the biplane--, the Wright Brothers didn't invent the biplane, they invented control of flight in three dimensions.


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