Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Science Night - How to Fly a Paramotor 

What is a paramotor? I call them "flying parachutes," because that's what they basically are. I can't be sure, but I am inclined to think that they emerged out of the hang glider craze in the seventies. By far the most popular hang glider when I was in college was the Rogallo wing, which was actually invented by a NASA engineer and was considered as a possible recovery system for the old Mercury and Gemini space capsules.

It was never actually used by NASA, and I am not sure why nobody thought of using it as a hang glider until the seventies, because it was actually invented in 1948. The only thing I remember it being used for in the late sixties or early seventies is for being pulled behind a motorboat with the pilot being on water skies. But it was when I was in college (Oregon College of Education) in the seventies (I graduated in 78) that people started jumping off mountains with them.

As I said, I can't prove the connection, but my theory is that somehow the skydiving craze and the hang gliding craze combined and produced the strange mutation known as a "paramotor."

They're easy to fly and a much lower cost way to have your own aircraft than buying a Cessna or something. But a caution: This looks easy, but you should not do it without professional training. Tucker Gott, the maker and star of this video came from a flying family. His grandfather was a hobby pilot—meaning that he had a private pilot license, and loved to talk about flying, but never did it professionally. But Tucker's mother was a commercial hot air balloon pilot. So this guy has been flying since he was very small.

I said all that to say that when you see an expert aviator like this, you may have the impulse to rush out and buy one yourself and head for the sky. Flying sports like this that do not require a pilot's license can be dangerous, because people may be inclined to think that the absence of license requirement means that you can just sorta pick it up on your own. Don't do that. You have the ability to become a very skilled paramotor pilot. But get a lot of training from professionals before you try it yourself. Overdo training on the front end of your participation in any flying sport, especially the ultralight variety. Better safe than sorry. I would also advise watching some crash videos, to see what kinds of mistakes lead to trouble. Most problems are simple to avoid, and would have been avoided if the pilot had gotten just a little more training.



Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Wuhan Virology Lab - Guilty or Innocent? 

Wuhan Virology lab that has been the center of controversy.
Click to read Zhang Pinghui's article in the Post.

Extraordinary article in the South China Morning Post in defense of the virology lab in Wuhan that has become the center of controversy as a possible source of the current Cornoa virus outbreak.

The South China Morning Post has itself been a center of debate relative to how much it is "controled" by Beijing. To be clear, the South China Morning Post is not and never has been a Chinese newspaper. It has always been a Hong Kong colonial paper going back to the beginning of the 20th century. As such, under the "one country, two systems" arrangement, China does not have the power to supress articles. But the South China Morning Post is not owned by westerners any more. Most recently, it was owned by the Kwok family, but was purchased a few years ago by Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba.

So there has always been debate about the extent to which the content of the South China Morning Post is "influenced" by Beijing. Generally speaking, I have had a favorable opinion of the South China Morning Post for a couple reasons:

  1. It is so much better than mainland papers whose content is either dictated by Beijing, or tightly restricted and censored.
  2. It is so much better than western papers (especially American) that are not subject to control by the Beijing government, but are woefully clueless about things China.
But this article concerns me. It seems an attempt to defend the lab and preclude the possibility that the virus may have leaked from it. Although she does admit that lab accidents have happened, she says that such accidents are are extremely unlikely at a lab of this security level. But her article contains a glaring omission.

Two years ago, the Americans made several visits to the lab and expressed grave concern about the level of safety employed there. They were very worried that an accident could produce a worldwide catastrophe, and were disturbed by the level of carelessness with which the lab was being operated.

Why did she leave that information out? If it's because she was not aware of it, then she is incompetent. But if she was aware of the concerns expressed two years ago and chose not to mention them, one has to question her objectivity as a journalist. Read what she says and see what you think.

Barring an unusual breakthrough, such as a whistle blower or something, we are still quite a long way from proving that the Corona virus came from that lab (if indeed it did). But just the same, it would be grossly irresponsible to eliminate it as a possibility. Hasty dismissals are just as irresponsible as any other rush to judgment. And it is nonsensical to call the belief that the Corona virus came from that lab a "conspiricy theory." Most people who believe it came from the lab also believe that it was an accident. An accident cannot be a conspiracy.

Mind you, there are still people who think it could have come from a natural animal to human transition. I know that for a fact, because I am one of them. I am not at all finalized on the idea that it came from this lab. But given the fact that circumstantial evidence seems to point in that direction, it should be investigated.

China is a sovereign nation, and as such China is sensitive about other nations telling her what to do (especially given the colonial history). But considering the fact that the Americans poured $3.7 million into that lab, and considering the grave concerns expressed two years ago, the Americans have good reason to request that they be allowed to investigate what role, if any, the Wuhan Virology Lab may have played in the current disaster.

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