Sunday, February 4, 2018

Flying Things That Are Not Birds

This was the hangout where we took on things that glide, fly, and swim-in-flying-ways, but which are not birds. Deborah started out by telling us about a story she'd written where frogs took over a bunch of ecological niches that had been taken by other species on Earth, including birds. There were song frogs, etc, and there was a lot of moisture in the environment.

Many insects fly. I mentioned how much I'd enjoyed the flying of the female ants in A Bug's Life. Termites also fly (and I hate when I see a swarm of them near my house!).

One of the major features of Austin, Texas, is the twilight flight of bats, which is apparently "auditorily fascinating and disconcerting."

Cliff mentioned dinosaur flyers like the pteranodons and pterodactyls. I mentioned quetzalcoatlus, which was quite enormous and weighed about 130 pounds.

Kat mentioned Mothra.

Mary Anne Mohanraj has written about humans who can fly. For humans to fly as birds do, we noted, they would need a very large keelbone (chest bone) and flight muscles connected to it. This would give you a hugely projecting chest and you'd have to sacrifice the normal functioning of your arms.

Cliff mentioned a species that was invented for the convention called CONTACT: Cultures of the Imagination. It was the primary intelligent species on the planet Epona.

Flying non-birds also include flying squirrels, gliding lizards.

We noted that penguins fly, but not in air. Most birds use foot power to get thrust underwater, but penguins use their wings more. In a very dense atmosphere, a flyer would be more bullet-shaped with smaller wings, much as penguins are on Earth.

We asked what kind of body shape would evolve in lesser gravity, or in microgravity.

I mentioned the book Below the Root by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, which featured humans who had colonized a distant planet with lower gravity, and lived in the trees, where they climbed upwards and glided downward with special clothing (called shubas). These were not entirely like wing suits for indoor skydiving.

Fran Wilde has also written about humans who can fly.

Superheroes generally fly the way we do in dreams, in a sort of telekinetic flight mode. Superman apparently started out just as a very good jumper, but evolved over time into a flyer. Then there are the suit flyers like Iron Man and War Machine, etc.

Douglas Adams suggested one should throw oneself at the ground and miss.

We all agreed there should be more bat stories.

Historically, there have been many instances of animals having wings added to make them mythological. This includes bulls, horses, and people. Quetzalcoatl was a snake with wings. There are mythological creatures with wings in the movie Coco. There is also the story of Icarus. Kat told us how she had retold this myth in a social-justice aware way.

Wings tend to represent freedom.

I got caught imagining that we didn't give things insect wings, but of course had forgotten about FAIRIES (oops). Fairies generally have insect wings of various varieties (I see dragonfly or butterfly most often).

Swans' wings and eagles' wings tend to be used symbolically.

Peacocks are scary when they fly (some of us agreed).

Cherubim and Seraphim can be scary, since they are made of wings and fire.

The Balrog was depicted in the Lord of the Rings movie as having bat wings. Fluffy eagle or swan wings tend to be depicted as good, while leathery wings are depicted as bad.

Humans have sometimes flown on brooms or carpets in stories. We briefly tried to consider reasons why brooms would be the vehicle of choice for witches (is it just that they're associated with women? Is it that they are phallic?) Here's a fascinating article on the subject (NSFW).

Kat told us about a friend of hers who is a bat rescuer. She always felt fond of bats because the Japanese word komori sounded like "child-minding." She imagined a sort of protective bat who keeps mosquitoes away.

We talked briefly about drone flight. Our ability to film things from a flying drone is going to change drastically how we look at things. Eagles are sometimes used to take down drones so they don't interfere with firefighting.

Thanks to everyone who participated! This week we will meet on Tuesday, February 6th at 4pm Pacific.