Saturday, November 04, 2006

Fly Power


Take a wooden matchstick and slice a thin sliver
from one side. Then cut the remaining stick in two, lengthwise. Make sure you
leave a little of the red tip intact for effect. Discard one half.

Make the aircraft by gluing the sliver of wood -
the wing - across the remaining part of the matchstick - the fuselage. If you
want, you can use little scraps to make a tail section. Or you can make a
biplane. Or you can use a couple of thin slices of balsa to make a huge wing,
one that will carry maybe twenty engines. Indulge your aeronautical whims. Think
of lift, think of thrust, think of innovation without the benefit of an
industrial policy.

Catch a bunch of flies. Put them in a jar and put
the jar in the freezer. In a few seconds the flies will be chilled out
completely. This is called cryogenics, and it has its drawbacks. For example,
the flies will be dead flies if you freeze them too long. Dead flies are no
good. So if you're a tinkerer, refrigerate your flies. It takes longer to make
them comatose, but they have a higher recovery rate than the ones you leave in
the freezer next to the burritos.

Meanwhile, put a tiny drop of rubber cement at
each place along the wing where you want an engine.

Take the flies out of the freezer. Attach the
abdomen of one frigid fly to each drop of glue. Make sure all the flies are
facing the same direction.

Breathe life into the flies. A miracle: A gentle
puff of your warm breath will resuscitate the flies.

Launch the aircraft. It should fly like a charm,
and, far from being cruel to the flies, you'll be teaching them a new and
valuable thing, one that brings us to the virtue of this exercise. For we see
that while flies think a lot alike, have a great deal in common, share many of
the same hopes and dreams, they never act in concert, as a team, with regard for
the worth of other, neighboring flies until forced to by grim circumstance - as,
for example, when they are harnessed to fly and either first experience the
exhilaration of high-altitude cooperation or die. Redeemed by such a critical
choice, they'll soar like a glider, race like a Stealth, and, when overflying a
barnyard or kennel, turn into a wicked-awesome dive bomber.