Hows that for creativity? Debra Langley
I walked into our family room to find my daughter entranced in a science fiction movie, Jupiter Ascending, where the handsome hero, Channing Tatum, was flying around at incredible speeds through space with some sort of jet suit strapped to his body rescuing Jupiter, a princess in distress played by Mila Kunis. Released in 2015 and dubbed an American–Australian space opera, Jupiter Ascending is definitely no Academy award winner by my standards, but it is an enthralling and watchable movie nonetheless. The special effects are incredible and seem so life-like.
Ever since I can remember I have been intrigued by space, thoughts of Astronauts leaving our atmosphere and then staring down at planet Earth from the black realms above us have always mystified me. I even considered becoming an Astronaut for a fleeting moment when I was about nine or ten years old, today I must admit that I am grateful that I can rather write about space adventures instead of being boxed into a spacecraft for extended periods of time, weightless!
The stars and planets continue to mesmerise me. What is really out there? Do aliens exist? Is there life on other planets? What happens to us when our spirits leave our bodies? Do we float around space timeless? Where is heaven? Who is watching us on Earth?
With questions like these floating around in my head, it is understandable why science fiction movies like Star-Wars and Jupiter Ascending have me intrigued. I become so engrossed in the movie that at times I pinch myself to remind me it’s not real, it’s a movie. Wake-up! People can’t fly around at high speeds with a jet-suit strapped to their body, can they?
Well Swiss adrenaline junkie and extreme daredevil, Yves Rossy can. Carte Blanche the South African investigative journalism television program that airs on M-Net during prime time viewing on Sunday nights ran an insert on him. They call him Jetman Dubai.
Rossy a former military pilot jumps out of helicopters with a two metre carbon-wing strapped to his back, he then dives and fires up four tiny jet motors that propel him through the skies in a series of breath-taking manoeuvres. Jetman has already flown over the Alps, crossed the English Channel, zoomed across the Grand Canyon and his most newsworthy adventure to date flying next to the world’s largest commercial airliner, an Emirates A380 Airbus, accompanied by Vince Reffet, another champion skydiver and skilled base-jumper.
It’s not only science fiction movie fans like me that would be enthralled by Jetman’s achievements, he has undoubtedly captured the attention of all aspiring superheroes out there as well. It is no surprise that his videos have gone viral and that there is such a demand for his unique services.
Rossy and Reffet are pushing adventurous boundaries to the limits as they continue to experiment with unique ways to fly like a bird. If you are diving out of helicopters and flying across the skies like Superman things can go wrong. Rossy and Reffet both started out as skydivers and loved the adrenaline rush the skies offered them, soon they wanted more and started searching for ways to master flight and experience the thrill of how it feels to fly like a bird. It is the absolute lack of fear and determination to pursue a passion despite the inherent dangers that has led to such advances in the field of human flight.
Channing Tatum, incredible advances in the field of science like this, might actually make it possible to fly around the skies at incredible speeds saving damsels in distress in the not too distant future after all.
Just after 9.40pm on the 16th July 1999, John Kennedy Jr. crashed his plane into the sea, killing himself, his wife and her sister instantly. The official investigation into the crash revealed that Kennedy only had fifty-five hours of experience flying at night, and did not have an instrument rating at all. In pilot speak, this simply means that he was not experienced enough to fly in zero visibility conditions with only the instrument panel as a guide.
Small aircrafts like these traditionally have five or six main dials measuring altitude, speed, direction, vertical speed, banking and turning rate through space. Learning to read a single dial is relatively easy, but reading multiple dials at the same time under conditions of zero visibility is quite challenging and can prove life threatening if read incorrectly as the Kennedy catastrophe has shown.
Philip Kellman, a cognitive scientist at Bryn Mawr College was learning to fly in the 1980’s. As he moved through the different levels of training, simulation and flight hours he quickly realised that flying was about perception and action, reflexes. His flight instructors were able to see things and make decisions where he could not. This precision took hundreds of flying hours to develop. Kellman who was an expert in visual perception began wondering if there was not a quicker way for students to pick up this intuition.
a perceptual learning module, or PLM, a computer program much like that of a
videogame game able to give instrument panel lessons. The student sees all six
panel dials at once and must observe and make a quick decision choosing the
appropriate response from seven different options each with a different
outcome. 1994 tests of the program run with Mary K. Kaiser of the NASA Ames Research
Center showed that after only an hour of practice even experienced pilots
improved, making quicker and more accurate decisions. Novice pilots, after an
hour of practice could read the dials as well as experienced pilots with an
average of ten thousand flying hours under their belts. Perceptual learning
like this with the ability to speed up learning in many different areas is a
remarkable discovery. Hows that for creativity?
What exactly does a science fiction movie, Jetman Dubai and a PLM system teach us? It makes us question the lives we lead? We might not have it within us to dream up a new screenplay for some farfetched science fiction movie, have the balls to jump out of a helicopter and test out a new theory to fly like a bird or even think up a simple process to improve the way everyday things are done. But we must be open to the possibility that within our everyday existence lies an opportunity that is uniquely ours, one that only we can stumble upon because of our unique set of experiences. Perhaps we need to learn a lesson from the Jetman Dubai and move forward in spite of fear. It is this absolute lack of fear and the determination to pursue a passion despite inherent dangers that leads to progress.
Venture out of your comfort zone and recognise your unique potential. It is your time to fly.
The world is waiting.
How We Learn, Benedict Carey, ISBN: 978-1-4472-8634-9, Pan Macmillan, 2015
"A drop of ink may make a million think." -Lord Byron