The drive of inventions….the airplane and many others

I wanted to write a blog for a long time and when I finally wrote one, it was too long. So I split it into two. This is in a way the intro I planned to give for my upcoming blog titled “The spirit of motoring”.

There are times in human history where a certain event grabs attention more than anything else. During the 18th century, it was the drive of inventions. A great many inventions were made during that period by a great many men. Many phenomena which we consider elementary or many devices that we cannot live without now were often ones that completely shattered the existing concepts in those times. We learnt that lightning is the discharge of electric energy, we began to understand the electrochemical series and invented the battery and many more such inventions. In the 20th century, we saw technology being taken to a whole new level. What was until then, considered merely as a luxury, and slowly began to take up integral positions in our day to day lives.

The first major breakthrough in the 20th century was perhaps the Wright brother’s successful powered flight. Even though various forms of “taking to the air” were achieved before that by means of gliding and hot air balloons, it was the first time in human history that a man made powered machine took to the air. In my opinion, that particular incident is at the top in the list of occasions that transformed the human history forever. I, personally, am very surprised at the fact that we didn’t achieve this feat much earlier. Whatever the reasons are, it certainly wasn’t for the lack of trying. There had been attempts at flying for as long as we can remember. People being strapped to rockets, rockets strapped to chairs and the lot. Many unfortunate souls died trying. And it wasn’t due to the lack of technology either. The components that Wright brothers used were not in any way new or specific. Its just that no one thought of putting them up together like that before.

Perhaps it was our longing for flying, maybe it was our zest for freedom or maybe it was the thrill flying gave, because since this incredible feat by Wright brothers, human beings took to flying in a spectacular fashion. Just over 10 years later, in the 1st world war, we could fit a machine gun to biplanes and use them for battle. The battle scene transformed entirely. By the time of the Second World War, airplanes could fly higher, faster and were more reliable. They are used for fighting, transport, spying and all sorts of stuff. By the 1960s, a little over half a century of powered flights later, we successfully sent a man to the moon and brought him back safely. This is an impressive feat! I am willing to bet that in the future if we ever discover alien species more advanced than us, they took at least thrice this long to achieve this. We might have taken about 5 millennia to perfect powered flight but it took us just half a century to take it to the next level.

Now, in the 21st century, flying machines are capable of achieving speeds twice or thrice that of sound. We even reached the steps of glory in commercial aviation with Concorde, but it was short lived. With the efforts of UN and the likes, we are enjoying perhaps the longest period of uninterrupted peace in the human history. But are we really at peace?