Today I put up the last page in AI Impacts’ (primarily Ronny Fernandez’s) investigation into how human-made flying machines compare to evolved ones. (Relevant to how we expect human efforts to build minds to compare to evolved minds.) Evolution mostly won.

Some other interesting things I learned in the process of editing this:

  • Monarch butterflies can probably fly at least 100km on the energy in about a quarter of a raspberry (not counting the energy they get from the wind, which seems to be central to their flying methods. And not to suggest that they eat raspberries, I am just more familiar with those than flower nectar).
  • People who estimate monarch butterfly ‘performance parameters’ sometimes do so by attaching plasticine to dead butterflies to get them to the right weight and balance, and then hand-throwing them across the room and noting measurements for those “in which no obvious pitching up or stalling occurred after release” (or at least they did in 1979).
  • Paramotors are a thing. They are like a giant fan you wear on your back to turn your paraglider into a powered vehicle.
  • A model airplane crossed the Atlantic on a gallon of fuel (this was the furthest per Joule of the machines in our collection).
  • This pedal-powered flying machine crossed the English Channel.

    This might be a slightly different one: Gossamer Albatross with bikes, maybe