The video: The idea of self-propelled human flight has long eluded humankind. That is, at least until Jarno Smeets, a mechanical engineer from the Netherlands, fashioned a pair of giant wings with which to attempt to make aeronautical history through his HumanBirdWings project. The secret to his brief, 328-foot flight in January was reportedly in a flapping mechanism that mimicked the motions of his arms, using accelerometers taken from a Nintendo Wii to read his movements while an Android smartphone calculated the wings' corresponding motor output. (Watch a video below.) "I have always dreamed about this," he says after his inaugural flight. "After eight months of hard work, research and testing it all paid off." Or has it?
The reaction: "Move over Orville, Wilbur, and Leo da Vinci, there's a new birdman in town," says Rip Emerson at TechCrunch. This is history in the making, and it's nothing short of a "miracle." Well, quite honestly, "I'm really amazed by this video, because I always dreamed about doing this," says Jesus Diaz at Gizmodo. But the question remains: Is the video real? Several critics — including hang gliders and engineers — claim the video is a sham, pointing to Smeets' awkward takeoff. But others, including Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters fame, see no reason the video couldn't be genuine. Judge for yourself:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The amazing resurrection of Mitt Romney
- 10 things you need to know today: August 29, 2014
- Even critics of the euro didn't see this coming
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- The dangers of our passionless American life
- Why the West should let Russia have eastern Ukraine
- The real reason conservatives should be outraged that police killed a white youth
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- 8 ways you're probably overspending without even realizing it
- Why the West should accept ISIS as a sovereign nation
Subscribe to the Week