Unstable at Any Speed

Text and Photography by Harvey Lloyd

This blog is part of a series entitled Secrets of Eternal Youth.

Secrets of Eternal Youth

The Blog of Everything
From a Globe Circling Forever Youthful Adventurer, Artist/Photographer
.Who Hangs Out of Helicopters & Flies “The Dead Man[s Curve” Over Every Continent
 
With Newest Studies On How to Keep Your Brain Young & Healthy
 
Secrets of Eternal Youth is a Kerouacian road trip through the mental universe with a merry prankster at the wheel. Lloyd is Coyote, the Trickster, who brings us the fire of imagination that is able to see the quantum foam of the universe in the dancing of Jackson Pollack—that allows us to feel the wild excitement of being alive. Secrets is an explosion of metaphor that reprograms our synapses, stretches our minds, and reminds us that we are all youthful poets.

Unstable at Any Speed

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The Wright brothers studied birds. This proved largely futile until they discovered the principle of the curved airfoil, because birds are inherently unstable and must constantly trim their wings. Aircraft are designed, with a few exceptions, to be inherently stable. That is, once they are “trimmed” (in level, stable flight) air currents acting on their wings and tails tend to keep them flying on a straight line. Birds trim their wings constantly like a type of fighter aircraft which “flies by wire” using computers to vary the controls hundreds of times a second in order to keep it in trim. If the onboard computer and its backups fail, the aircraft crashes.

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Intelligence without reason—birds fly instinctively, greatly surpassing computer driven, human-brain controlled machines.

THE AIRFOIL
: In order to meet up at the trailing edge of an aircraft
or bird’s             wing, the molecules going over the top of the wing must travel faster than the                     molecules moving under the wing. Because the upper flow is faster, then, from                 Bernoulli’s equation, the pressure is lower.The difference in pressure across the                 airfoil produces the lift.

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Birds trade stability for maneuverability. The wingtips of frigate birds angle down making the birds unstable. That enables them to gain maneuverability, necessary when chasing prey or other birds for their dinner. The long tail of Archaeopteryx, the dinosaur bird, gave it stability, as does the outrigger or keel on a boat. The trade-off was loss of maneuverability and high drag, which slowed evolution’s first bird down. Birds eventually evolved in the opposite direction. Birds, simply, are not an animated form of aircraft.

 
Aircraft are stable, less maneuverable. Birds are unstable, highly maneuverable. Nothing in nature aproceeds without purpose. Study birds and you will come to understand a portion of the runes and riddles of evolution’s long journey. The magic of flight enthralls us from the Wrights and Lindbergh to the Apollo mission to the moon and the space shuttles. Aerial photography from a helicopter or ultra- light aircraft is the closest thing to bird flight. Like art, it’s worth dying for (although I avoid ultra-light propeller driven aircraft because of their inherent instability in strong winds).

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Eternal youths, guys and gals, we needn’t abhor vultures and other carrion eaters. The condor and the proud American eagle are carrion eaters equally at home feasting on road kills or anything else which is dead. Bird flight comes at a price. Energy must be conserved. A bird cannot chase its prey for long. Better to find its dinner cold than pursue it to dangerous lengths.
 
Humming birds may die of exhaustion and starvation while sleeping at night. Their fuel hungry metabolism cannot be sustained without constant feeding. We are all carrion eaters at heart. We feed on our memories. Love of the unknown, of adventure, of the jest of life makes us unique. We are not birds, yet our minds would fly. We plod, run, drive or speed helplessly about the earth on foot, in our slow cars, on steel ships, or crowded in the aluminum containers of jet aircraft.

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We marvel at the agile, flight of birds, the pure grace, the limitless freedom. Still, these blithe creatures must constantly search for food to maintain their murderously high rate of metabolism. There is no free lunch in the air or on the ground, and our brains are hungry.

Use those talents you have. You will make it. You will give joy to the world. Take this tip from nature: The woods would be a very silent place if no birds sang except those who sang best.
                                                                        —BERNARD MELTZER
 
If intelligence without reason provides the underlying mechanism for the majesty of flight, we eternal youths, guys and gals must seek our own instincts to find out who and what we are. Eternal youths, we seek to know what we have inherited from hundreds of millions of years of evolution. If we cannot fly by flapping arms, we will flap our brains.
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We unshackle our brains from early conditioning and set free a million questions, a million bursts of light to conjure up new visions and works. All creative work is flight, flight of the imagination, flight from mundane meaningless visions which masquerade as reason and reality. We will face a slow agonizing decay of our faculties unless we constantly exercise our nimble plastic brains with streams of new ideas. A person’s old and withered brain ‘tree’ once was a young, fertile sapling whose burgeoning branches reached out to unfathomed, illimitable galaxies of thought and knowledge.
 
You live life like a flightless bird or you choose to soar into the starry realms of art, adventure, philosophy and drama—a life of creating, the spiritual warrior’s way, the eternal youth’s way. You don the shaman’s mask, wield the warlock’s wand, employ the soothsayer’s vision, the alchemist’s stone. Bird-like, you ascend by the intuitive
and instinctive gift of burning intelligence without reason. Your toil is your triumph.

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Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all.

Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild.
So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them
they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows
it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices,
but still,
the place where you live is that much more drab
and empty
for their departure.
                                                                                        —STEPHEN KING
 
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I have soared and tumbled wildly gyrating round the sky. The aircraft performed in the hands of a master pilot who reads and rides the winds in his frail craft with the skill of a hawk seeking thermal uplifts. We spin on invisible pillars of air—an airborne gyre falcon aloft on abominable winds. We fly in mountain spawned deadly updrafts and lethal downdrafts. In helicopters, we often fly dangerous Deadman’s Curve, too low and slow for a safe descent in case of loss of power. My trust is in the pilot and his machine. Whitecaps at sea have splashed me through the open helicopter doors. “It goes with the territory,” as they say. Risk it or leave it. A life of adventure is a dream, and the glory of  eternal youth, long and strong, is its reality in our quantum world.


I sweat spume, whinny, and sniff sea spray; stare down dark canyons and bleak mountain chasms, fly hard by sheer walled fjords astride icy seas, hover over frozen shark’s teeth—pinnacles and spikes
of ravenous glaciers. I soar beneath suns born of blackness, death suns, bloody rising suns, dueling suns—all are dear to those who live to dare, and dare to live, and never be less than immortal in sunlight.

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Breathe heady air. Live high! Live like Olympian gods, on the Olympus of immortality and daring adventure where the sky’s the limit. Eternal youth, by the gifts of no mind, the TAO, Zen, quantum physics and metaphysics, so may we all. We are the godhead. We drink the mead of the gods at the fountain of youth. We are the world!

 
Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread.A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.
                                                                    —EDWARD ABBEY

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