Solar Planes That Aren't Solar, Nano Snowmen That Aren't Snow

By Andrew Moseman | December 4, 2009 1:30 pm

solar impulse425Remember Solar Impulse, the piloted, solar-powered plane that would circumnavigate the globe? Well, it took its first test flight this week, leading to a round of huzzahs from the press. However, you might want to contain the enthusiasm a little, because both “solar” and “flight” are a tad misleading.

“Hop,” as the BBC called the test, is more like it. Solar Impulse got airborne for 30 seconds, though that allowed it to travel 350 meters. And as you can see in the image, the plane didn’t exactly reach the stratosphere. As far as “solar” is concerned, the plane’s solar panels weren’t even hooked up. It ran on battery power.

That’s fine; Solar Impulse will have to run on battery power when it eventually reaches the night stages of its round-the-world trip. We hope the project is eventually a rousing success, but this was a non-solar test.

Secondly, we here at Discoblog were deflated to click on the Telegraph headline “Scientists Create the World’s Smallest ‘Snowman,’” only to learn that those quotes around “snowman” are there because it’s not actually snow. Rather:

The snowman is made of two tiny tin beads, normally used to calibrate electron microscope lenses, which were welded together with platinum. A focused ion beam was used to carve the snowman’s eyes and smile, and to deposit a tiny blob of platinum for the nose.

A tease or not, that’s cool. Cooler than Astonishingly Tiny Handmade Sculptures so small the artist accidentally inhaled a few of his creations? You be the judge.

Related Content:
Discoblog: How to Turn a Papasan Chair Into a Solar Cooker
80beats: Solar-Powered Spy Plane Stays Aloft for Over Three Days
DISCOVER: Who’s Flying This Thing?
DISCOVER: Astonishingly Tiny Handmade Sculptures, a gallery

Image: Solar Impulse

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
  • Paul

    This test was never meant to be a flight. Early releases indicated that the “flight” would stay over the runway and go no higher than 10 feet. The purpose was to test the stability and flight characteristics. Post test release indicated that the plane was never higher than 3 feet and the aircraft remained stable. With those positive results they will start expanding the “flight” envelope.

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