Thursday, September 13, 2012

One future that may be and one that never was...


Futurism is tough.

It's so easy to get the future wrong...and to get it wrong for all of the right reasons.  One works with what is happening now and then attempts to logically extrapolate.  What would otherwise be a reasonable conclusion can be thrown all helter skelter by entirely unforeseen events.  In fact, an interview with William Gibson appeared today in Wired wherein the genius author talks about just how rarely science fiction writers get it right.

Here's one example of a future that never quite came to be.  The March 1927 issue of Science and Invention took a look at how skyscrapers were popping up in large cities everywhere.  What happens if there is on one of the upper floors?  We saw what happened last April when the Federation building burned in Moscow.  And of course, the tragedy of 9/11 is still quite fresh in most minds over the age of 25 or so.  How do you fight a fire at those levels?

Science and Invention envisioned "aerial firefighters." A gadget with propellers hoists hoses...very long hoses...to the level of the fire via the pressure of the water in said hoses.  Later, in a 1931 issue of Modern Mechanics, New York City Fire Chief John Kenlon said:

 “I expect to see the day when fires in lofty skyscraper quarters will be fought with special types of airplanes. They will operate on the system of the helicopter so that they can remain stationary in a desired and advantageous spot. Special chemicals would be used by firemen in their airplanes for putting out the blaze. We have seen the police departments take up aviation. I believe the firefighters will go a long way in that direction.”

I'm aware that helicopters have long been employed in firefighting, especially with high-rise situations.  It's just a bit removed from the optimistic future of exotic aircraft hovering outside the blaze, showering chemicals down on the orange and heliotrope flames.

Failing that vision, another may yet come to be: London's floating airport.
The proposed London Britannia Airport would float on an estuary of the Thames along with the airport's four floating runways.  There would be a single terminal and rail connection to London and the Chunnel (I'm assuming that's what they mean.)  Conceivably, one could land in London and then on to most anywhere in Europe by train.  Additionally, the airport would have an "eco-dome" city for up to 300,000 (!) people to call home.

Experts see the cost and legal entanglements would make this futuristic design unfeasible.  That's a terrible shame.  Just click the link and take a look at the picture of this vision.  Glorious!



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