GRAHAM BELL’S KITES
Kites always have fascinated me. It is a very relaxing activity watching them dancing with the wind.
But if you want to know how to build kites, you are certainly NOT at the right place. Unless you are Graham Bell. Today you will discover a new and unknown Bell’s passion.
In 1899, Alexander Graham Bell, famous for inventing the telephone, began experimenting with kites in search of insights into the possibility of powered flight. His first designs were compound structures of multiple kites.
Technically, the basic problem of creating flying objects is that as a body’s surface area is squared, its weight is cubed, limiting the maximum size and lifting capability. As a result, he discovered that the tetrahedron was a useful shape to build more complex and lighter flying structures.
Consequently, he was able to create incredibly big three-dimensional kites, scaling up his designs without increasing the weight-to-surface area ratio.
But the most incredible Bell’s designed kite was called the “Cygnet”. It was composed of 3,393 tetrahedrical cells. It successfully flew and carried a human passenger when towed behind a steamship. Unfortunately, it crashed on landing. That lucky passenger was Thomas E. Selfridge and survived to this accident. Well, lucky until the accident he had with a powered airplane designed by Wright Brothers.
This summer, when your child asks you to buy a kite, think of Graham Bell. Yes, maybe it will be easier for you to buy him one…
And finally, this is the end of your daily dose of engineering, sorry!