May 13, 2011
Gamera, you’ll recall from Japanese horror movies, was a giant, fire-breathing, flying turtle that used to terrorize Tokyo (and battle Godzilla) back in the 1960s.
So what else would students at the University of Maryland—whose mascot is a terrapin—name their flying contraption, which yesterday appears to have become the first human-powered helicopter to fly. The flight didn’t last long, or get far off the ground. In fact, don’t blink (at about the 3:18 mark of this video) or you’ll miss it. But congratulations to the Maryland team, and to “pilot” Judy Wexler, whose furious four-limbed pedaling raised Gamera a few inches off the floor.
The team’s ultimate goal is winning the $250,000 Sikorsky Prize, which requires that they hover for 60 seconds, and reach a height of three meters. This worries me a little. How much faster can Judy pedal?