Sunday, January 08, 2006

When technology attacks!

The predicted, long-awaited revolt of the robots has already begun. The latest victim is a Japanese manager at a factory in Malaysia. This sort of thing always starts with one or two victims here and there, so that the world becomes accustomed to a certain level of "random accidents", and is lulled into a false sense of security. Then the robots take over the world. I've seen all the movies. I know how this works. Trust me.

As we're faced with yet more evidence of our impending doom, it's mildly comforting to reflect on at least one interesting technology that hasn't taken over the world (yet). It's a bird? No. It's a plane? Not exactly, but close. A hovercraft, then? Also a good guess, but not quite. I present to you the Ekranoplane, a.k.a. wing-in-ground, or WIG craft. The second link goes to what's considered the definitive site on the subject, but if you have a short attention span and just want to look at pics, here are some of the Lun, the Orlyonok, and the KM. If I had to pick a favorite, I might have to go with the KM, but they all have an odd sort of appeal. None looks like it ought to be able to fly, even in a limited sense. They look like they ought to be hanging off of strings in bad sci-fi movies, pretending to fly, and failing to convince anyone. Combine their unlikely appearance with the clever idea behind them, and their sheer hugeness, and we have a winner. There's no way to know whether ekranoplanes were really a quirky technological dead end, or whether they were just ahead of their time, or a singular and remarkable combination of both, a la the Great Eastern.

Here's a company that claims to be offering somewhat smaller ekranoplanes for sale as flying yachts, because one gets oh, so terribly bored with regular yachts. Too bad I'm not evil enough to ever have that kind of money. But then again, not being evil is sort of its own reward, I guess. At least until the robots take over.

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