Another gift possibility

By James Fallows

In the Atlantic's special on-line "Editors' Choice" gift guide, I aim very high with my own wish-list item, on the principle of "if you don't ask, you'll never know." But in case you're not quite motivated to get me that item (a flying boat), a nice second choice would be the completely solar-powered airplane that took its first flight in Switzerland this past week. Note: the opening scenes in the video below, which show the plane soaring over the Alps, are very definitely in the "artist's conception" category.
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More YouTube shots here. Okay, it didn't fly very long (maybe 30 seconds) or very high (a few feet above the runway surface) -- but it flew, with no external power of any sort! And 106 years ago, the Wright brothers' plane stayed aloft for only 12 seconds the first time. I will never get over the fact that there is an actual photo of that first flight, from the Smithsonian:

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I'll promised to act surprised if I find any of these craft under the tree. (Thanks to Michael Ham for the idea.)


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http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2009/12/another-gift-possibility/31322/