Labor Day Special: Beer, Aviation, and Design, Together in One Post

By James Fallows

Part One: A weirdo conceptual plane, a flying wing designed to look like a ninja star, will shift from subsonic to supersonic flight by turning 90 degrees and going sideways. Or so we are told by Innovation News Daily:

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I am not sure whether this is the pre- or post- sideways-turn view, but you can find out that and further details at the Innovation News site, also here.
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Part Two: The classic "pint glass" for drinking beer, which has what I think you would call a truncated-cone shape and which is shown at right and left in the picture below, turns out, according to findings of research scientists, to be the best way to drink beer!

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So we are told by scientists here and here. To be precise, they say that glasses with curved or fluted shapes lull drinkers into thinking they've consumed/enjoyed less beer than they actually have -- or than they would from a glass with straight sides. (Pint glasses above, from two of my favorite haunts: Fitger's Brewhouse in Duluth, Mn., on the left, and the Hangar 24 brewery in Redlands, Ca, on the right. The short one in the foreground is from a special series made with the design of aviation charts -- in this case, the Class B Terminal Area Chart for San Francisco. A complete set of glasses from this series arrived as a thoughtful Christmas gift from a family member who knows me well.)
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Part Three: A nice item from Smithsonian on a future step in aircraft design, based on patterns from nature. For instance:

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As the story explains:
The concept plane, which they hope resembles the real Airbus models of 2050, takes biomimicry as a guiding principle for the design of forms and materials. The most noticeable aspect of this approach is in the fuselage, which, instead of being wrapped in opaque steel, is composed of a web-like network of structural material that looks a bit like a skeleton. In fact, that's exactly what it should remind you of, because it's inspired by the bone structure of birds.
I am guessing that the open spaces shown above would, in the real plane, be glassed over rather than leaving passengers exposed to the 400-knot breeze, plus instant-death temperatures and air-pressure conditions, they would encounter at cruising altitudes. A decade ago, I got to interview designers of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner about their attempts to apply some more "natural" concepts in that plane's interior and exterior design. More about that, plus interior shots from a real Dreamliner I saw a while ago, when I can find them.

I was going to add a tantalizing new boiled-frog element, but this is enough for a holiday weekend.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/09/labor-day-special-beer-aviation-and-design-together-in-one-post/261878/