Sunshine Recorder

Link: Stanley Kubrick on Mortality, the Fear of Flying, and the Purpose of Existence: 1968 Playboy Interview

Stanley Kubrick would have celebrated his 84th birthday today. Besides being one of the finest filmmakers of all time and mastermind of the greatest movie never made, he was also a keen observer of culture with ceaseless curiosity about the human condition, dancing between the hopeless and the heartening. From Stanley Kubrick: Interviews comes this layered meditation on purpose, mortality, and, as Carl Jung once put it, the art of “kindl[ing] a light in the darkness of mere being,” from a 1968 Playboy interview by Eric Nordern:

Thanks to those special effects, 2001 is undoubtedly the most graphic depiction of space flight in the history of films — and yet you have admitted that you yourself refuse to fly, even in a commercial jet liner. Why?

Kubrick: I suppose it comes down to a rather awesome awareness of mortality. Our ability, unlike the other animals, to conceptualize our own end creates tremendous psychic strains within us; whether we like to admit it or not, in each man’s chest a tiny ferret of fear at this ultimate knowledge gnaws away at his ego and his sense of purpose. We’re fortunate, in a way, that our body, and the fulfillment of its needs and functions, plays such an imperative role in our lives; this physical shell creates a buffer between us and the mind-paralyzing realization that only a few years of existence separate birth from death. If man really sat back and thought about his impending termination, and his terrifying insignificance and aloneness in the cosmos, he would surely go mad, or succumb to a numbing sense of futility. Why, he might ask himself, should be bother to write a great symphony, or strive to make a living, or even to love another, when he is no more than a momentary microbe on a dust mote whirling through the unimaginable immensity of space?

Those of us who are forced by their own sensibilities to view their lives in this perspective — who recognize that there is no purpose they can comprehend and that amidst a countless myriad of stars their existence goes unknown and unchronicled — can fall prey all too easily to the ultimate anomie….But even for those who lack the sensitivity to more than vaguely comprehend their transience and their triviality, this inchoate awareness robs life of meaning and purpose; it’s why ‘the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,’ why so many of us find our lives as absent of meaning as our deaths.

The world’s religions, for all their parochialism, did supply a kind of consolation for this great ache; but as clergymen now pronounce the death of God and, to quote Arnold again, ‘the sea of faith’ recedes around the world with a ‘melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,’ man has no crutch left on which to lean—and no hope, however irrational, to give purpose to his existence. This shattering recognition of our mortality is at the root of far more mental illness than I suspect even psychiatrists are aware.

If life is so purposeless, do you feel it’s worth living?

The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning. Children, of course, begin life with an untarnished sense of wonder, a capacity to experience total joy at something as simple as the greenness of a leaf; but as they grow older, the awareness of death and decay begins to impinge on their consciousness and subtly erode their joie de vivre, their idealism — and their assumption of immortality. As a child matures, he sees death and pain everywhere about him, and begins to lose faith in the ultimate goodness of man. But, if he’s reasonably strong — and lucky — he can emerge from this twilight of the soul into a rebirth of life’s elan. Both because of and in spite of his awareness of the meaninglessness of life, he can forge a fresh sense of purpose and affirmation. He may not recapture the same pure sense of wonder he was born with, but he can shape something far more enduring and sustaining. The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death — however mutable man may be able to make them — our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.

Link: What Really Happened Aboard Air France 447

Two years after the Airbus 330 plunged into the Atlantic Ocean, Air France 447’s flight-data recorders finally turned up. The revelations from the pilot transcript paint a surprising picture of chaos in the cockpit, and confusion between the pilots that led to the crash. 

As the stall warning continues to blare, the three pilots discuss the situation with no hint of understanding the nature of their problem. No one mentions the word “stall.” As the plane is buffeted by turbulence, the captain urges Bonin to level the wings—advice that does nothing to address their main problem. The men briefly discuss, incredibly, whether they are in fact climbing or descending, before agreeing that they are indeed descending. As the plane approaches 10,000 feet, Robert tries to take back the controls, and pushes forward on the stick, but the plane is in “dual input” mode, and so the system averages his inputs with those of Bonin, who continues to pull back. The nose remains high. 

02:13:40 (Robert) Remonte… remonte… remonte… remonte… 
Climb… climb… climb… climb… 

02:13:40 (Bonin) Mais je suis à fond à cabrer depuis tout à l’heure!
But I’ve had the stick back the whole time! 

At last, Bonin tells the others the crucial fact whose import he has so grievously failed to understand himself. 

02:13:42 (Captain) Non, non, non… Ne remonte pas… non, non.
No, no, no… Don’t climb… no, no. 

02:13:43 (Robert) Alors descends… Alors, donne-moi les commandes… À moi les commandes!
Descend, then… Give me the controls… Give me the controls! 

Bonin yields the controls, and Robert finally puts the nose down. The plane begins to regain speed. But it is still descending at a precipitous angle. As they near 2000 feet, the aircraft’s sensors detect the fast-approaching surface and trigger a new alarm. There is no time left to build up speed by pushing the plane’s nose forward into a dive. At any rate, without warning his colleagues, Bonin once again takes back the controls and pulls his side stick all the way back. 

02:14:23 (Robert) Putain, on va taper… C’est pas vrai!
Damn it, we’re going to crash… This can’t be happening! 

02:14:25 (Bonin) Mais qu’est-ce que se passe?
But what’s happening? 

02:14:27 (Captain) 10 degrès d’assiette…
Ten degrees of pitch… 

Exactly 1.4 seconds later, the cockpit voice recorder stops. 

(Source: sunrec)

The Ice Balloon: The Story of the Disastrous 1897 Expedition to the North Pole by Air

The most famous missing person of the late nineteenth century was surely Sir John Franklin, who disappeared in 1847 with over a hundred crewmen while navigating a section of the Northwest Passage. Over the next thirty years, forty-one expeditions set off to find him, or some relic of his trip, and at the insistence of Lady Franklin, more men had died searching for Lord Franklin than on the original expedition. Eventually, word trickled back that the ships had been caught in the shifting Arctic ice and the men had starved and some had been cannibalized.

It’s been speculated that of the nearly one thousand explorers and crew who have traveled to the Arctic, only a quarter have returned. In an 1895 address to the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences, S.A. Andrée proposed an expedition to the North Pole that would risk only three lives, avoiding the crushing ice floes by using a mode of transportation that promised to be safe, quick, and relatively comfortable.

He would travel by balloon.

The Ice Balloon by New Yorker staff writer Alec Wilkinson is a chronicle of that trip, and of the last generation of romantic explorers who would make the pole their life’s work.

Read more.

Link: How Airplanes Fly

Almost everyone today has flown in an airplane. Many ask the simple question “what makes an airplane fly”? The answer one frequently gets is misleading and often just plain wrong. We hope that the answers provided here will clarify many misconceptions about lift and that you will adopt our explanation when explaining lift to others. We are going to show you that lift is easier to understand if one starts with Newton rather than Bernoulli. We will also show you that the popular explanation that most of us were taught is misleading at best and that lift is due to the wing diverting air down.

Link: What Really Happened Aboard Air France 447

Two years after the Airbus 330 plunged into the Atlantic Ocean, Air France 447’s flight-data recorders finally turned up. The revelations from the pilot transcript paint a surprising picture of chaos in the cockpit, and confusion between the pilots that led to the crash. 

As the stall warning continues to blare, the three pilots discuss the situation with no hint of understanding the nature of their problem. No one mentions the word “stall.” As the plane is buffeted by turbulence, the captain urges Bonin to level the wings—advice that does nothing to address their main problem. The men briefly discuss, incredibly, whether they are in fact climbing or descending, before agreeing that they are indeed descending. As the plane approaches 10,000 feet, Robert tries to take back the controls, and pushes forward on the stick, but the plane is in “dual input” mode, and so the system averages his inputs with those of Bonin, who continues to pull back. The nose remains high. 

02:13:40 (Robert) Remonte… remonte… remonte… remonte… 
Climb… climb… climb… climb… 

02:13:40 (Bonin) Mais je suis à fond à cabrer depuis tout à l’heure!
But I’ve had the stick back the whole time! 

At last, Bonin tells the others the crucial fact whose import he has so grievously failed to understand himself. 

02:13:42 (Captain) Non, non, non… Ne remonte pas… non, non.
No, no, no… Don’t climb… no, no. 

02:13:43 (Robert) Alors descends… Alors, donne-moi les commandes… À moi les commandes!
Descend, then… Give me the controls… Give me the controls! 

Bonin yields the controls, and Robert finally puts the nose down. The plane begins to regain speed. But it is still descending at a precipitous angle. As they near 2000 feet, the aircraft’s sensors detect the fast-approaching surface and trigger a new alarm. There is no time left to build up speed by pushing the plane’s nose forward into a dive. At any rate, without warning his colleagues, Bonin once again takes back the controls and pulls his side stick all the way back. 

02:14:23 (Robert) Putain, on va taper… C’est pas vrai!
Damn it, we’re going to crash… This can’t be happening! 

02:14:25 (Bonin) Mais qu’est-ce que se passe?
But what’s happening? 

02:14:27 (Captain) 10 degrès d’assiette…
Ten degrees of pitch… 

Exactly 1.4 seconds later, the cockpit voice recorder stops. 

Wow, I don’t think something written could even be as dramatic and chilling as the real event. Especially the part where it is revealed to the Captain and the other co-pilot exactly what the problem is when it is far too late.

Check out this jaw-dropping video of a natural phenomenon known as a “murmuration.” The collective noun is used to describe vast numbers of starlings as they whirl through the air like billowing clouds of black, biological smoke. This footage comes from Sophie Windsor Clive, who recently encountered the birds by chance while while canoeing the River Shannon in Ireland. According to The Telegraph’s Daniel Butler, the appearance of murmurations tends to ramp up with the arrival of winter, and is actually a survival tactic; with predators in the area, it pays to seek safety in numbers. Butler describes the mathematics behind the phenomenon: Impenetrable as the flock’s movements might seem to the human eye, the underlying maths is comparatively straightforward. Each bird strives to fly as close to its neighbours as possible, instantly copying any changes in speed or direction. As a result, tiny deviations by one bird are magnified and distorted by those surrounding it, creating rippling, swirling patterns. In other words, this is a classic case of mathematical chaos (larger shapes composed of infinitely varied smaller patterns).