The Mystery of the Flying Car?

During the 1970s, Williams International built a one-man vertical take-off and landing machine known as “The Flying Pulpit.” This strange flying car stood four feet high and was capable of flying in any direction for as long as 45 minutes. It could speed up, hover in the air, and rotate as well as reach a top speed of 60 mph.

Flying Pulpit – The Mystery of the Flying Car?

The Flying Pulpit bore more than a passing resemblance to the Magnetic Air Car, which was featured in the Dick Tracy comic strip during the 1960s. That should come as no surprise. Dick Tracy’s creator, Chester Gould, was somewhat of a futurist and dotted his famous strip with numerous inventions which have since come to pass, including the 2-way wrist radio and the portable surveillance camera.

So, what happened to these strange flying cars? Well, as best as I can determine, they were constructed for military use. However, the U.S. Army found them wanting in the 1980s. Apparently, the flying cars were consigned to the dustbins of history.

While The Flying Pulpit might’ve made for a poor weapon in the face of other aircraft, I’m a little surprised it was never released for civilian use. Who wouldn’t want a personal flying car? Check out this video to see The Flying Pulpit in action.

An iPad…from 1935?

Back in 1935, Everyday Science and Mechanics published what just might be the world’s first attempt at an electronic reading device geared toward the individual. In other words,  the first iPad.

The First iPad?

The so-called first iPad consisted of a microfilm reader mounted on a pole, complete with readily-accessible controls to adjust the screen and turn the pages. You can see a picture of the first iPad here. Can you imagine having that thing in your living room? Here’s more on the first iPad from PaleoFuture:

The future of the book has quite a few failed predictions in its wake. From Thomas Edison’s belief that books of the future would be printed on leaves of nickel, to a 1959 prediction that the text of a book would be projected on the ceiling of your home, no one knew for sure what was in store for the printed word.

The April, 1935 issue of Everyday Science and Mechanics included this nifty invention which was to be the next logical step in the world of publishing. Basically a microfilm reader mounted on a large pole, the media device was supposed to let you sit back in your favorite chair while reading your latest tome of choice…

(See PaleoFuture for more on the first iPad)

Da Vinci’s One-Wheeled Car?

During his remarkable life, Leonardo da Vinci designed versions of many extraordinary things that we use today – a calculator, a tank, and even a helicopter. But he also designed something that never quite cracked modern society – the monowheel or the one wheeled car.

The Dynasphere: Leonardo da Vinci’s Monowheel?

In 1932, Dr. John Purves, inspired by a da Vinci sketch, invented a strange monowheel vehicle known as the Dynasphere. Back then, monowheels were all the rage among inventors and were considered a potentially serious competitor to the car. This never materialized however, for reasons that will become apparent in a moment.

The Dynasphere was unique among other monowheels of its time, primarily because of its width. This provided stability so the driver didn’t have to worry about rebalancing the vehicle while driving it.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Amazingly enough, the Dynasphere monowheel could reach speeds up to 25 miles per hour. Unfortunately, it proved impossible to steer or brake. If a driver attempted to brake too hard, he or she would experience “gerbiling.” In other words, the force of braking would overcome the force of gravity. The driver would cease driving the Dynasphere monowheel and become a part of it, spinning uncontrollably along the inside of the wheel. See this Youtube video from British Pathe to watch the Dynasphere monowheel in action.

The Most Significant Breakthrough in Medical History?

A group of scientists at the Space Biosciences Division at NASA recently made an astounding discovery using carbon nanotubes. What is it? And could it be “the most significant breakthrough in medical history?”

Carbon Nanotubes & the NASA Biocapsule: The Most Significant Breakthrough in Medical History?

Imagine a bundle of carbon nanotubes implanted under your skin. Now, imagine this bundle could be used to self-regulate insulin levels for diabetes patients, deliver high levels of chemotherapy to very specific areas of the body, or provide epinephrine doses when needed for those with severe allergies.

Well, here’s the kicker…the bundle exists and it’s poised to change the way doctors treat all sorts of ailments. Here’s more on these miraculous carbon nanotubes from Gizmodo:

There are no hospitals in space. The closest E.R. is back on Earth, and astronauts can’t exactly jump in a cab to get there. So what happens if the sun burps out a massive blast of radiation while an astronaut is space-amblin’ by?

The NASA Biocapsule—made of carbon nanotubes—will be able to “diagnose” and instantly treat an astronaut without him or her even knowing there’s something amiss. It would be like having your own personal Dr. McCoy—implanted under your skin. It represents one of the most significant breakthroughs in the history of medicine, and yes, it’ll work on Earth, too…

(See The Miraculous NASA Breakthrough That Could Save Millions of Lives for more on carbon nanotubes and the the NASA Biocapsule)

Esperanto: The Language of World Peace?

In 1887, L.L. Zamenhof published Unua Libro in which he detailed a new language of his own creation. His goal was to have this language, since dubbed Esperanto, go global, fostering peace and international understanding in the process. Obviously, he didn’t succeed, at least not yet. But how popular is Esperanto today?

The Invention of Esperanto?

Dr. L.L. Zamenhof’s goal was ambitious – he wanted nothing less than to create a single language which would be used by the entire world. He believed that this would improve communication and break down walls between enemies. Rather than support an existing language, which he considered unfair, he created Esperanto during the late 1870s and early 1880s while living in the Russian Empire.

He published his first book regarding the Esperanto language in 1887. Although based on European root words, it contained its own grammar and vocabulary. It began to grow in popularity and spread across borders. By 1905, there was a World Congress of Esperanto and this event has continued on a nearly annual basis.

Today, there are somewhere between 10,000 and two million speakers of Esperanto, located in 115 countries. While amazingly successful on one level, the movement has fallen far short of Zamenhof’s goals. What went wrong?

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The biggest obstacle to the growth of Esperanto, as I see it, was already stated by Will Rogers.

“They ain’t gonna do it.” ~ Will Rogers

In other words, the difficulties in learning a new language constituted a barrier that few people were willing to cross. Those who choose to learn a new language often do so for very practical, often economic reasons. That may explain why the English language has “usurped the role of global lingua franca coveted by Esperanto.”

Will Esperanto ever become humanity’s sole language? It seems unlikely. Still, its advocates should be proud. Esperanto is the most popular “constructed language” in history, far outdistancing its many competitors. In addition, it has led to the creation of a unique culture, with publications, music, and even shared traditions. And from where I stand, that makes Esperanto a gigantic success.

An iPhone…in 1922?

In 1921, the cinemagazine Eve and Everybody’s Film Review was launched. In Issue 41, a strange invention was showcased, one that wouldn’t come to practical fruition for almost a century. Did someone nearly invent the first iPhone…in 1922?


So, as many of you know, I released my first novel, Chaos, on Monday. It’s an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy of Chaos at one of the following locations:

Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iBooks * Smashwords * Paperback

The First iPhone…in 1922?

Now, Eve and Everybody’s Film Review was designed to show women “doing interesting and novel jobs and hobbies, fashion displays and novelty items ranging from excerpts of musicals and plays to slow-motion camera studies of nature.” And indeed, the film in question definitely fits into that category.

“Bless us, they’re never still – always up to something new. And Eve’s latest invasion is in the wireless world – ” ~ Eve and Everybody’s Film Review #41

The ironically-silent film clip turned up in an old film archive owned by British Pathe. As you can see, it shows two women walking on a sidewalk, presumably in the United States which dominated the telephone industry at that time. They stop next to a fire hydrant and prepare to use “Eve’s Portable Wireless Phone.” Using a wire, they connect the phone to the fire hydrant. Apparently, “this provides the radio phone with a ground connection as was necessary in the old analogue radios.”

Afterward, they raise an umbrella which is also connected to the “first iPhone,” presumably to act as an aerial device. They proceed to speak to an operator who plays a record for them. They stand outside (in the snow mind you) and enjoy their proto-iPhone.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

As far as I know, no one has determined the first iPhone’s inventor yet or whether it reached any stage of production. Still, it’s pretty amazing that someone actually attempted to create a portable phone and music player almost 90 years ago. Back then, some might’ve argued that such a device lacked convenience and ease of use. After all, how many women would’ve wanted to carry around a large wooden box full of wires and hang out by a fire hydrant? Fortunately, Eve’s Fashion Review had an answer for those critics.

”It’s Eve’s portable wireless phone – and won’t hubby have a time when he has to carry one!”

The Mystery of Thomas Edison’s Ring

Thomas Edison is rightly known as one of the most brilliant inventors in history. After his death, he left behind a strange metal ring which was later found in his laboratory. Its purpose remained unknown…until now.

Thomas Edison’s Talking Doll?

Thomas Edison is the third-most prolific, patented inventor in American history, behind Kia Silverbrook and Shunpei Yamazaki. He is credited with inventing the phonograph, the motion-picture camera, and the light bulb.

In 1890, after many years of experimentation, development, and business warfare, Thomas Edison released a new invention into the marketplace.  It was called the Edison Talking Doll. The dolls stood about two feet high and weighed four pounds apiece. Inside their bodies, Edison installed tiny phonographs with pre-recorded cylinders. Children were supposed to turn a crank at a steady speed in order to hear a six-second nursery rhyme.

The voices of the little monsters were exceedingly unpleasant to hear – Thomas Edison

The dolls debuted at the Lenox Lyceum in New York City. One month later, production ceased due to poor demand and complaints about the easily-damaged phonograph system. Very few of these dolls exist today.

Thomas Edison’s Mysterious Ring?

That brings us back to the ring. It was discovered in 1967. Observers noticed that it contained grooves, similar to those used by a phonograph. Unfortunately, the ring was bent and damaged, making it impossible for anyone to play the recording.

That all changed recently when scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory used image analysis to digitize the grooves. It turns out that the ring holds an old recording of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” The recording, made in the fall of 1888, was originally developed for an Edison Talking Doll. However, wax records subsequently replaced metal ones and thus, the ring was never used for its intended purpose.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

According to historian Patrick Feaster, the ring represents “the oldest American-made recording of a woman’s voice that we can listen to today.” The speaker is unknown. But until someone proves otherwise, she has earned her place in the history books as the world’s first professional recording artist.

America’s First Secret Weapon?

On September 7, 1776, a sudden explosion rocked New York’s East River, causing a tower of water and chunks of wood to soar high into the air.  The cause behind this bedlam?  America’s Turtle, an invention of David Bushnell and the world’s first submarine deployed in combat.  It’s one of the most significant crafts of the Revolutionary War.  And its been missing for over two-hundred and thirty years.

David Bushnell’s Invention: The Turtle submarine?

Invented by David Bushnell, the Turtle was designed to attach explosives to the undersides of Royal Navy ships moored in American harbors during the Revolutionary War.  The vessel consisted of two wooden slabs, which looked like turtle shells, held together by tar and steel bands.  It measured ten feet long, six feet tall, and three feet wide and contained enough air to stay submerged for thirty minutes.

David Bushnell initially trained his brother to operate the vessel.  But after the man fell ill, Bushnell turned to Ezra Lee, a gunnery sergeant.  Around the same time, a massive fleet of Royal Navy ships, led by the HMS Eagle, formed off the coast of New York City.  They aimed to capture the city.

On September 6-7, 1776, Ezra Lee manned the sub through New York Harbor to Liberty Island.  He positioned himself under the HMS Eagle and attempted to anchor a “torpedo” with the help of a drill.  His first attempt failed when the drill struck an iron fitting.  After subsequent attempts also failed, he abandoned the torpedo, which drifted into the East River and exploded harmlessly.  Although not a success, the noise spooked the Royal Navy, causing them to raise anchors and leave the harbor (it should be noted that British naval historian Richard Compton-Hall disputes this version of the events).

After another failed attempt, the sub’s tender vessel was sunk by the Royal Navy, sending the Turtle to the bottom of the sea, somewhere near Fort Lee, NJ.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So where is it today?

After the end of the Revolutionary War, Thomas Jefferson wrote to David Bushnell, inquiring about the Turtle.  In his response, Bushnell stated:

Soon after this, the Enemy went up the river, and pursued the boat, which had the submarine Vessel on board, and sunk it, with their shot. After I recovered the Vessel, I found it impossible, at that time to prosecute the design any farther…I therefore gave over the pursuit, for that time, and waited for a more favourable opportunity, which never arrived.

If we are to believe David Bushnell, he successfully salvaged the Turtle.  However, its ultimate fate remains unknown.  Maybe he dismantled the vessel.  Maybe he stored it away somewhere.  Maybe he never even recovered it and merely stated that he did so in order to keep anyone else from salvaging it.  Regardless, if the Turtle is ever found, it would undoubtedly be one of the most significant discoveries in naval history.