Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

August 25, 2013

ED VASICEK: Weird or not, here comes the future

Flying saucers, 3D printing expected

Kokomo Tribune

---- — My buddy Emil and I had been collecting articles about the future for one of our discussion nights. Marylu and Emil’s wife, Edna, decided to run to the store after a fine dinner.

“Well, Ed, I have a good one. It’s about 3D printing. It has been around since 1984, but it is set to boom. Prices are going down, and it means that even small businesses could manufacture what they need.”

“Really?” I asked in surprise. He enlightened me by reading an article from Wikipedia:

“‘... 3D printing is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. 3D printing is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes ... Since the start of the 21st century there has been a large growth in the sales of these machines, and their price has dropped substantially.

“The 3D printing technology is used for both prototyping and distributed manufacturing with applications in architecture, construction … industrial design, automotive, aerospace, military, engineering, civil engineering, dental and medical industries ... fashion, footwear, jewelry, eyewear, education, geographic information systems, food, and many other fields.’”

“And,” Emil added, “It may soon become a popular home product; instead of buying shoes, for example, you download a pattern and the 3D printer manufacturers it for you. Isn’t that crazy?”

I nodded as I processed this information. After a contemplative pause, it was my turn.

“Well,” I began, “maybe you have heard that the government was trying to develop a flying saucer back in the 1950s and admitted to testing it in ‘Area 51?’ The Christian Science Monitor had an article about it.” I began reading an excerpt:

“‘The saucer development was carried out by Avro Aircraft Ltd., a Canadian firm. The firm attempted to design a flat, circular vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft that could fly as high as 100,000 feet at great speed.’”

“Yep,” Emil affirmed, “old news.” The gleam in his eye suggested I had nothing novel to offer.

“The idea of a flying saucer is making a comeback,” I resumed. “As a matter of fact, according to Livescience.com, Etnel Straatsma of Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands is working on the project now for ecological reasons.” I read part of the blog aloud:

“‘The plane of the future, in Straatsma’s vision, might be as wild as a flying saucer. She and other engineers are toying with lighter materials … as an eco-friendly alternative to passenger jets.

“‘Straatsma heads the recently formed CleanEra project, which aims to design an ‘ultra-eco-friendly plane’ that releases 50 percent less carbon dioxide per passenger-mile than current airliners. The project’s ‘greenliner’ — depicted in design illustrations as a flying saucer — would also reduce other pollutants and noise, in line with recommendations from the European Aerospace Commission, ACARE.’”

“Good grief!” Emil responded. “So, one day, I might take a flight in a flying saucer? The only time I’ve been near a flying saucer is when I got Edna really mad and … well, never mind.”

Just then, the doorbell rang. It was Elmer.

“Hi, guys,” he greeted. “I ran into your wives at the store. They told me you were being nerds talking about the future, so they wanted to escape. I thought I would come by and get in on the fun; brought an article myself.”

We welcomed Elmer into the living room and he began to share.

“When they rebuilt New Orleans on the same flood plain, I said they were nuts back then. But they wouldn’t listen to me.” Elmer’s negative, scolding personality colored his discussion. “Now UPI says a British study claims major coastal cities in the world can see flooding nine times what it now is by 2050. Climate change, population shift, and all that rot, as the Brits say.”

“The future sure is getting weird,” I commented.

“Weird or not, here it comes,” Emil philosophized. He was right.

Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at edvasicek@comcast.net.