parachute designing


Living in Seattle, one hears about the “big one” - the next major earthquake - that’s expected to happen at some point.

That got me wondering about tsunamis and how nearly impossible it would be to get away.

OK, so here’s my crazy idea: Backpacks that look like parachutes, but which actually inflate a giant balloon which comes out of the bag. The wearer(s) would then be floated up into the sky for an hour, and float back down after the major danger is gone.

Now, granted, there are lots of issues with the idea (can you control where it floats to? What kind of chemical process could efficiently do this? etc.), but going up still seems like the safest bet if you’ve only got a ten minute warning about a tsunami.


The oldest parachute design appears in an anonymous manuscript from 1470s Renaissance Italy (British Museum Add. MSS 34,113, fol. 200v), showing a free-hanging man clutching a cross bar frame attached to a conical canopy. As a safety measure, four straps run from the ends of the rods to a waist belt. Although the surface area of the parachute design appears to be too small to offer effective resistance to the friction of the air and the wooden base-frame is superfluous and potentially harmful, the revolutionary character of the new concept is obvious.

15 Mind-Blowing Facts That You Should Read (Part 158)

1. In 1912, Franz Reichelt, an Austrian-born French tailor, jumped to his death from the top of the Eiffel Tower while testing a wearable parachute he had designed. The impact of his fall was so great that a 5.9 inch crater was created on the ground where he fell.

2. “The Future Library Project”, established in 2014, aims to collect one story by a renowned writer every year until 2114, after which they will be published. Until then, these stories will be stored in a specially designed room in a library in Oslo. One thousand trees have already been planted in Norway, which will be used to print the stories in 2114.

3. Scientists have found that living near trees can benefit your health to the extent that if you have 10 more trees on a city block, it can impact your health in a similar way that a $10,000 increase in personal income or being 7 years younger would.

4. Women tend to have lighter skin than men to allow for an increased synthesis of Vitamin D from sunlight, and a higher absorption of calcium - both of which are crucial during pregnancy and lactation.

5. Freddie Mercury once snuck Princess Diana into a gay bar in south London. The princess, who was disguised as…

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Eco-Fuel Africa (EFA) is a business model devised by Moses Sanga to create Eco friendly biofuels which can be used for cooking in Africa, saving some of the vast amounts of forests which are cut down for wood each year. “Every year Africa loses forest cover equal to the size of Switzerland. At this rate Africa will have no forests left by 2050.” It also saves young women from having to walk miles every day for firewood, often missing school as a result of this. Here’s how it works:

Kilns are given to farmers which allow them to burn agricultural waste into charcoal. The farmers then put the charcoal through a large sieve; the rougher charcoal can be used as a natural fertiliser for their farms and the finer stuff is sold back to EFA (the cost of the kiln deducted from this). EFA then employ local people to use their simple hand-powered briquetting machine (a machine which presses the charcoal dust into efficient blocks for burning) and others who distribute the charcoal briquettes around the extended community via bicycles. So as well as saving the forests it creates jobs in the community.

Unlike so many of the other sustainable design ideas I have been looking at, this one doesn’t seem to have any critiscm. It has won many awards and it seems to deserve them all. Maybe this is simply because it is not ‘parachute designed’ - Sanga is a Ugandan who has lived most of his life with these problems that he has set out to fix, so he has a much deeper understanding of them. Or maybe it is because this is not just a product which is left with the community, but a well thought out cycle to ensure that it is sustainable. I wonder if Western designs for the developing world would be more successful if they developed business models around them.

p.s. good video on Eco Fuel Africa (link skips forward to ‘solution’)