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Paper Airplanes from Space

February 5, 2011 at 4:30 pm

As marketing stunts go, this is pretty neat.

I tend to get a little jaded about publicity and marketing gimmicks, but I've loved paper airplanes ever since I was five years old, so I can't help but be utterly charmed by this.  It's kind of astonishing the kinds of cool things one can do relatively easily these days.

I mean, look at that setup in the video.  The memory cards in that payload probably cost more than any other part of the rig, barring the GPS and tracking rig.  (And the Land Rover, I suppose.)

"Amateur" balloon builders have been taking photographs from the edge of space for a while now.  And while Samsung has the kind of budget that keeps it way outside any consideration as an amateur organization, they clearly went with a low-budget look, at least in the video.  On the one hand, cynical me wants to be unimpressed by the stunt; on the other hand, five-year-old me thinks it's wonderful that they launched paper airplanes from the edge of space.  (I see that The Register did this too, and earlier, with their project PARIS.)

My fascination with paper airplanes goes back to the days of Omni magazine, which my dad would bring home from work each time his coworker finished the latest issue.  Back in those days, Omni had a long fascination with the Kline-Fogelman airfoil.  I fondly remember the breathless articles about how the KF design was going to turn the aeronautics industry on its head, and completely revolutionize commercial air travel, and make the future all shiny and awesome-like.  I'm not sure if that came to pass.  But I do know that Omni even had one special issue with a pull-out page with instructions for making super awesome paper airplanes that utilized the KF design.  And, if properly constructed, these paper airplanes—according to the magazine, in no uncertain terms—would fly circles around other airplanes.  They'd cross the length of a football field as though it were the dining room.  I remember being extremely disappointed that our house didn't have any rooms that were 300 feet long.

(Omni is also where I first heard about shortwave radio number stations, thus leading to yet another lifelong fascination.  Oh how I miss you, Omni.)

Anyway, thanks to New Scientist's short piece on Samsung's marketing stunt, I learned that there is a Paper Aircraft Association.  And this makes me strangely happy.


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