Science Fiction Dictionary
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

Latest By
Category:


Armor
Artificial Intelligence
Biology
Clothing
Communication
Computers
Culture
Data Storage
Displays
Engineering
Entertainment
Food
Input Devices
Lifestyle
Living Space
Manufacturing
Material
Media
Medical
Miscellaneous
Robotics
Security
Space Tech
Spacecraft
Surveillance
Transportation
Travel
Vehicle
Virtual Person
Warfare
Weapon
Work

"The answer to the problem of information overload on the Net is reputations… engineer a system called a reputation server."
- Neal Stephenson

Ornithopter  
  Also called a 'thopter, it had adjustable wings and was jet-powered. Describes any plane capable of wing-beat flight in the manner of birds.  

In Dune, science-fictional technologies were set at variance with feudal social systems. A technology which really brought out the fusion between these seemingly incompatible systems was an aircraft called an ornithopter, or 'thopter for short. The wing-beat movement was particularly effective on take-offs.

Paul fastened his safety harness, saw that his mother was secure, checked the aircraft. The wings were at full spread-rest, their delicate metal interleavings extended. He touched the retractor bar, watched the wings shorten for jet-boost takeoff the way Gurney Halleck had taught him. The starter switch moved easily. Dials on the instrument panel came alive as the jetpods were armed.
From Dune, by Frank Herbert.
Published by Putnam in 1965
Additional resources -

Although this quote gives primarily technical details about the aircraft, the winged motion was often used in association with the symbol of the hawk, which was part of the Atreides coat of arms. Here are several quotes that describe its manner of flight:

He broke off as the Duke kicked on the jet brakes. The ship bucked as its tail pods whispered to silence. Stub wings elongated, cupped the air. The craft became a full 'thopter as the Duke banked it, holding the wings to a gentle beat, pointing with his left hand off to the east beyond the factory crawler.

Note that the craft was jet-assisted:

The wings snapped back and down, hurling the 'thopter out of its nest. Power surged from the jetpods as the wings locked into lift attitude...

Paul fed more power to the jetpods. The 'thopter banked...

Neither the word itself nor the concept were inventions of Herbert's. Da Vinci first described them (with very good engineering diagrams); the first flapping-wing working models were created by Alphonse Penaud in France in the late nineteenth century.

Here's a picture of a "flapwing flycar" from Arthur Radebaugh, the illustrator of the popular newspaper comic “Closer Than We Think”. The Flapwing Flycar appeared in newspapers in 1958.


(Flapwing flycar by Arthur Radebaugh, 1958)

For an interesting real-life look at ornithopters, see Ornithopters In Fact And Fiction. See also Project Ornithopter for more information about them.

The word is also interesting; it is derived from the Greek words for "bird" (ornitho) and "wing" (pter).

In Ringworld, Larry Niven creates a whole other way to fly; see the entry for flycycle, a sort of ultimate flying motorcycle. Also, compare to the bee wing from Slacker's Paradise (1941) by Malcom Jameson.

Comment/Join this discussion ( 0 ) | RSS/XML | Blog This |

Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Dune
  More Ideas and Technology by Frank Herbert
  Tech news articles related to Dune
  Tech news articles related to works by Frank Herbert

Ornithopter-related news articles:
  - Ornithopters In Fact And Fiction

Articles related to Vehicle
Electric Monocyle Tumblebug Available On Alibaba
China's Self-Driving Electric Trucks Are Poul Anderson's Electrotrucks
Elon Musk STILL Wants To Make Heinlein's 1940's Speedster
Electric Vehicle Prices Will Drop To $2,890

Want to Contribute an Item? It's easy:
Get the name of the item, a quote, the book's name and the author's name, and Add it here.

<Previous
Next>

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

 

 

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Science Fiction Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Timeline
1600-1899
1900-1939
1940's   1950's
1960's   1970's
1980's   1990's
2000's   2010's

Science Fiction in the News

Implantable Covid-Detecting Microchip Developed By DARPA
'Employees... were implanted with advanced microprocessors...'

SpaceX Requests Starlink For Starship
'... sweating, heat-blistered engineers at every interplanetary radiograph station on three planets.'

SF Writers Predicted John Deere Autonomous Tractors
'The huge plow... seemed to shake itself - and began to move back southward.'

DARPA Funding AI Fighter Pilots
'Cultured brains on a slab.'

StoryFile To Help William Shatner Become Landru
"I am Landru. I am he! All that he was, I am."

Telehealth Drones To The Rescue
'A shadow passed over him, and he looked up.'

Capture Asteroids In A Bag
'... just as a small boy catches a swift ball in his cap.'

Sony Pocket Air Conditioner Is Phil Dick's Idea!
'... he went to the hall closet to get his pith helmet and his mandatory cooling-unit.'

Is It Possible To GROW Planes And Vehicles?
'These are your rudimentary seed packages...'

Guard Dog Robot Security Check
'We still use people at the main gates, but here it's an automated sentry.'

More SF in the News

More Beyond Technovelgy

Home | Glossary | Science Fiction Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.