Birdman Confesses: Flight a Hoax

Post from Alan Brown:

I guess I (and a large segment of the world’s media) wanted to believe there is still room for a garage tinkerer who can set the world on fire with some completely unexpected breakthrough.

The news is out: Jarno Smeets, who claimed to he could fly in a motorized set of birdlike wings, is really Floris Kaayak, a Dutch filmmaker, digital special effects expert, and artist. One of his films, The Origin of Creatures, was even up for an Academy Award this year.

It turns out video of his 60-second flight was a fake, and a very good one at that. Wired’s Rhett Allain did a very thorough analysis of the Kaayak’s video and could not really tell if it was a fake or not.

Then two other reporters, Dave Mosher and Daniela Hernandez, checked out his story by calling his purported employers and the school he said he graduated from and no one had heard of him. When they called and e-mailed about the discrepancies, he did not reply. That is never a good sign.

The two reporters quoted a researcher “Smeets” had apparently visited, who summed it up best: “He wanted to chase a dream, as most artists do. He wanted to inspire people and I think he succeeded,” said neuromechanics scientist Bert Otten of the University of Groningen. “As an artist he has succeeded, but he has fooled most of us. We all want to fly, don’t we?”

4 Responses to “Birdman Confesses: Flight a Hoax”

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The Editor

John G. Falcioni is Editor-in-Chief of Mechanical Engineering magazine, the flagship publication of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

March 2012

Twitter from John Falcioni

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