Paul MacCready is one of the most creative and inventive designers I know. Well, I don’t know him personally, but I know of some of his projects, and one of my favorite stories is his leadership of the development of the human powered aircraft in the Gossamer series, told in the book Gossamer Odyssey. It’s an engineering adventure story of sorts, with insight into what it’s like to break new ground and do something relatively big for the first time ever.

Here’s an interesting talk, just a bit dated now, in which he relates,

“My goal is that the world be desirable and sustainable when my kids reach my age.”

It is, in turns, depressing, mind-boggling, wondrous… and ultimately inspiring to hear about his projects with super efficient vehicles, life-size pterodactyl models, and solar-powered airplanes to explore the stratosphere without poluting it… while serving as possible satellite substitutes.

Towards the end of his talk he says,

Over billions of years, on a unique sphere, chance has painted a thin covering of life—complex, improbable, wonderful, and fragile.

Suddenly we humans, (a recently arrived species no longer subject to the checks and balances inherent in nature), have grown in population, technology, and intelligence to a position of terrible power: we now wield the paintbrush.

To read more about him and his drive to make a difference in the world with “a pretty important toy”, see the entry about him at the MIT site, Inventing Modern America.

If you are interested in aviation (scale model or full size), efficiency, sustainability or engineering in general please check out the book, site or video… and let me know what you think by leaving a comment!