Posts Tagged ‘pterosaurs’


October 20, 2020

My arresting fascination with bird flight started in 1968 while crossing the Atlantic by the cheapest possible means — an old rust-bucket called The Aurelia. To discourage the passengers from eating, the captain would steer the vessel from one weather system to the next. During one such diversion I was amazed to see a tiny warbler, with its characteristic swooping flight, appearing and disappearing amongst the gigantic waves. Eventually he landed on the ships rail and we got him as far as Long Island in a shoe-box. Alas he never made the final lap, falling dead as he flew up and off towards the shore we could already scent.

As a scientist I felt I had to understand Christopher’s ( we called him after Columbus) amazing feat, Even if he didn’t succeed some of his kind do. How could such a tiny ounce of pluck and feathers make it three thousand miles across the vasty deep? I taught myself aerodynamics, took up gliding and exploited my occupation as an astronomer to watch birds performing aerial miracles in all corners of the globe: Condors in the Andes, Albatrosses off New Zealand, Siberian Storks in Africa, Frigate Birds in the Caribbean, Terns on the Barrier Reef, Sandhill Cranes in New Mexico, Vultures in the Caucusus, Ravens above the Black Mountains, Shearwaters from Skomer, gulls theramalling in front of my glider half way across Britain in search of………

Eventually (it took ten years) the penny dropped as I was washing up after Christmas dinner: The Christopher Equation. How shocking it was, how beautiful…. how totally unexpected! There is a taster on simple aerodynamics, including a derivation of the Christopher Equation at

Wandering Albatross flying over rough sea, Southern Atlantic Ocean (Diomedea exulans).

Above is a Great Wandering Albatross circling a ship far down in the Southern Ocean. With its 12 foot wingspan it can fly tirelessly at 60 mph without beating a wing .Surely it is one of the true wonders of the world. It is being wiped out by Long-line fishermen who couldn’t care a f**k. After all there’s no money in Albatrosses. Copyright Mike Hill/getty images.


When one sets off on a quest in Science one can have no idea where it might eventually lead. One day I dropped in to the magnificent Natural History Museum in New York. There, hanging from the ceiling, was the fossil skeleton of a pterosaur twenty feet across, with bones like an ox. By then I knew enough avian aerodynamics to know that it couldn’t have possibly flown. Never, never never! Physics and physiology were all against it. Why then did it have colossal wings and vestigial hooks for legs? Here was another mystery profound which was to lead eventually to the idea of Recyclable Oil; an idea which could eventually save this Earth.

I couldn’t get anyone to listen. The idea of Recyclable Oil was just too outlandish, especially when it was linked to the even madder idea of Pterodactyl’s Blood. And yet every year since, palaeontologists have been digging up ever larger pterosaurs in Texas, some ten metres in wingspan. There has to be a scientific explanation. I sometimes think Christopher was trying to whisper a secret in my ear, a secret that might save the natural world, and all those wonderful species, from the Orang Utang to the Great Wandering Albatross, that Man is harrying to extinction.

If you are interested in bird flight, and its wondrous implications, you might try my novel Pterodactyl’s Blood (Amazon paperback, 2020 £!2.99). It’s described elsewhere on this site.

My son son Mathias and I have tried to present our ideas, in the form of scientific papers and seminars to the scientific establishment — but they won’t listen. The problem is really one of academic burrowing. No academic presently has the disparate mix of skills, ranging from aerodynamics to palaentology, to even referee our papers. But that’s no new thing. Creeping in between existing specialisms has often been the only way for science to advance. But while we’re struggling with that you can look at one of our papers at:

while if you look here`


there is a link to our Power Point presentation with lots of sexy slides.


October 17, 2020

Ever since a tiny warbler landed on our ship in mid Atlantic I have been fascinated by animal flight in general. It took me me ten years to work out how our would-be “Christopher Columbus” had done it. What a revelation … what a delightful surprise. By then I had become an expert on low speed aerodynamics, and a glider pilot who soared with birds all over the globe.

In 2009, the centenary of Bleriot’s first flight across the English Channel, I dusted down my simple aerodynamics and applied it to his famous exploit. Everything worked out perfectly: range, speed, endurance, power, fuel….. So while such matters were fresh in mind I thought “Why not apply the same analysis to the Wright Brothers’ famous first powered flight alleged to have taken place at Kitty Hawk in 1903?”

The famous photo allegedly of the Wright Brothers first powered flight near Kittyhawk in 1903. But there are many suspicious circumstances surrounding it. For instance it wasn’t released until FIVE YEARS AFTERWARDS. The only eyewitnesses said they had to pull it up a hill beforehand, so it was probably just another glider. It was allegedly “destroyed by a gust of wind immediately afterwards” so no one qualified ever inspected it. It’s got no undercarriage. Only a madman would try to make the first powered flight in a high wind. The claimed telegram announcing the triumph has never been traced. And most telling no replica with the same feeble engine-power has been able to repeat it. In subsequent years the Wrights did fly, but only with the aid of a powerful catapult. That’s not powered flight: taking off is the critical part

This time nothing worked out. As a long term Wright admirer who had even visited their workshop in Ohio I assumed I’d made some terrible mistake. So I looked deeply into the case and bit by bit their whole story fell apart. I reckon the Odds are about a hundred thousand to one that the famous Kittyhawk flight was total fabrication. You can follow up the investigation for yourself by clicking on:

while there is a primer on simple aerodynamics at:

while there is my novel Pterodactyl’s Blood which covers many of these matters and is discussed elsewhere on this site under ‘My Books’ Category


October 16, 2020

is a literally vital subject which seems to have been completely missed by science up until now (That makes me a little nervous, could I really be the pioneer when….. ?) Humans have a mad strategy, they are born warm blooded but naked! They should have gone extinct; instead they have become the dominant species on Earth. Could their weird strategy actually be the secret of their success? Here I argue that it could, and that Thermodynamics dominates every aspect of our lives, our history and our evolution. In the tropics an individual has a thermodynamic efficiency of about 1 percent and must somehow survive with an average useful power of only one Watt, less than a very dim torch ! That same individual in Northern Europe would have 3 Watts and in Greenland 11. If that is true then Human Thermodynamics must dominate every aspect of our lives.

If you find that idea intriguing, or would like to argue with it, you might like to look at a shortish essay on the whole fascinating subject, including its implications for history, for us as a species, and as individuals. If so click on:


September 29, 2020

How we could save the world with recyclable oil

This is the story of Griff Boatwright, a ‘mad’ scientist who discovered how to make ‘Recyclable Oil’, but was apparently killed in a plane-crash shortly before his magic discovery could be exploited to save the Earth from global warming. His friend Mike determines to find out what happened in the hope that others can re-discover the transformative substance before it is too late. He unearths the unlikely journey of Griff’s path towards his discovery, which takes in the mystery of tiny warblers that can fly the Atlantic, of marine iguanas, sun-loving creatures that thrive in frozen seas, and of giant pterosaurs that were, according to the laws of aerodynamics, far too massive to fly and yet, so evidently, did. This is a story of love too, of two close friends who fell for one remarkable woman , who loved both of them back, and of one man who fell in love with both a mother and her daughter, and made a fatal choice. What happened to Griff and why did did he depart this Earth before he could rescue it? Naomi believes God was somehow involved. Salome is sure he is still alive; somewhere. Mike follows the scent from a mid-Atlantic storm, to the Arabian mountains, from British Columbia to Queensland, from Tasmania’s Bay of Fires to the coast of Pembrokeshire and finally to Skomer Island. If Mike can resurrect Griff’s lost discovery humans could generate all the energy they will ever need , without harming a single ecosystem on the planet. But it all depends on Pterodactyls’ blood! The author is a Space scientist with a life-long fascination for bird-flight. The revelation of a tiny warbler landing on his ship in mid-ocean set him off wondering just how birds accomplish such apparently miraculous feats. That led him to become a soaring pilot himself and to the long-standing puzzle of how giant pterosaurs, weighing 20 times as much as any bird capable of flight today, could dominate the Earth a hundred Million years ago, before they were wiped out by a meteorite. He believes that if we can rediscover their secret , we too could make Recyclable Oil.

Wandering Albatross flying over rough sea, Southern Atlantic Ocean . I have watched such marvellous creatures with their 12 foot wingspan circling our ship for hours without a single wingbeat. Griff and Naomi spent their honeymoon studying them. We know they sometimes fly 5,000 kilometres in between feeding their chicks. They are being wiped out by long line fishermen. Mike Hill/ getty.images.

The paperback was published on Amazon in 2020 at £12.99 qnd the e-book version in August 20 21 at £3.99.

There are several posts on bird-flight, aerodynamics and pterosaurs on this site under the Category ‘Flight’. Do you know there are birds which can fly from Alaska to New Zealand, 11,000 miles, in a single hop? And we think we’re Lords of the Earth.