Ornithopter Dune Encyclopedia Article

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Ornithopter Dune Encyclopedia Article

Postby Kensai » 09 Jul 2010 12:23

I read the article about ornithopter for the first time in the Dune Encyclopedia today. A very inventive take on the workings and origins of the ornithopter but not what I imagined when reading Dune. What gets me is, if the ornithopter is really an organic clam controlled using electrodes and stuff, dosen't that violate the strictures of the Jihad? I would expect this from the Tlielaxu, but the rest of the Imperium? Or does the coupleing of organic and machine only apply to sentients? Still a maschine controlling organics (even if there is a human at the controls)? I realise the Dune Encyclopedia isn't exactly cannon, but still anyone else find it a bit weird?

Here is the article:

The basic method of airborne
travel in the Imperium. The common
ornithopter was a very late
development in the history of
atmospheric flight. The first
ornithopters — that is, vehicles that fly
like birds rather than powered gliders
or helicopters — were built by a team
of scientists being held as political
prisoners (as a result of the abortive
Thinkers' Rebellion of 7600 B.G.) by
Emperor Neweh in 7585 B.G. Their
head was Jehane Golitle, who was
placed in charge of an understaffed,
underfunded, and discouraged team of
scientists, and told to earn her team's
continued well-being by inventing
useful devices which would make a
profit for the emperor.
The group discovered many
previously unsuspected uses for already
existing artifacts, and they scoured
Imperial Scientific Archives in a
desperate search for inventions which
had been discarded as unfit for a
computerized society, but which might
be made economically feasible if one
was clever enough. One of the group's
most fruitful rediscoveries was the
"Heart Scallop" (Perpetuus
opercularis) of the Forannis Triad. The
Heart Scallop, so named because of its
continual, regular, and powerful
muscular contraction-expansion cycle,
was a land mollusk, a soft-shelled
bivalve which grew to weight upwards
of three hundred pounds, noted for the
astounding strength of its single
muscle. The Heart Scallop begins its
life cycle as an airborne polyp,
anchoring itself to a likely cliff-face or
large tree after a short adolescence in
the planet's jet stream. After anchoring,
the animal survives by pumping vast
amounts of air through its alimentary
canal, straining micro-organisms from
the air for sustenance. Aside from its
size, the Heart Scallop had been seen as
nothing extraordinary, except by some
of the slaves on the Forannis Triad.
Golitle discovered that the slaves used
the scallops to aid in their work: they
would carefully trim the shell of a large
scallop, and, by connecting it to a
series of levers and rods, transform the
Heart Scallop's continual bellows
action into usable power.
Golitle had been looking for
some method of constructing a flying
machine that could combine the
versatility of a bird with the size of an
artificial aircraft, and she discovered
the secret she sought in the Heart
Scallop. She petitioned the emperor to
allow the entire group to travel to the
Forannis Triad: the petition received
rapid approval. Golitle removed her
entire research facility to the triad and
began intensive experimentation,
culminating in 7580 with the test flight
of the first true ornithopter.
The basic element of the
common ornithopter is the installation
at the wing-junctures of a
domesticated, specially-bred Heart
Scallop which is connected to a series
of electrical leads. The electrical
currents have two purposes: one line is
used to shock the bivalve into
dormancy when the pilot of the
ornithopter wishes to utilize fixed-wing
flight (normally jet-assisted). When the
power is disconnected, the Heart
Scallop immediately resumes pulsing,
thus providing the ornithopter with a
certain amount of fail-safe capacity.
The other line in the electrical system
is connected to the mollusk's nerve
centers, and, when engaged, causes the
Heart Scallop to increase its pulsation
rate by an amount which Varies with
the intensity of the current. This second
line is seldom used except when the
pilot wishes to brake rapidly or wishes
to take off from a constricted site.
The efficiency of the
ornithopter's "engine" is difficult to
surpass. The scallops need very little
maintenance. They must be
periodically retrimmed to prevent them
from growing beyond the constraints of
their installation pods, but the
connections between the mollusk and
the aircraft assembly are remarkably
durable, since the animal treats the
wing and body of the ornithopter as if
those structures were its own shell. The
scallops need no fuel, since they strain
the air they fly through (though good
maintenance procedure mandates
allowing the creatures to continue to
function even when the ornithopter is
not in use — a point which occurred
late to ornithopter manufacturers who
did not use detachable wings on the
earlier models). The major repair and
maintenance problems associated with
ornithopters are the wing gears and
joints, which are complicated ball-andsocket
connections, and structural
problems arising from the switchover
from bird-like flight, which requires
flexible wings for optimum
performance, to fixed-wing flight,
which requires rigid structures.
Ornithopters faced considerable
resistance when first introduced, since
the piloting of one was quite different
from the flying of fixed-wing craft. The
Imperial Pilots Guild refused to admit
members on the basis of ornithopter
flight-time until 7520 B.G. and many
systems refused to permit ornithopters
to be used as anything but sport or
commuter vehicles. One of the earliest
sport ornithopterists was I.V.
Holtzman, who was seriously injured in
a crash of an early model. Emperor
Neweh, distressed with the slow
acceptance of the ornithopter, directed
the scientists who developed it to cease
further development work on the
device, and instead to concentrate on a
unified astrological theory that could
be used to detect plots against his life
among his courtiers.
Although slow in coming,
acceptance of ornithopters eventually
arrived, and by 7000 B.G., they were
the favored mode of airborne
transports. The Butlerian Jihad, with its
proscription of complicated machinery,
advanced the simple, effective
ornithopter to almost sole possession of
planetary skies.
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Re: Ornithopter Dune Encyclopedia Article

Postby Freakzilla » 09 Jul 2010 19:57

Why do you think this is a violation of the Butlerian Jihad? The proscription was against creating machines in the image of the human mind, not coupling machines with the organic.

BTW, I think that article is silly. Ornithopters deserved a much better treatment.
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Re: Ornithopter Dune Encyclopedia Article

Postby Omphalos » 13 Apr 2016 12:10

For all the seriousness of the pre-prequel Dune books I have always thought that the ornithopter article in the DE stood out as absolutely absurd and silly. It's just so far out in left field you have to chuckle, then read it again and chuckle some more. I wonder what McNelly thought when he read the first draft? Probably 'Oh, I gotta include this. Frank's gonna love it."

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Re: Ornithopter Dune Encyclopedia Article

Postby georgiedenbro » 13 Apr 2016 12:52

Yeah...I always thought of ornithopters as being more like 'moths' as seen in the Lexx. Basically insect-like flying devices, although not living beings like in the Lexx.

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Re: Ornithopter Dune Encyclopedia Article

Postby distrans » 13 Jan 2018 23:19

havnt seen that book in 30 years but as I recall the picture that went with this entry was crap as well...
Last edited by distrans on 29 Jan 2018 10:23, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Ornithopter Dune Encyclopedia Article

Postby pcqypcqy » 15 Jan 2018 21:49

Emperor's concerned about petty profits/schemes, outrageous coupling of man and machine.....

it sounds like the hacks wrote it.

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