That’s an ornithopter. An ornithopter is an aircraft that flies by flapping its wings like a bird. This one’s human-powered, which is very unusual. When men first started to sniff around flying machines, many naturally looked to nature to design the apparatus to get off the ground. You’ve all seen black and white FAIL video of the ill-starred crosses between the Red Baron and Icarus flapping their wood and canvas wings until the engine shook them to pieces or the ground put an exclamation point on how hard it is to fly.
Human-powered flight is deuced difficult. Most attempts at it aren’t ornithopters; they’re just lightweight bicycles with big wings and a driver with big legs. They don’t get very far. The dirty secret of all this stuff is that human powered anything is woefully inefficient. A human being consumes a lot of energy to produce very little power. Nature has no opinion about whether you shovel coals into a furnace or hams into your face. Energy costs, big, and a human is a lousy dray horse.
But humans have minds. They invented all the stuff that made it possible for that feeble carcass, which is probably less feeble than most, to fly like a bird for a minute. Human beings are wonderful. We do what we put our minds to, eventually, generally. Shame we devote 90 percent of our mental horsepower to judging karaoke contests on teevee.
(Thanks to everyone’s favorite bird-brain in Seattle, Van der Leun, for sending that one along)