Something’s in the air.
Should the reader entertain the theory that books showily printed on calendered paper, with abundant illustrations, more or less splurgy, are not particularly apt to prove attractive reading, we cannot say that Travels in Space will tend to convince him he has been wrong; albeit the nature of its subject renders it readable. It would be unreasonable to expect it to present the strange experiences of ballooning with all that life and reality that Mr. Bacon’s By Land and Sky did, last year, because that was a masterpiece. A glance at the volume will inform him that it is not a work of research, like Mr. Chanute’s Progress in Flying-Machines, from which, by the way, it copies extensively, almost verbatim, without acknowledgment, and to which it is vastly inferior in all respects in which the two works come into comparison, excepting in a very few details. It is later in date by more than eight years, and its scope is wider. The field still remains open, however, for a really workmanlike history of aeronautics.
The building of an airship is as much more difficult than the building of a steamer, like the Kaiser Willtetni II, as the latter is than the throwing of a trussed suspension-bridge across the North River. Consequently, Mr. Walker has judged a duodecimo of a hundred and fifty pages to be the proper sort of volume in which to convey the airship-building art. For, once problems reach a certain pitch of difficulty, and the more profound they are, the less is the knowledge generally thought requisite for attacking them. The first chapter of Mr. Walker’s “practical” book is entitled The Laws of Flight. The only statement of a law which it contains as the following:
When a moving body is directly opposed by a vis mortua, such as a pressure or resistance like that of gravity, the measure of such vis mortua required to neutralize the force [of the moving body] and bring the moving body to rest must form the basis of the measurement of the force.
Thus, the persons who Mr. Walker assumes are to undertake the construction of airships, and for whose encouragement, he has provided his handbook, are supposed to be in need of this information, while further dynamical science, he would appear to presume, is quite beyond their comprehension. Later in the book, it appears that they are persons who need to be told what a sine and cosine are. What Mr. Walker fails to tall them, but, on the contrary, implicitly denies, is that, with such an outfit, they will make great fools of themselves if they undertake the building of an airship.