The house at Bag End

“Folks, we’re next in line for takeoff, so please fasten your seatbelts.”

Ever heard of the American government’s supersecret TR-3B mass-lightening flying machine? Neither had I, but UFO aficionados worldwide claim that spooks have long been developing this immense, triangular craft, and many fevered web sites list citizen sightings, accompanied by appropriately grainy photos. According to an analysis by the Mutual UFO Network, the TR-3B is powered by a “plasma filled accelerator ring” that is pressurized at 250,000 atmospheres, then accelerated to 50,000 rpm to create a “magnetic vortex field” that reduces the craft’s mass by 89 percent, by dint of its massively helical movement.

Ahem. Whatever one thinks of that, uh, explanation, you can personally discover what it would be like to pilot a TR-3B — by trying out the latest flight simulation of it! Created by the programmer George Philip Birney, it’s a module that loads into Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002, and the epic size of the craft is indicated by that picture above. I blogged about this sim in the summer of 2003, but Birney has since updated the TR-3B to include 130 working gauges and a flight-management computer. Apparently, 10,000 people have downloaded this thing, and as Birney writes:

One reported a flight time of 66 minutes from Amsterdam in The Netherlands to Houston in Texas. The real TR-3B would take only 33 minutes. Unfortunately, Microsoft Flight Simulator FS2002 limits max cruise speed to Mach 4.7. Only hi-alt spins can go beyond Mach 6, but won’t bring you anywhere but in an uncontrolled spin ;-)

To instal it, he notes, you need Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002, a processor at least as fast as 1 Ghz, 512 megs of RAM, and “Patience & willingness to learn flying a UFO”. You can download the sim here.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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