An Astrophysicist Explains Our Flying Car Problem

In a new essay at the New York Times, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester asks the retro-futurist's most daunting question: Where's my flying car?

Or, as Adam Frank's piece is titled, "I Was Promised Flying Cars."

As an astronomy-obsessed kid in the 1970s, I subsisted on a steady diet of science fiction. It promised a future filled with technological wonders: talking computers, bionic limbs, flying cars. Forty years later, though much of that future has arrived, it's still missing what I consider its most important ingredient. Sure, we've got the iPhone's Siri, and the Food and Drug Administration just approved a prosthetic arm controlled by signals from the brain — but where are our smooth-gliding flying machines, our Landspeeders ("Star Wars") and airborne DeLoreans ("Back to the Future")?

You can read his entire essay about why he thinks we don't have flying cars at the New York Times. The short version: Frank argues that we don't understand gravity well enough.


Image: Paul Moller in his Skycar circa 1999 via Getty Images