Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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The ultimate flying machine

No fans, no combustion, no balloon - ultimate flying machine.
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The structure looks like a chair tied to a relatively big umbrella. Place some americium-241 at the top of the umbrella. For those who don't know americium-241, It is a radioactive element that emits alpha particles. These alpha particle has a tendency to knock an electron off of the atoms around it. This makes the air molecules around it to be positively charged. (You can find them in your smoke detector). Now create a spiraling negative charge so these positive air molecules are pulled in high speed taking a spiral path on the top of the umbrella . This creates low pressure at the top of the umbrella and you got yourself a lift off. Maybe a small fan for the navigation.
my2cents, May 02 2002

How Smoke Detectors Work http://www.howstuffworks.com/smoke2.htm
Link for [my2cents] [phoenix, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

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       // Now create a spiraling negative charge //   

       How?
globaltourniquet, May 02 2002
  

       Thats the part not baked yet. For starters something similar to rotating magnetic field.
my2cents, May 02 2002
  

       An electric RamJet? I imagine it would take a fair amount of positive particles (and therefore a fair amount of radioactive substance) to create sufficient lift. (Air molecules per pound of thrust anyone?)   

       Don't forget the weight of the mechanism generating the negative particles and it's fuel source. And don't crash the thing.
phoenix, May 02 2002
  

       This is indeed one of the three common fire detection technologies out there. The other two are LED laser reflection of scattered particles, and simple heat. My engineering internship was at a smoke alarm manufacturer back in '96.   

       I like the originality of the idea, even if it might not be practical in terms of the radioactivity and force requirements.
RayfordSteele, May 02 2002
  

       Could you not just have a hot-air balloon with radioactive heater rather than the traditional burner?
pottedstu, May 03 2002
  

       Despite your engineering background [RayfordSteele] I'm betting that you couldn't get the craft off the ground using LEDs, either.
bristolz, May 03 2002
  

       Probably not, but I could make it look like it's going really fast.
RayfordSteele, May 03 2002
  

       Downwards?
lubbit, May 03 2002
  

       i haven't seen any flying smoke detectors yet. also you'd need so much Am-241 that being near the thing would be hazardous.
venomx, Nov 07 2002
  
      
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