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Nothing can beat the flying experience, and what could be better than taking off on a carpet. Using 21st to mid 22nd century C.E. science and tech how can we make carpet that fly people across the seven seas?

Conditions are boring but here they are anyway:

  • width and length not exceeding 2m and average thickness within 50mm.

  • unladen weight not exceeding 100kg.

  • must lift at least 1 average adult dead or alive weighting 75kg and circumnavigate the diameter of Earth in eighty days.

  • ignore all safety aspects.

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    $\begingroup$ You want to "circumnavigate the diameter of Earth in eighty days." That is a distance 12,742 km, & its speed over eighty days turns out to be 6.64 km/hr. Nice & leisurely. Perhaps you mean circumnavigate the equator of Earth in eighty days, a distance of 40,075 km. This yields the breathtakingly faster speed of 20.87 km/hr. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Oct 25, 2016 at 12:00
  • $\begingroup$ Partially related: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/48905/… $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Oct 25, 2016 at 13:08
  • $\begingroup$ ix nay on this one. I'm not sure there could be any technology that could accomplish that even a thousand years out. $\endgroup$
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 25, 2016 at 13:37
  • $\begingroup$ The hoverboards in Scott Westerfield's Uglies series are somewhat similar, but probably thicker. They rely on magnetic repulsion from underground sources. $\endgroup$
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 25, 2016 at 16:54

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The main problem is the lack of fuel, reaction mass, or in fact aerodynamics.

You would need either power being sent to it or very efficient power storage. That power would use some currently completely unknown form of propulsion, for example manipulating gravity.

If you have anti-gravity that can be made thin enough and sufficiently dense energy storage to pack the power for the anti-gravity into then you could certainly make the carpet fly. It would be unstable so you'd also need a lot of computers to interpret the gestures of the people riding on the carpet and make it respond accordingly and sensors to monitor the surrounding area.

The main thing though is anti gravity, not only do we not know how to do it. We don't even know how to start looking for a way to do it. You would need a major physics breakthrough before anything like that is even slightly possible.

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  • $\begingroup$ Err ... before discussing fuel or aerodynamics, you would want to address the issue of integrating the flight machinery in something as thin as a carpet. That's the biggest hurdle which am unable to come over, otherwise I might have posted an answer to the question. $\endgroup$ Oct 25, 2016 at 11:20
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    $\begingroup$ There is no way. We have no theoretical model for anti gravity. If it's possible to spin it out as a thin cloth and then lift using it then it fits inside a carpet. Since it's an entirely imaginary technology then you can give it whatever characteristics you need. There are no current technologies that would allow this, fuel and aerodynamics being a large part of the reason why but as you say just fitting the engines into the available space is basically impossible, however even if you could fit the engines in you have no way to fuel them. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Oct 25, 2016 at 11:23
  • $\begingroup$ Also, +rep for the clarification. $\endgroup$ Oct 25, 2016 at 11:37
  • $\begingroup$ Gravity manipulation would require you to produce escape energy for every object in the universe. This is definitely not an energy-efficient solution. $\endgroup$
    – Devsman
    Oct 25, 2016 at 15:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Devsman Not at all. Hovering with anti-gravity requires no energy at all since all you're doing is maintaining constant potential energy. Dropping would gain you energy and rising you would need to add energy to generate the potential energy. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Oct 25, 2016 at 15:57
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Please don't take it as an offence, but actually by dragging a carpet you can achieve it.

Yes, I know the question was suggesting that the carpet itself bears the functional parts, but hey, kitesurfing works the same way, and noone shouts from the shore in denial, requesting that the board should fly on its own, without the kite itself. Or take Glider planes. I can imagine with up-to-date technology to create glider planes out of transparent plastics, put a rug in there, and have functional controls. Yes, it is far from common ones...but possible.

So there you go, carpet in the air, full view, mannable, needs a flying device to drag it, and may even land on its own.

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  • $\begingroup$ No worry I should be amazed instead that's thinking out of the box. $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Oct 25, 2016 at 13:20
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We could do it right now if we do a couple things to help the carpet out.

Weave thin wires that can be made electromagnetic through the entire carpet. Cover the top surface with a flexible PV sheet that will generate some electricity. Give the rider a backpack with a lightweight gasoline engine that will provide more electricity. Use a series of small batteries through the entire structure of the carpet.

We would have to give it something to push off against, which means something like a monorail track. Given the limits of current technology, this would restrict the carpet to places with a prepared surface designed for it to ride on. If we are going through that much trouble, we might put the electromagnets and power in the surface and just make the carpet something that will be lifted and moved by the electromagnets. Once again, it can be made flexible and woven into a carpet body without too much trouble.

One note: you will have to include a few flexible spars inside the carpet body to help support the rider. If you want to get fancy, maybe we can go with a myomer type material that would stiffen with an electric current and become "limp" without one, thus allowing us to roll up the carpet when we get where we are going.

As far as making the carpet able to fly on it's own not on a prepared track, that is more science fiction. You would have to do the kinds of things with gravity that we currently do with magnetic fields, and if we could do that, we would have flying cars and a moon city by now.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice answer, a maglev rail of some sort is probably the closest we can come to this with current tech. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Oct 25, 2016 at 15:58
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Welcome, dear buyer, to your new CARPENTA MHD flying carpet !

As you are well aware, your flying carpet consists of a mesh of shape-memory alloy, allowing the automatic folding and unfolding of your new carpet and enough stability for flying with high speeds. This mesh has been covered by cotton from ecological sources by experienced carpet weavers.

enter image description here

Your carpet has hidden slots for the internal 3-Hydrogen fusion drive. The SMA-mesh has microtubes which contain the magnetohydronamic drive which accelerates the diamagnetic oxygen in the air to considerable speed, so before starting, be sure that no person or animal will be under the carpet. Pay attention to the maximum velocity and weight conditions.

CAUTION: Be aware that you operate your carpet in the assigned height zone to avoid collisions with the DeLorean flying cars. Do not approach

  • thunderstorm clouds
  • the open ocean
  • mountain ranges
  • power lines.
  • etc. etc.
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Depends on how "soft" you are making the sci-fi.

The bottom of the carpet is lined with (as yet undiscovered in real life) particles which repel each other almost like quantum springs when exposed to... I don't know, oxygen? Before the flight, the carpet needs to be placed into an extremely powerful compressor which squeezes them together and stores up the energy. Then the repulsive action causes thousands of individual little "jumps" between the particles, which forces the carpet to rise from the ground.

Here's the hard part: Control. Using a complex system of threads weaved within the carpet, the shape underneath can be changed, making subtle little bends and folds which can increase and reduce the repulsive force in different sections by activating more or less of the particles. In the hands of someone of great skill, this technique can actually be used to direct and steer different parts of the carpet.

Now, about flying throughout the "Seven Seas" (i.e. the entire world), it could be that a number of linings of the stuff would be needed, so pilot might need to have a way of removing a layer of it, mid flight.

You'd also have to have a special airtight cover to land on, so that when you got off, the carpet didn't fly off uncontrolled.

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A carpet on top of handwavium powered anti-grav force field sled. Handwavium power generator is on top of the carpet, along with portable AI that flies the thing (voiced controlled). For propulsion you can use conventional turbofan jet engines, albeit small, quiet and underpowered (you only need ~20km/h as others have pointed out).

To make things more interesting, limit the flight height to a couple of hundred meters.

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