Paper Airplanes: Cool or Lame?

Topic started by AURON570 on March 29, 2012. Last post by colorbrandon 2 years, 12 months ago.
Post by AURON570 (573 posts) See mini bio Level 15

NOTE: This is an extremely informal, reflective, rambling blog post. I felt the need to write something about it to get it off my mind. This has not been proofread.

Are paper airplanes just for kids? What makes a 'good' paper airplane? Is it that it stays in the air for a long time and travels long distances? But surely there are paper airplanes that loop and twirl and can do tricks in the air, aren't those just as good as those that travel long distances? And why do so many people stop making them or think they're silly?

Well maybe one reason is that it can get repetitive. You make a paper airplane, you throw it and if you throw it right and there's enough space for it to travel, and the wind isn't being annoying, then you see your creation set off into the air. But inevitably the plane will, thanks to the force of gravity, eventually fall to the ground. This sort of repetition gets old for most people. And as humans we generally always try to seek out new things to stimulate us and keep us motivated, so it's natural for a person to get bored of something that leads to the same or similar results each time.

This guys certainly does not think paper airplanes are just for kids.

After watching this interview that Norm and Will did with John Collins, I was inspired to try making and flying some of the planes he demonstrated on his website. So I folded two, and tried them first in my small room, it didn't go well, it looked like they were turning and trying to do stuff, but they also fell to the ground before hitting the walls, so I was a bit worried. But I was determined to try them outside. So I went out into my residence's courtyard area and tried them. They failed. Maybe it was the wind, maybe it was the way I folded them, or maybe I wasn't throwing them properly, but it didn't seem like they were flying in any particular way. Sure, they were doing turns and stuff, but it looked pretty random, and many throw attempts just ended in relatively quick nosedives or a flip then a nosedive.

I became aware that people from their rooms and people passing through the courtyard noticing me. No one really stopped or asked, but some people laughed. I didn't really care, but it made me reflect a bit more about what I was doing, and the nature of paper airplanes in general.

It's interesting because the same physics that goes into making a real airplane can go into making these paper airplanes. John Collins certainly took this seriously and judging by the way he speaks and presents his work, it looks like he's having a great time doing it too. Needless to say, from my failed attempts at making and flying these paper airplanes, I was discouraged.

At some point I thought, "You know maybe this is how they're supposed to fly, and I'm supposed to enjoy the weird flight arcs that these planes would take." But it wasn't really that fun in the end. But why not? Why aren't paper airplanes fun?

Well, part of what I said before. People just stop making them because they get used to just creating the same paper airplanes and seeing the same flights over and over again. Creativity really goes a long way in making things interesting, having motivation and getting work done. Repetition and habit can be a deadener sometimes. Maybe we just need to try new things.

But even then, even if we create new and interesting planes that have new flight arcs and can do tricks and travel farther distances and heights, there's still the fate of the plane to always land. Paper airplanes will always come to the ground again, and then we pick them back up again, and repeat.

The same really could be said of real airplanes, they go up and come back down. Maybe real airplanes are more important than their paper counterpart because the real airplanes have the function of transporting people on them... People usually just play with paper airplanes for fun, but why?

I'm not really sure, the more I stood outside trying to get these planes to fly in cool ways, the more I got the sense of futility. So I thought (like I usually do) okay maybe it's just my expectations, that I'm expecting too much of these paper airplanes.

But then I remembered one thing that I used to tell myself, that I want to believe so badly still, that any activity is better if you're doing it with friends. So my feelings of disappointment and frustration abruptly turned into sadness.

These paper airplanes don't really 'fly', well, they pass through the air, and come back down, but really they're just floating through the air, or riding the air waves I guess. We often use the metaphor of flight to describe various events in a person's life. For example, 'taking off' means to succeed in new areas, 'doing a nose dive' means to take a turn for the worse, 'flying high'. But inevitably the airplane (paper or real) is going to have to touch down to the ground and refuel, then go back up into the air to fly. Sort of like how humans need to refuel and rest at the end of every day. Maybe this is another reason why I got the sense of futility from trying to fly these things.

It was a nice experiment. Often we hear the importance of going out and doing things, experiencing things first hand. The experiences and thoughts I had while doing this made me feel a little turbulent, aimless, unsure, sad, and stimulated in a weird way. I feel sort of burnt out, that inspiration I had after watching the Tested interview is mostly gone now, and paper airplanes have sort of gone back to the back of my head (well not really, since I'm still writing this blog, haha).

Like most rambling blogs, I could probably ramble on forever and write whatever comes to mind, but I'm going to decide to cut it here because I need to go out to eat dinner, because I didn't defrost anything, because I was too busy failing at flying paper airplanes (and writing my thoughts down).

So, do you think paper airplanes are cool? What's so cool about flying and being high in the air anyway?

Post by Sonata (36,368 posts) See mini bio Level 20
I liked Paper airplanes when I was younger. 
I guess this  song could explain it or not. It just comes to my mind while I'm in this thread. 
Post by Asune (1,191 posts) See mini bio Level 12

Origami is good and funny, also considered an art, I love to do it sometimes, my favourite is the frog xD

Post by sickVisionz (4,332 posts) See mini bio Level 24

Paper airplanes just are for me. They are neither cool nor lame.

Post by colorbrandon (30 posts) See mini bio Level 12

Interesting interview.

I used to fold airplanes with my grandfather, but at that time I had no idea what would sustain flight or change weight balance. It's weird how I look at things differently now, like how any imperfections in folding will lead to torque about the length-wise axis.

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