A very many years ago at STS Game Night, whilst playing Trivial Pursuit, the question asked was, “What is the only mammal besides bats that can fly?” We’re taught only bats can fly because they propel themselves by flapping their wings, and mammals like a flying squirrel merely glide.
The question was mine to answer and I conceded to, “Weird question, no idea, here’s the die, let’s move on.”
A human doesn’t flap its arms and achieve flight. Push enough friends off the Huntington Beach Pier (friends who aren’t the most graceful or successful swimmers) and you learn this. A human can ride in a plane, and a plane is propelled with a mechanism producing thrust, and this thrust allows the plane to take flight, and this human is now considered “a mammal that can fly.”
So my response was, “As soon as you put a dog or a hamster or a giraffe or a wallaby or a manatee in a plane, and the plane is propelled with a mechanism producing thrust, and the plane lifts off into flight, these are now ‘mammals that can fly’ by your standard. So there are many mammals that can fly other than bats. Shall we play Semantics Pursuit?”
Dan didn’t get any wedges that evening.
Reprinted with kind permission from Steve’s Thoughtcrimes.