We steampunks love our airships. Not because they’re particularly efficient or fearsome flying machines, but because they provide the most amusement per pound than any other vehicle.
There is a body of science that describes the performance of airships—much of which is blithely ignored or at least subverted in steampunk stories and artwork. My stories—the Airship Flamel Adventures—feature an airship whose characteristics have at best a tenuous relationship with actual Airship Science. So I know whereof I speak. However, I recently discovered a novel airship technology that seems completely impractical (and being more impractical than a standard airship is quite an accomplishment) yet which contains just enough real science to keep things interesting.
Airships, including hot air balloons, work because they have a large volume filled with a gas that is less dense than air. The gas weighs less than air, so it wants to float. If you add in the weight of the rest of the airship (such as the gondola and the cells containing the lifting gas) and the ship still floats, then you’re in business! You’ve got an airship that will fly. (If not, however, your airship sits obstinately on the ground.)Continue reading