Many of those who grew up with 1960s pop culture have long complained about the technological promises that weren’t kept. In particular, the jet pack. Whole books have been written on the subject. Now a 16th century manuscript that has been gaining some attention seems to be indicating that the idea of jet packs might go further back than previously thought. Much, much further. From The Guardian:
You're a 16th century German prince plotting to crush a peasant rebellion, or perhaps you're leading an army against the Ottoman Empire or settling a score with a rival nobleman. What's a guy looking for a tactical edge to do?
The answer, of course, is rocket cats.
Fanciful illustrations from a circa-1530 manual on artillery and siege warfare seem to show jetpacks strapped to the backs of cats and doves, with the German text helpfully advising military commanders to use them to "set fire to a castle or city which you can't get at otherwise".But, of course, things are often not quite what they seem and Australian researcher, Mitch Fraas, gave himself the task of discovering what was true in the illustrations. After an initial struggle, Fraas feels he’s uncovered the answer:
According to Fraas's translation, Helm explained how animals could be used to deliver incendiary devices: "Create a small sack like a fire-arrow. If you would like to get at a town or castle, seek to obtain a cat from that place. And bind the sack to the back of the cat, ignite it, let it glow well and thereafter let the cat go, so it runs to the nearest castle or town, and out of fear it thinks to hide itself where it ends up in barn hay or straw it will be ignited."
In other words, capture a cat from enemy territory, attach a bomb to its back, light the fuse, then hope it runs back home and starts a raging fire.
Fraas said he could find no evidence that cats and birds were used in early modern warfare in the way prescribed by Helm.
"Sort of a harebrained scheme," he said. "It seems like a really terrible idea, and very unlikely the animals would run back to where they came from. More likely they'd set your own camp on fire."So much for weaponized cats. And, the last time we looked, we still didn’t have our jet packs, either.