Sunday, 2 August 2015

Explaining the Fascination with Classic Mythology...

Published: May 4 2007 on Helium

Many of us harbour a secret fascination for classic mythology. Is it because we love magical worlds? Perhaps, in particular, the fact some myths have travelled through time may be the fascination. Perhaps, by exploring my experience with a group of high school students, the key may be found.

Imagine a high school class of boys, of mixed ability and aged about 14.
Imagine they have selected an elective called "Myths and Legends", by choice and not compulsion. There are enough students to fill in class.

I have almost completed teaching a semester of classic mythology to just such a class.
And they are still fascinated, still asking questions, still offering a surprising depth of relevant knowledge and still working steadily on research topics. To flatter my ego further, they are never late to this class.

To begin, I will mention some of the favoured topics.
1. They LOVE the gods classic Greek or Roman or Egyptian. They are willing to explore Scandinavian and Pacific island gods, but the names tend to be a hurdle.
2. They LOVE the heroes especially Hercules.
3. They LOVE the monsters especially dragons.
4. They LOVE the adventures of Odysseus and love the weird and wonderful characters met along the way.
5. They LOVE debating the mystery of Atlantis.
6. They LOVE comparing classic creation myths.

In this age of X-box gods', sporting heroes and all manner of internet adventures, it seems society is not offering "something" to the next generation. There seems to be some "missing link" that Classic Mythology fulfils.

At first, the answer may simply be "fantasy". For teenagers, there is little room to roam free in some fantasy world, except if the world be a Harry Potter one. Yet, after several lessons on Atlantis, I felt the answer was a little more complex. The boys seemed to enjoy a sense of "border-line" reality; a melting pot of fantasy and reality. In fact, this is not just the world of mythology, but rather the world of legend, where there COULD be some base of fact or possibility or oblique reference to reality.

One particular HOT topic was the story of Jason and the Argonauts and the search for the Golden Fleece. The boys enjoyed the story, but the real fascination was the possible answer to the question "What could the "golden fleece" really be?" Was it gold? Was it fields of golden wheat? Was grain in short supply?

It would seem, the realms of classic mythology gave the boys a sense of personal challenge. They could freely, without rules and regulations, explore the fantasy-reality connection. This world is outside the norms of 21st century society and yet, there are "reflections". Zeus was not just a god, but a very human ego tripper. Hercules was not just a hero, but, without a gym work-out, managed to face amazing challenges. "I wish I was like" or "I wish I could" are frequent comments. The boys love it all!

And so, the fascination with classic mythology seems to be the fantasy world that may have been, that could be, that should be? Perhaps the fact it connects with the elusive worlds of ancient history is the attraction. Perhaps, this is the "escape" that fascinates adults too.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

graffiti... the struggling art...

Published: August 5 2001 on Helium

Graffiti is a struggling, public art. It is an art form struggling for respect. The internet bristles with graffiti examples on walls, trains and buses. It also bristles with a large number of websites advertising companies with the expertise to remove graffiti effectively. There is little detail of the origins of graffiti. Some claim examples from ancient Egypt, Pompeii, Rome and the Mayan civilization. But, in the ancient worlds, it is difficult to identify "commissioned", legal murals from personal spontaneity and daring.

Graffiti is commonly based on "chunky" outlined words. The words are usually short and represent some abstract thought such as LOVE or WAR! Basic graffiti may be little more than a bold word, perhaps daubed in bright colour. The more insidious forms are called "tags" representing the sign of a particular type of person, group or gang. It is these tags that cause upset in the community. Many seem little more than pointless vandalism of property. It is these tags that vandalise public transport in particular, requiring specialized, costly chemical concoctions to remove them. Many young people favour tagging as an expression of challenging the law. For, in many countries, it is illegal to practise this.

However, while tagging may bring down graffiti as an art form, there are other types of graffiti that are quite intriguing. In Sheffield, a country town in Tasmania, there are a host of graffiti type murals on shop walls. The town has become known as a tourist attraction. It is "the town of murals". These murals represent origins of businesses in the town. The old blacksmith is depicted on the brick shop wall. And the effect is magical. The colour, the size of the murals add to the charm of the township; a wonderful sight on grey, winter days.

But Sydney, in N.S.W., has perhaps one of the more incredible stories of respectable graffiti. Arthur Stace, a barely literate man, born in 1887, would spend the early hours of the day walking the streets of Sydney. In white chalk, he would etch the word ETERNITY on the footpaths. For some time, no one knew who was doing this. But his word was well known. His beautiful, scrolling script was easily identifiable. For 37 years, he chalked his sermon in a single word. Finally, 10 years after he died, Sydney recorded his art in a plaque in Sydney Square.

Graffiti will struggle as an art form while it appears to deface public property. The gaudy spray of colour, or hastily scribbled outlines of words on private fences or school walls, will always be regarded as vandalism. But commissioned work, especially murals, that may enhance the streetscape, offer a possible outlet for the street art junkie. The problem is, how do these artists advertise their skill? One website, offers a gallery of graffiti work. The gallery is a means of auditioning the work of any graffiti artist world wide. But these outlets are few. Until society provides a legal canvas for these artists, graffiti will struggle for acceptance as a respectable, valid art form.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

From Shakespeare to Joni Mitchell...

Published: October 14 2007 on Helium

In Elizabethan times, in the 15th -16th centuries, William Shakespeare was a playwright, a poet, a builder of theatres and an actor. Today, Joni Mitchell explores a range of artistic talents. Times may change, but artists through history, are not locked into one creative talent. They try it all and do it all. Shunning static labels, they re-invent their creative image. Artists crave for the element of surprise and freshness to stay noticed and desirable. Or does the art enjoy a life of its own, beyond the artist?

From the ancient halls of England, Shakespeare still stands as a multi-faceted artist. He still woos an audience with his timeless plays on human idiosyncracies and weaknesses, murder and mayhem. But he started this fascination by lifting the market value of plays out of the village to village mobile wagon. Plays were no longer just mystery, miracle and morality plays. He injected drama with humanity and gave humanity performance in a fixed structure called a theatre. The Globe theatre was his first experiment. He gave drama respectability and was himself an actor. He mused on 100 odd sonnets. There was more than one string to his bow.

Canadian Joni Mitchell, in the 20th to 21st century, never rests with her career. She writes and sings challenging folk songs, plays guitar, pens poetry and, as a dancer, is involved in creating a ballet. Further, she is a painter. Her Van Gogh inspired self-portrait appears on the 1994 album cover of "Turbulent Indigo". Joni declares,
"I have always thought of myself as a painter derailed by circumstance". June 2000.

But this hunger and public pressure to be and do many things did not evolve with Shakespeare and is not unique to Joni Mitchell today. Recorded history suggests it all began 100 years before Shakespeare with an Italian genius, Leonardo da Vinci.

Leonardo was a great Renaissance painter, a sculptor, an architect, a scientist, a paleontologist, a biologist, an engineer and an inventor. He loved mathematics. His paintings of the human form are biologically precise. His inventions such as the gyroscope, which is now our helicopter, and his diving suits were products of a visionary man. Mona Lisa's enigmatic smile from one of his greatest paintings still allures through time. Leonardo was an artiste, a luminary.

Why? Why do artists stretch beyond a particular genre or single talent? Perhaps the paintings of Spanish Pablo Picasso, in the early 20th century, may give a clue. Stages of his artistic life are traditionally divided into periods. In his "Blue Period", his paintings were suffused with blue, sombre tones. At this time, Picasso was grieving for the suicide death of his friend Casagemas. But Picasso moved on from this moment in time. His "Rose Period", of 1905-6, followed. Circus performers populated his paintings. Then his Cubist period evolved, where painting space was expressed in geometrical terms.

To keep "painting" and perfecting variations of the same theme is to achieve a rather surreal, false "still life". And life is not like that at all.

The dynamics and variations of living infiltrate art; art becomes a psychological mirror or reflection of the artist's evolving inner life. Life is only a temporary fixed point on the spectrum; so it is with art and the work of artists. Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig was once just a media cartoonist. He has evolved as a wry poet and philosophical guru of humanity's eccentricities. His cartoons are now marketed as artworks, "still, small voices" from calendars and his poetry inspired music. Whimsical, lightly satiric articles reflecting on life's paradoxes appear occasionally in "The Age" newspaper. His artistry gathers momentum, developing a life of its own beyond the creator.

Beyond Elizabethan times, traditional and contemporary interpretations of Shakespeare's plays have evolved. His plays have been staged for live theatre, but have transferred to film as well.

Michael Leunig's work has inspired all manner of souvenir products, such as mugs, T-shirts, fridge magnets, prints and teatowels emblazoned with his cartoon artistry. Many of his cartoons have become modern unique proverbs, such as "Herbal Remedy for Lifeache". For me, one particular cartoon touches the inner sanctum. Imagine a little man, centered calmly on a chair, holding a candle and a blue vase on his head, gaily sporting 3 stems of flowers. Next to the image is:
"Favorite worn and shabby domestic items
The armchair of philosophy.
The teapot of truth.
The pillow of faith.
The rug of constancy.
The vase of tranquility.
The dog of sanity."

Joni Mitchell has set a model for the future, challenging other artists to integrate music, dance and painting. One talent cultivates another; one needs the other.

Many artists do it all in their own lifetime. Some special artists breathe a life into their work that lives on, long after their time is done.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Historical Legacy of Rameses the Great...

Published: August 17 2007 on Helium

Apart from the many structures, still standing today, bearing the name of Rameses, there are a few extra "surprises" built into Rameses' amazing Egyptian legacy from the 12th century B.C. The boy king (he possibly came to the throne at 15, though some sources say 25) from a common military family, was the last great pharaoh to rule a mighty Egypt. He was Rameses the Great!

Rameses II, of the 19th Dynasty, ruled Egypt for 67 years. He was a master of strategy and propaganda; strong-willed and a visionary. He was an entrepreneur, a military leader, a man of peace, a builder of flamboyant structures and a great lover. He was brazen enough to establish a new capital for Egypt, far from the traditional aristocratic Thebes. This new capital, in the Nile Delta, was called Per Rameses meaning "House of Rameses". He even looked different from the average Egyptian; of taller build (about 5 feet 8-10 inches) topped with a mane of flaming red hair.

At first glance, looking at the many buildings bearing Rameses' name, it would seem he must have been the only great builder in the whole history of ancient Egypt. But some great temples existed before his time. Rameses simply re-invented them. He wanted his name well-stamped on Egyptian history.

An existing temple at Luxor suffered the Rameses make-over. He added a new entrance with 4 statues of himself. If this sounds audacious, Rameses managed more. In fact, almost every temple in every Egyptian town was revamped and given the Rameses "stamp". One temple dedicated to himself and one to his loved wife Nefartari are actually two mountains, side by side, converted into temples. So, is this the legacy of a self-opiniated madman or a genius?

Rameses can't take all the glory for being an inspired builder. He modeled himself on Thutmose III, the "Warrior Pharaoh" who initiated the new Egyptian Empire and Amenhotep III who first initiated the "big is beautiful" idea. Both pharaohs were of the previous 18th Dynasty. Rameses may have surpassed Amenhotep in number of temples and monuments, but he sacrificed quality. His legacy is not a representation of the best ancient Egyptian building, especially when it came to the detail of relief carvings. Admittedly, inside decoration was reported as "exquisite", a testament to Rameses' enormous wealth.

Another dimension of Rameses' legacy involves his remarkable treaty with the warring, territory hungry Hittites from Anatolia (Turkey). At first, this would seem to be the most complete ancient record in existence of a treaty between ancient peoples. But, just prior to signing this treaty, he led a campaign known as the Battle of Kadesh. It was not a glorious battle for the Egyptians. Only last minute reinforcements pushed the Hittites back. But the Rameses' records don't tell quite the same story. Some records claim Rameses defeated the Hittites single-handedly because his men took flight. He alone was in control of Hittite submission and could control the terms of the treaty. As part of the treaty, he accepted a Babylonian princess as a wife. But in truth, he lost claims of territory in Syria. The glorious victory depicted on historical records was just an incredible propaganda exercise.

Rameses' inscriptions attest to Rameses the great lover. They claim he fathered 80 sons and 60 daughters. Indeed, in his own lifetime, Rameses was ensuring he left an enduring legacy of his lifetime. (He groomed 12 heirs, but they died in Rameses' own lifetime! His succeeding son began his rule in his 60's!)

So far, evidence points to a legacy of extravagance. But there is a possible, darker side to Rameses' legacy. Many experts wonder if Rameses has connections with Biblical records. Was he the pharaoh of Egypt in the Biblical Exodus story who banished Moses and the Hebrews? If so, it is clear that Rameses must has achieved his building frenzy utilizing not just a wealth of money, but a wealth of slaves! Probably Hebrew slaves! But if Rameses was so keen on winning more territorial claim in Western Asia, as evident with the Hittite clashes, why does he not mention people in his own Egyptian kingdom who have connections there?

The legacy of Rameses the Great is a cocktail of fact and fiction; much of the fiction generated by Rameses himself. Rameses was a paradox of contradictions in his own lifetime. And experts still wonder what is the REAL legacy of Rameses the Great. Did he, in fact, spark a new wave of history of Biblical proportion? Whatever the answer to this question, one fact remains. Rameses is part of the great Egyptian era which still fires and fascinates the imagination today!


Saturday, 25 April 2015

Countries Involved in World War I...

Published: July 9 2007 on Helium

The countries involved in World War I, (1914-1918), were all there for diverse reasons. Some were there, fervently feeling a sense of nationalism, a new patriotic spirit awakening in the later years of the 19th century. Some were there defending imperialistic acquisitions or prospects. Some were there to test land and sea military strength. Some were there supporting an empire or mother country. And some were driven to war with varying degrees of all three agendas, plus, perhaps, a sense of fear.

The war was triggered by a Bosnian revolutionary's assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife on 28th June 1914. But the major players in the war used this event as a catalyst to vent long term imperialistic and political tensions. In short, many countries joined for either their own particular grievances or a sense of duty bound up in colonial ties. Only the U.S. (originally neutral) entered the war under provocation. Finally, in 1917, President Woodrow Wilson committed the U.S. to the Allies because cargo boats were consistently attacked by the Germans. Germany "needled" the U.S. into the war.

The two major, opposing powers were known as the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance.

The Triple Entente, formed in 1907, became known, in the course of the war, as the Allies. The countries initially involved were Britain, France and Russia. Britain was regarded as having the strongest naval power. France had a credible land army. The United States joined this group in 1917. The Triple Alliance, formed in 1882, became known as the Central Powers. Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy were initially involved. Germany and Italy were newly unified in the late 19th century. It seemed they wished to "test" their power on a world scale. On the outbreak of war, Turkey joined this group, while Italy crossed over to the Allies.

Other countries involved in the war joined or supported one of these two groups.

On the Allies side, Britain was supported by her far reaching empire of British territories in Africa, Atlantic Islands, Australasia and Pacific Ocean, Canada, Falkland Islands, Singapore, Cyprus, Malta, Indian empire; Indian Ocean Islands -Andaman , Cocos, Mauritius, Nicobar, Seychelles; Middle East Arabia(protectorates), Kuwait, Oman, Newfoundland; West Indies. France was supported by her smaller empire including Morocco, Algeria, New Caledonia and Guadeloupe. Italy was supported by her African colonies of Italian Somaliland, Eritrea and Tripoli. Japan joined the Allies, but only played a small role in east Asia. Belgium and Portugal, originally wanting neutrality, reluctantly joined the Allies when surrounded by warring factions. (Amazingly, Spain remained neutral throughout the war!)

On the Central Powers side, Germany was supported by her empire including Cameroon, German East Africa, South West Africa (Namibia), Togoland; Bismarck Archipelgeo, Carolina Islands, Mariana Islands, Marshal Islands, Palau Islands and Samoa Islands. Of note, the German empire was only acquired late in the 19th century, well after the main imperial players Britain and France. Colonial support was a somewhat unknown, untested factor.

In total, over 100 countries were involved in this war. But not all countries were directly involved in the fighting. Some of the colonies, for example, acted as a source of military supply of armaments or as a reserve force. Other European countries, such as Poland, Belgium and Luxembourg, were drawn into the war because they were occupied by the Germans; but they also acted as a "corridor of escape" for the Allies.

Africa, being the great imperialistic vision of the major European powers in the 19th century, was divided by the war. Only Ethiopia and four small Spanish colonies were neutral.

Then, when the United States joined the war in 1917, most of the Central American countries followed. Brazil, in South America, independently declared war on Germany in 1917. Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia severed ties with Germany but did not get involved in the war.

The larger powers were involved in World War I because they wanted to vent nationalistic superiority, test military strength and assert imperialistic claims left over from the 19th century. Many of the smaller countries were drawn in to the war because they either had a sense of duty to a mother country or, being surrounded by "the heavies", felt impelled to take sides to protect their own safety.


Thursday, 2 April 2015

Overview of Emperor Qin's Terra Cotta Army...

Published: August 5 2001 on Helium

Many consider Emperor Qin's terracotta army, silently waiting in battle lines, should rank as the 8th ancient wonder of the world. Here was a man so proud of his achievements, (unifying chaotic China in this life), he wished to maintain them in the next. Life-size warriors, numbering about 8,000, and chariots with horses, all made of terracotta, symbolically accompanied Emperor Qin, the first emperor of China, into the afterlife. They were created by more than 700,000 workers between 246B.C and 209B.C. Not until 1974 was this amazing army unearthed. In 1987, Emperor Qin's mausoleum and army were listed by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage site.

Such a remarkable artistic feat signifies the emperor must have had great power and respect. Emperor Qin was only 13 when he came to the throne in 246B.C. By 222B.C., he had defeated the warring states and united China for the first time in history. By the time of his death in 210B.C., he had linked his country with a network of roads and canals. Feudalism was eliminated; provinces were led by governors. Written language was standardized. Monetary currencies were standardized. And he created the first version of the Great Wall of China. Such a phenomenal range of national achievements in one lifetime could warrant an unusual, grand scale monument in death.

And indeed this army was part of a grand scale mausoleum. Think of a large "underground city" or city of death. It includes an underground palace. The workers were buried alive in this palace so no secrets were told. This is the mausoleum complex covering about 2.18 million square metres. The emperor's tomb, beneath a mound of earth 40 metres high, (still not opened because the entrance can't be found), covers about 220,000 square metres. The army covers an area of about 20,000 square metres, linked by 3 large hallways (referred to by archaeologists as Pits 1, 2 and 3).

But it is the unique terracotta army that has attracted world attention. Pit 1, discovered in 1974, covers 14,000 square metres and contains 6,000 warriors. Infantry men, archers and chariots are here. 10 walls or partitions separate the rows of soldiers at the front. Rearguards have crossbows and chariots are at the back. The horses have bronze bridles. 10,000 metal weapons and the largest, bronze, horse-drawn chariot are also here. It was opened to the public on China's National Day in 1979.

Hundreds of cavalry, 90 wooden chariots and archers are in Pit 2. It was discovered in 1976 and opened to the public in 1994. Pit 3, also discovered in 1976, has 68 army commanders and staff. It seems to be an army headquarters and includes beautiful pieces of pottery and jewellery. The public could view this from 1989.
The human figures, once brightly coloured but now faded. Cavalry men are approximately 5 feet 8 inches tall. The commanders are over 6 feet tall. All have individual facial expressions. Some figures are in a standing position while others kneel with real swords drawn. Most wear tunics but some are dressed in armour.

The picture overall is one of an army waiting for the order to attack. The positions suggest aggression not defense. To enforce that perspective, when the army was discovered, weapons were still sharp. Arrow heads contained a deadly high percentage of lead, guaranteeing lead poisoning of a wound. This was not just a depiction of an army waiting for battle. It was a very real scenario.

Why did the Emperor feel the need to go to such lengths? Perhaps, he realized his subduing of China was fast, and maybe rash and desperate? Perhaps speed may not be a guarantee of lasting stability. Perhaps he felt insecure and needed a warning to all who challenged him. Perhaps he believed the after life was just an extension of the present.

As immense as these discoveries are, it is believed there are more pits to be found. Xiaoneng Yang describes Emperor Qin's ambition:
"Ample evidence demonstrates the First Emperor's ambition: not only to control all aspects of the empire during his lifetime but to recreate the entire empire in microcosm for his after life."

The terracotta army of Emperor Qin is symbolic of one man's dream to make a lasting difference in his world, even beyond the grave.

Sources (Xiaoneng Yang's quote)

Sunday, 26 October 2014

history of the catapult...

Published: February 10 2008 on Helium

The catapult answered humanity's need to propel a missile effectively over a great distance with some "mechanical" assistance. It is essentially an offshoot of the crossbow and entails a machine that cannot be carried. Since ancient times, the style and size of this device has varied. But the main usage has always been some form of attack on a target, mostly in times of warfare.

The idea of the catapult comes from the humble sling shot. Some form of "twine" between the fork of a sturdy twig can hurl a stone with deadly accuracy. In the Bible, David's use of such a device against Goliath is only one record of many in ancient literatures.

China has the earliest known record of the catapult. In 3rd-4th century B.C. China, this catapult was much like a crossbow with a swinging arm mounted on a pivot. This appeared in what was known as the Warring States period of China's history. The Greek town of Syracuse in Sicily is another contender, about this time, for having the first catapult. This was in the era of the Peloponnesian Wars between Athens and Sparta and their allies. It was also the era of the tyrant Dionysios.

At this time, some sources claim that the term catapult referred to a "dart thrower" and a "ballista" referred to a stone thrower, but by the 4th century A.D. the two terms swapped meanings.

The ballista is possibly the first large, siege-like catapult. It comprised "two wooden arms, tightly wound ropes and a cord to assist in the hurling of deadly projectiles, such as spears, at an enemy." Phillip of Macedonia, father of Alexander the Great, is credited with its first use in about 358B.C. when, at the tender age of 21, he assembled a formidable military force against the threatening Illyrians in the north. It included a phalanx bearing 6 meter long spears (deadly to run into) and the ballista created for extra destructive impact.

The mangonel or onager is the Romans' contribution to catapult history. The mangonel was not really an efficient weapon, because it could only hurl up to a 6lb weight and lots of its energy was wasted arcing high in the air before hitting the target. They were usually mounted on ships and hurled burning pitch to set fire to enemy ships.
The Romans also added wheels to the Greek ballista.

However, the deadliest catapult of all is accredited to 12th century France and became a popular weapon of choice for Christians and Muslims alike. It was known as the trebuchet. This siege machine used counterweights (up to 20 tons) to maximize the velocity of objects hurled. One dark use of this machine was to use people as missiles. "The trebuchet is also believed to be an early biological weapon, as armies would load the trebuchet with corpses riddled with diseases like the Black Plague and hurl them into areas under siege in the hopes of infecting large numbers of their enemies." Dead animals were sometimes a favored missile too.

France was the first European country to use catapults extensively in warfare. Her wars introduced the catapult to more of Europe. "Catapults history notes that the weapons were introduced to England in 1216 during the Siege of Dover - as were many other types of siege weapons. Louis the Dauphin of France crossed the Channel with a large force and laid siege to Dover Castle making a violent and incessant attack on the castle walls. He used the Catapults against the walls and men of Dover Castle." England adopted the catapult as a war machine shortly afterwards.

By the Middle Ages, 3 main forms of the catapult were in use for warfare. The ballista now looked like a giant crossbow, depending on tension for speed and accuracy. It relied on a straight trajectory. The mangonel and trebuchet relied on greatest area of impact from an arced trajectory. The mangonel launched missiles from a bowl-shaped bucket placed at the end of a long usually wooden arm of the mangonel. "The massive Trebuchet consisted of a lever and a sling and was capable of hurling stones weighing 200 pounds with a range of up to about 300 yards" One version, created by King Edward I's engineer in England, was regarded as the most powerful of the trebuchets. It was called Warwolf.

In the Middle Ages, right up to the wars of Napoleon in the early 19th century, various models of the trebuchet were created and utilized as war machines. The ballista was still used to hurl large rocks into castle walls with dubious accuracy, but with the possibility of deadly effect.

We may like to believe that catapult history officially terminated when cannons and guns evolved. But that is not strictly true. In World War I jungle warfare, bent trees were used as catapults. And in World War II, grenade catapults were utilized. Military aircraft are launched from ships, based on the catapult principle. Enthusiasts of war machines like to recreate working models of catapults.

And catapult amusements still exist. Rides in many carnivals use the catapult concept. In the rural town of Landsborough, 76km north of Brisbane, Australia, one of the tourist attractions is a Bungy Bullet. "Thrill-seekers may enjoy the sensation of being shot 50 metres in the air in just one second on the Bungy Bullet, attaining a thrust of 4 Gs. This is, in essence, an open capsule, securely seating two people, which is literally flung into the air via a huge catapult."

In the U.S. a "catapult car" competition is held annually.

Catapults may appear to be a simple project based on the laws of physics, but through history, the best models have won wars and saved countries. I find it strange though, that the Vikings, a warlike marauding people, have no record of using catapults. And the ancient Egyptian shadouf, used to get water from irrigation channels, is actually a form of catapult NOT used for warlike purposes.