Beam Me Up, Glennie

John Schwartz, a technology writer for the Times, was one of the other 56,000+ students at the University of Texas while I attended. A fellow staffer at the campus paper and magazine, Schwartz was one of those alums who went on to big things (others included TV talking head Paul Begala and political advisor Mark McKinnon). Now Schwartz has risen to greater heights — a couple of feet off the ground, in a jetpack.

Photo © Andy Manis/The New York Times

I was pleased to see today's New York Times, in which one of my college acquaintances made the front page. But he's hidden in plain view. And levitating.

John Schwartz, a technology writer for the Times, was one of the other 56,000+ students at the University of Texas while I attended. A fellow staffer at the campus paper and magazine, Schwartz was one of those alums who went on to big things (others included TV talking head Paul Begala and political advisor Mark McKinnon). Now Schwartz has risen to greater heights — a couple of feet off the ground, in a jetpack.

""There is nothing that even comes close to the dream that the jetpack allows you to achieve," says Robert J. Thompson of Syracuse University in Schwartz's Times feature. "[It's] about the coolest desire left to mankind."

Schwartz got to sample a real-life jetpack, invented by Glenn Martin (at left in the above shot) at an air show in Wisconsin. "They held on to me at about two feet off the ground," Schwartz explained in a segement this morning on the NPR program The Takeaway (that annoyingly clever news show that runs in a slot where Morning Edition used to be). Schwartz added that it was a plum assignment. "Sometimes I really love my job," he said.

One of the amusing anecdotes in the Times story concerns the first guinea pig for Martin's new jetpack: The initial prototype called for a person weighing less than 130 pounds. "So [Martin] turned to his wife," Schwartz writes. "'Hey Venessa, what are you doing tonight?'"

Vanessa helped the project get off the ground. Martin plans to fly his invention to heights of up to hundreds of feet. "Mr. Martin said he had no idea how his invention might ultimately be used, but he is not a man of small hopes," Schwartz writes. "He repeated the story of Benjamin Franklin, on first seeing a hot-air balloon, being asked, 'What good is it?' He answered, 'What good is a newborn baby?' ” — Jack Crager

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