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Credit: Alexis Nyal
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/46984975@N05/4812979821/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Have you ever flown a kite? Many Americans see kites as toys. However, for much of history and throughout much of the world, kites have served as serious tools used by the military, scientists, and engineers.

Giving People the Power to Fly for Over 2,000 Years

The shape of a traditional kite is aerodynamic, which makes it great for flying. The Chinese invented the world’s first kites. Over time, the kite spread throughout South and East Asia. Generals used kites to measure distances and plan attacks. Thieves attached themselves to large kites so they could soar to the roofs of buildings. In India, young men used kites to deliver notes to their lovers. After kites arrived in Europe, scientists used them to study wind and weather patterns.

Credit: Janine Marsh
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/75894308@N03/7073142801/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

During World War I, Europeans used kites to gather military intelligence and to direct artillery fire. By the end of the war, airplanes had replaced kites for scientists and the military. Today, kites are mostly flown for fun. In many countries around the world, people use them in the sport of kite fighting. It this sport, players fly kites with specially coated, abrasive strings that they use to try to cut down their opponents' kites. The winner is the person whose kite lasts the longest.

See for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvpUUaTVJxc

Explore More

Custom kites can be very expensive, but you can make your own from inexpensive, recycled materials.

http://www.motherearthnews.com/diy/make-a-kite-recycled-materials-zmaz79mazraw.aspx

http://nationalaquarium.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/diy-craft-make-a-kite-out-of-recycled-materials/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJtym2UZ3Fs

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Alexis Nyal; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/46984975@N05/4812979821/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Janine Marsh; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/75894308@N03/7073142801/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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