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Icarus is not to be emulated.

June 13, 2010

Icarus, as I’m sure you know, was a character from Greek mythology. His father Daedalus made them both feathery wings, held together by wax, that they might fly free from their captivity. Icarus got carried away with the joy of flight, forgot his father’s instructions, and flew to close to the sun – the wax melted, and he fell to his death.

The moral of the story is pretty obvious, I think, and Icarus is usually used as a byword for getting carried away, being too proud, or simply being on the verge of learning a rather harsh lesson.

Usually.

But the name crops up all the time in completely unsuitable places, and you have to wonder at times just what the decision-makers who chose the name were thinking.

In science-fiction it’s a little more understandable – the writers are giving us a rather heavy-handed clue as to what might lie ahead. It still begs the question of why the characters who chose the name thought it was a good idea, however.

A quick run-down of some more notable science-fiction examples:

The Matrix Reloaded featured a ship by that name, which was rather predictably blown up.

Stargate: Universe featured a military installation called Icarus Base, on a distant alient world. The official base logo was that of a feather against a sun.The alien world exploded in the first episode.

I mean seriously.
Just to drive the point home…

Sunshine featured not one, but TWO spaceships by the name of Icarus, both designed to fly right up to the sun. Their fate is of rather more plot importance than the other examples listed, so I’ll simply say that the mission is not without its hitches. Or deaths.

Use of the name outside fiction is even more baffling though, especially given some of the things it gets attached to. There was a major Greek airline called Icarus – would you be confident flying in a plane branded with the name of a man who tried to fly and fell to his death?

There are still flight schools, flying contests and aircraft manufacturers with the name, as well as bus manufacturers, for some reason, and Japan has just launched a solar-sail powered unmanned spacecraft named IKAROS.

Why not name flying endeavours after Daedalus? Alright, he was a murdering, jealous, devious  bastard, but he could actually fly without killing himself!

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