April 24, 2014

Dear Liberty,

     In the late 1890’s there were several inventors who were trying to conquer flight.  All of them were using the same scientific numbers for air and lift.  Why?  Well, because there was a consensus that these were the numbers.  After all, Otto Lilienthal was the most respected aeronautical scientist of the nineteenth century and he had developed the data on lift. In addition, John Smeaton had determined the coefficient of air pressure at .005 based on his experiments with windmills. Smeaton’s Coefficient was the scientific standard for over 150 years...and wrong.

     It was only after the Wright Brothers came along and challenged those respected authorities that flight became possible.  (see I Believe I Can Fly)  The brothers conducted experiments using their own wind tunnel and discovered that the numbers being used were incorrect.  But how can that be?  Everyone agreed that these numbers were the data to use.  Lilienthal and Smeaton were scientists, the Wrights merely bicycle builders.  

     How wonderful is life here that we have the ability to continue to do experiments, improve technology, and discover better, more accurate, data to tell us more about our world and everything in it.

     Thank you, Orville and Wilber, for not giving in to the consensus and striving for truth rather than popularity and acceptance.  This, Liberty, is why you should never settle for the argument that ‘there is a consensus’ or that any dissent to that consensus is ignorant, backwards, and illegitimate.  Strive to be right, strive to be true, strive to be accurate.

     That’s my 2 cents.