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Wright Brothers Day

Wright Brothers' First Flight, December 17, 1903
104 years ago today, the Wright brothers became the first humans to truly fulfill the dream of flight. Yes, the Montgolfier brothers had their hot air balloon, and others like Hiram Maxim may have gotten an airplane to momentarily lift off under its own power, and Otto Lilienthal had been experimenting with his weight shift gliders decades previously, but it was the Wright Brothers who were the first to really integrate the structures, aerodynamics, and control into the first successful airplane.

Flying has become so common place today that we take it for granted. People complain about the cramped seats, the long lines to get through security, the bad food (if you even get any) on flights. But just remember how long people have dreamt of flight, for how long people looked to the skies wanting to emulate the birds. Flying used to be the stuff of myth and legends, reserved for the gods. Now, we can all get in an airplane, and soar above the clouds. It really is something special.

Happy Wright Brothers Day.

Comments

I am learning to fly at the valley in my ercoupe 415c.

I am catholic and like you not practicing, but when I come in to land it is nice to know that I am not alone, whether true or not.

As a woman once told me on her death bed "arnt we all so smart"

Your intellegence is far beyond what most of us have to work with and actually Ken Thornton directed me to your site since flying was of intrest to me.

Wish you the best in your career and what you attempt.

What do you think of Gustave Albin Whitehead?

What do you think of Gustave Albin Whitehead?

To be honest, I haven't studied his case enough detail to really have an informed opinion. I've heard about him a few times in magazine articles, usually as a token comment that the Wrights might not have been the first into the air, but about the most I've read about him is his Wikipedia entry.

First, it's tough to accept uncorraborated eyewitness accounts. (As an example, in a book I'm currently reading, there's a quote from 1719 about a frogfish, "I caught it [a frogfish] on the sand and kept it alive in my house (out of water!) for three days; it followed me everywhere with great familiarity; much like a little dog." Internet source This is completely false, and just one example of why eyewitness accounts are suspect.) So, I don't think we'll ever know for sure if Whitehead actually flew when he claimed he did.

On the other hand, even if he had flown, the historical significance is nowhere near as important as when the Wright brothers did. The Wright brothers first flew an aircraft under its own power in 1903. They spent the next couple years refining their technology, and then in 1908 made their first public flights in France and the U.S. Their accomplishments directly contributed to the state of aircraft technology, and the field would almost certainly have been delayed for several years, if not decades, had the Wrights not been there to do what they did. That being said, there were several other smart innovators out there, such as Glen Curtiss, Louis Bleriot, and others who would have eventually solved all the technical problems and gotten airplanes flying if the Wright brothers hadn't been there. Also, the patent wars between the Wrights and Curtiss almost certainly hurt the fledgling aviation industry, so there's some question as to how much that offset the advances they made.

WARNING: The following post is just the odd thoughts of a tired individual, bored at work. I read what I wrote and thought why post this nonsense. I then decided that it would be okay to post, as long as it came with a warning. This is the internet, its okay to be silly.
I've always had a funny thought about inventions. Some inventions almost seem like no matter how it happens, it will inevitably be invented. Almost as if time travelers are monkeying with the space-time continuum to preserve the progression of humanity. They don't care who invents it, just that it gets invented. I'm not much in to believing in pre-destiny, or time traveling monkeys, but there are a lot of things that were invented independently at nearly the same time. Makes you wonder if there is a collective consciousness that ideas come from. Many inventors had dreams that solved the problems to whatever invention it was they were working on.
As a child I struggled to solve the Rubik's Cube. I was stuck on the last few pieces. No matter what I did, I either made the cube worse, or made no progress. I wrestled with those last few pieces for quite awhile. I don't think I thought of anything else. In the middle of the night, after maybe a week of no progress, I awoke from a dream where I was solving the Rubik’s cube over and over again. I grabbed my cube and applied the technique from my dream to reality. The logic was simple and worked, I solved the cube.
More likely than not, there is a simple explanation, and the above musings are just wouldn't that be neats inspired by watching too many sci-fi movies. Realistically, the subconscious probably just works better as it has no distractions. Most ideas are more like discoveries than inventions. We don't create the physics of flight, we test them and learn how they work, then apply the knowledge to make it work for us. The answer to the puzzle is always there, but not everyone can see it.

Well, Eric, a lot of what you wrote is stuff I've thought about before, too. There were a couple things you wrote that I think describe the situation pretty well. First:

...there are a lot of things that were invented independently at nearly the same time. Makes you wonder if there is a collective consciousness that ideas come from.

Actually, I think there kind of is, without having to get too new-agey about it. It's simply the collective scientific/technical knowledge of a society. This makes even more sense when you think of it in terms of something else you wrote:

Most ideas are more like discoveries than inventions. We don't create the physics of flight, we test them and learn how they work, then apply the knowledge to make it work for us.

However, given that some individuals (like the Wrights) can accelerate certain technologies, the rate of progress is certainly not inevitable. Just look at the discrepancies between cultures that have been isolated for a long time (like when the Europeans discovered the new world).

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