Friday, December 21, 2007

Weird Leonard

Between finals, Christmas preparations and getting ready for a 2-week trip to NY, I haven't done much blogging (a pattern I expect to continue until early January).

However, I meant to pass along a link to Quaid, Mounce & Ward Inc's latest article, which was recently posted in the online version of Defense AT&L's Jan/Feb 08 issue.

The original title was "The Mythical Adventures of Weird Leonards Throughout History," but the editor changed it to "History's Weird Leonards." (Weird Leonard being the dude who decided to "mount a Jet-Assisted Take Off (JATO) rocket engine onto a 1975 AMC Pacer and take it for a test drive on a dusty desert road."). I liked the original title better, so I mention it here.

Anyway, the article is a mix of modern urban myth, actual historical vignettes and our trademark rogue mischief & mayhem. We talk about paleoanthropology, Malcom Gladwell's book Blink, the movie Titanic and Alice in Wonderland, among other things. I think you'll get a kick out of it.

One of my favorite lines is: "the determination to disparage and reject intuition [in decision making] is both an unjustified rationalization and a demonstrably weak argument trap put forward by fearful, risk-avoidant bureaucrats who are usually interested in academically studying yesterday’s technology today in order to fix an obsolete problem many tomorrows from now." I love it when we don't pull any punches.

I also really liked this line: "All too often in this modern scientific age of ours, engineers and forecasters are willing to settle for being wrong as long as they are precisely and scientifically wrong, preferably to several decimal places."

But the best parts are the stories from Octave Chanute's amazing book "Progress In Flying Machines," which is a chronicle of 400 years of failed aviation experiments. It's the book the Smithsonian recommended to the Wright Brothers when they were beginning their experiments.

There's also a great illustration by the inimitable Jim Elmore. Check it out when you get a chance.

1 comment:

tori said...

I think you just found the next gift I'm going to buy for my impossible-to-buy-for father... a retiring physics teacher and model airplane enthusiast!
Thanks!