A BRIEF HISTORY OF HUMAN POWERED FLIGHT: FROM PHYSIOLOGY TO PHILOSOPHY

Pietro Enrico di Prampero

Abstract


The development of a scientific theory (T) can be separated into successive phases: i) Fantasy, to conceive T ii) Analysis to couch T into formal language iii) Action, to apply in practice the predictions of T. The history of human powered flight, in which case the three phases are stretched over several thousand years, allow us to better appreciate their intrinsic characteristics. Fantasy, dating back to the myth of Ikarus, must be experimentally testable, as indeed were Daedalus' wings. Analysis must state in quantitative terms the laws governing the matter at stake. Action, from Leonardo’s unsuccessful attempts to the crossings of the British Channel in 1979 and of the arm of the sea separating Crete from mainland Greece in 1988, has the aim of shaping the world according to our will. The kernel of any “proper” T is a formal system wherein a set of operational rules allows us to manipulate a set of symbols, representing the objects of T, on the bases of a limited number of axioms. In such formal systems, "theorem" is a string of symbols that can be arrived at in a finite number of steps from the axioms, applying the canonical operational rules. However, as Kurt Gödel showed in 1931, it is possible to demonstrate that, within a sufficiently powerful formal system, there exists demonstrably true strings of symbols that are not theorems. Thus, even in an ultra-powerful theory of everything, there will still be truths that can not be arrived at within the theory.

Full Text:

PDF

References


Feyerabend, P.K. (1975). Against Method. London: New Left Books.

Grosser, M. (1991). Gossamer Odyssey. The Triumph of Human-Powered Flight. New York: Dover Publication, inc..

Hacking, I. (Ed.), Feyerabend, P.K., Hacking, I., Kuhn, T.S., Landau, L., Popper, K.R., Putnam, H., Shapere, D. (1981). Scientific Revolutions. London: Oxford University Press.

Hofstadter, Douglas, R. (1979). Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid. New York: Basic Books, inc..

Holton, G. (1973). Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought: Kepler to Einstein. Harvard University Press.

Holton, G. (1978). The Scientific Imagination: Case Studies. London: Cambridge University Press.

Holton, G. (1979). Constructing a Theory: Einstein's Model. The American Scholar, 48.

Kuhn, T.S. (1970). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago University Press.

Nagel, E., Newman, J.R. (1958). Gödel's Proof. New York University press.

Taylor, C.R., Maloyi, M.O., Weibel, E.R., Langman, V.A., Kamau, J.M.Z., Seeherman, H.J., & Heglund, N.C. (1980). Design of the mammalian respiratory system. III. Scaling maximum aerobic capacity to body mass: wild and domestic mammals. Respiration Physioliogy, 44: 25 - 37.

Wilkie, D.W. (1959). The work output of animals: flight by birds and by manpower. Nature 183: 1515-16

Wilkie, D.W. (1982). Discovery, June 1982, p. 22.

Woodcock, A., & Davis, M. (1982). Catastrophe Theory. Italian translation by G. Guerriero. Garzanti, Milano.


Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


Copyright (c) 2016 Pietro Enrico di Prampero

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.