Monday, November 10, 2008

Learning by Teaching: Langley vs. Wright Brothers

Here is something I learned while teaching my US History class. In the early 1900's several people were trying to build the first airplane that could carry a person. Samuel Langley of the Smithsonian Institute was given $50,000 from the Department of Defense (then called the War Department). During his demonstration in 1903 the plane fell apart and crashed into the Potomac River. Nine days later Wilbur and Orville Wright successfully made the first manned flight funded by their $1,000 in personal savings.

This reminded me of Thomas Friedman's solution to our future energy issues. In his book “Hot, Flat and Crowded” he states that it's not government subsidized research we need; instead we should invent 1,000 ideas in 1,000 garages and at least one of the projects should succeed.

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