I Wonder



I Wonder How Come Airplanes Fly

1953 ... As a kid, I wonder how come airplanes fly. That is, what accounts for lift. My teachers tell me ... lift has to do with the wing being curved on the top and flat on the bottom.  That does not make sense to me.  When I ask for details, they tell me to check the textbooks. 

The textbooks are even worse. They say air moves faster over the top on the wing, so, by Bernoulli's Principle, it has lower pressure. 

1975 ... In my swimming pool, I notice that my hand sticks to the side of the pool when I hold it over the returning water jet. I run some tests and find out that flat plates stick even better. I have a hunch that the effect has something to do with lift.

1995 ... At the San Francisco Exploratorium, I notice the Bernoulli Levitator, an exhibit that claims to demonstrate the Bernoulli Principle. Air comes down out of a hole in the ceiling. A flat plate, over the hole, sticks to the ceiling. I look at it a long time, and it reminds me of the plate in the pool. I get that old feeling there is just something wrong with the explanation. I think about it and get lots of books on Bernoulli. Still, it doesn't quite seem to gel.

1997 ... It hits me ... the Bernoulli theory simply does not apply ... lift has nothing to do with high-velocity fluid ... it has to do with the radial expansion of fluid. This contradicts over a century of acceptance of the Bernoulli Principle explaining lift. 

I get very excited and get a lot of equipment, build models and test everything. My predictions come true in the lab. I become even more sure of my theory.

I take my story to lots of physicists and engineers. The engineers generally agree with me while the physicists say there is no way the Bernoulli theory cannot apply since it is the standard approach in use for over a century. So I do a lot more work and prove my case by making accurate measurements in my lab and comparing the results with my models.

One of the professors I see tells me that I just can't be right ... since if I am right, it is one of the most fundamental insights into physics in the last century.

2001 ... I make my move.  I put the whole story on the web ...