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Miracle or Coincidence?
#1

Miracle or Coincidence?
The following is a true account.  Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.  I'm airportkid, licensed aircraft inspector.  This week, another episode of Miracle or Coincidence; tonight's story:  The Pilot Who Saved His Own Life By Forgetting The Towbar.

It was a fine day at the airport and our pilot decided to wash his airplane.  He'd have to taxi it to the washrack, so he attached the towbar to the nosewheel and pulled the airplane out of the hangar.  A hangar neighbor stopped by and they chatted.  Then our pilot hopped into the airplane, hollered "clear!" and hit the starter.  One blade swung by and CLANG! - a blade struck the still attached towbar.  All too common oops.  Very embarrassing.  Very expensive.

The rules are explicit:  if you prang a propellor badly enough to send it to the prop shop, it doesn't matter how you did it, with the engine running, or engine dead and by pulling a hangar door into a blade, or hitting the towbar because you forgot to remove it, the required action is a law of the United States:  Pull the engine, disassemble it, and check for possible internal damage.  Minimum bill:  about $20K, and 60 to 90 days downtime.  That's without turning it into an overhaul, just doing what's called an IRAN - Inspect and Repair As Necessary.  That excludes whatever fixing or replacing the prop costs, in this case about $8K because the prop had three blades and a constant speed hub.

The money in this instance wasn't an issue - insurance covered it (the total bill approached $40K).  But the downtime hurt like hell - the pilot had to cancel a trip to Mexico he was hosting with 8 other people.  He hired me to do the R&R (Remove and Replace) of the engine, and soon he had the engine in the back of his van and drove it himself to the engine shop in LA.

And then wait.  The engine was ready for return after about 65 days, and he brought it back in his van.

An engine comes off an airplane a lot faster than it goes back on.  Taking it off, you disconnect everything, bag and photograph the parts, the whole operation is less than a day.  But hanging it back on takes a lot more time because of sequence.  It's too easy, in reassembly, to get in your own way.  You reassemble B to C, and later realize you've made it impossible to attach D to G because getting B and C back together completely obstructs access to G.  D to G has to happen before B to C.

The entire engine rehanging is that way.  You make your way carefully through the parts inventory making sure the next thing you do won't block another assembly later on.  It's tedious.  And our pilot was chafing - he wanted to get back flying, now that the engine and prop were at hand and airworthy.

Finally, it was time to make the first test run.  I had an assistant monitor from outside while I set up starting the engine.  Fuel valve on.  Boost pump on.  Throttle cracked.  Mixture Rich.  Hit the primer.

"It's leaking fuel!" said the assistant.

"Damn!" I said.  "Primer?"  The primer system is a labyrinth of tiny copper tubing and small fittings - I must've missed tightening a fitting.

"Not sure," said the assistant.  He stepped around to the other side of the engine.  I gave the primer another plunge.

"Still leaking," he said.  "It's not the primer."

"Crap!" I said.  I shut off the pump, killed the master and got out of the airplane to take a look.

A geyser of fuel spray was erupting out of one of the fuel feed hoses.  From the middle of the hose, not at one of its end fittings.  Holy crap!  I hurriedly shut the fuel valve off; the geyser abated.  The hose section was obviously garbage.  I got on the phone to my LA hose supplier and ordered 4 new type D hoses to replace the entire fuel feed system because if one of the hoses was trash, the other 3 might be right behind it in terms of deterioration.

While awaiting the new hoses (roughly $150 per hose), I set about checking out the bad hose.  It was a hose assembly with external steel braid, which looks pretty, but makes visual inspection of the hose itself impossible.  I removed the end fittings and began teasing apart the strands of the steel braid to expose the hose.  This gets bloody - those strand ends are sharp and stiff and there are a million of them as the braid is pulled apart using needle nose pliers and wire cutters.

As the hose itself was exposed I was surprised to discover that whatever the hose was, it was decidedly not aviation type hose.  Aviation hose has an embedded steel braid, or at least a reinforcing braid if not steel - this hose had no reinforcing braid of any kind.  The only braid was the decorative external steel braid.

It was also the consistency of a stale Oreo cookie.  I quickly found the leak - a tear in the hose almost all the way around its circumference.  Manipulating it with my fingers, it crumbled and broke, rotten through.

And that's when I realized our pilot had saved his own life pranging the prop on the towbar.

Until he did that, the fuel feed hoses sat undisturbed in place, and didn't leak.  But disconnecting them to pull the engine, and later reconnecting them, they'd been bent all kinds of ways to get them into place.  And that broke their rotteness through so that they finally leaked - and leaked at geyser discharge rate.

Had his goof not forced their disassembly, they'd be intact right now as we speak, a timebomb that normal engine vibration would ultimately crumble to leaking, only it'd happen in flight, and he'd have an instant in flight engine fire.  He'd be dead.

It'd be very easy to look at all the circumstances of this episode and conclude a miracle has taken place.  The timing is just too spooky.  And the irony makes it look like the handiwork of an especially droll god.

Obviously, I don't think it was a miracle at all, just a fortunate piece of damn good lock.

But here's the thing - how would you tell?  By what measure could anyone point to this and say it had to be a miracle?  There are certain theist contributors here of whom I'd bet a large sum they'd call this not just a miracle but an obvious miracle, had it been them the fortunate pilot.

Every airliner that takes off, every ship that sets sail carries a passenger manifest with a few seats empty, but not unbooked.  Some people just don't get to the gate in time.  Or are diverted.  But when an airliner crashes, when a ship sinks, suddenly the people who would have been in those empty seats feel the discomforting breeze of fate - were they detained "for a reason"?  Was their escape "miraculous"?
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#2

Miracle or Coincidence?
We can start by ruling out miracles completely.
  [Image: pirates.gif] Dog  
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#3

Miracle or Coincidence?
Lucky bastard! The gods designing the big RNG in the sky smiled upon him.
[Image: color%5D%5Bcolor=#333333%5D%5Bsize=small%5D%5Bfont=T...ans-Serif%5D]
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#4

Miracle or Coincidence?
(02-02-2020, 09:46 AM)airportkid Wrote: Every airliner that takes off, every ship that sets sail carries a passenger manifest with a few seats empty, but not unbooked.  Some people just don't get to the gate in time.  Or are diverted.  But when an airliner crashes, when a ship sinks, suddenly the people who would have been in those empty seats feel the discomforting breeze of fate - were they detained "for a reason"?  Was their escape "miraculous"?

We have been conditioned to think there is a reason for everything, including things we don't get to do, especially if not doing them seems   an advantage to us us in some way.

but really it's just life, people give reason to life.
Those who ask a lot of questions may seem stupid, but those who don't ask questions stay stupid.
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#5

Miracle or Coincidence?
(02-02-2020, 11:28 AM)possibletarian Wrote: but really it's just life, people give reason to life.

Life doesn't require reason, we do. Coping mechanisms are where you find them.
  [Image: pirates.gif] Dog  
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#6

Miracle or Coincidence?
There's nothing as heartwarming as the old ''fuel line'' miracle

Why should god waste his time on the starving when we have gems like this to prove his greatness Tongue
Those who ask a lot of questions may seem stupid, but those who don't ask questions stay stupid.
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#7

Miracle or Coincidence?
(02-02-2020, 09:46 AM)airportkid Wrote: But here's the thing - how would you tell?

Because of the guy being run over by a truck, a few miles away? Because of the kid that didn't make it to the hospital in time? Because of all the other people suffering at the time you discovered that leak?

Why should this be anything else than a lucky find that saved this pilot from exploding his plane in mid air?

That's the questions theists always fail to answer satisfyingly.
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#8

Miracle or Coincidence?
(02-02-2020, 09:46 AM)airportkid Wrote: As the hose itself was exposed I was surprised to discover that whatever the hose was, it was decidedly not aviation type hose.  Aviation hose has an embedded steel braid, or at least a reinforcing braid if not steel - this hose had no reinforcing braid of any kind.  The only braid was the decorative external steel braid.

Would've been better for all involved had any god guided the hose-fitter to use the right part.
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#9

Miracle or Coincidence?
When looking at why something happens, we want to find both a necessary and a sufficient cause. So for instance, an all-powerful God might be a sufficient cause for the existence of the universe, just as aliens from outer space visiting Earth might be a sufficient cause for the pyramids in Egypt. But are either necessary?

We favor certain causal explanations over others because they not only can explain what we see, but because they are economical, which means they require the fewest moving parts possible. "As simple as possible, but no simpler," as Einstein said. Supernatural explanations are never as simple as possible, because they require, at minimum, a whole other level to reality for their explanations. That's why material explanations are always to be preferred, because we already know that reality, at minimum, has such a material level.

Further, there is the whole question of what exactly is an improbable event? It seems to me that everything that happens is an almost impossibly improbable event, because everything is so specific. It's just the nature of the world that many improbable things happen while billions of other improbable things do not. The lottery winner can't claim it was a miracle that he won if a hundred million other people played and lost at the same time. So even though this is the long way around to the point in comparison, Abaris (above) was right. You have to look at the question statistically instead of trying to judge it in isolation.
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#10

Miracle or Coincidence?
(02-02-2020, 01:07 PM)Thumpalumpacus Wrote:
(02-02-2020, 09:46 AM)airportkid Wrote: As the hose itself was exposed I was surprised to discover that whatever the hose was, it was decidedly not aviation type hose.  Aviation hose has an embedded steel braid, or at least a reinforcing braid if not steel - this hose had no reinforcing braid of any kind.  The only braid was the decorative external steel braid.

Would've been better for all involved had any god guided the hose-fitter to use the right part.

Sometimes I think the possibility of a mechanic being able to read a parts label is about 50%. I was stuck with one fresh caught recruit who didn't know the size of a wrench was embedded in the grip.
  [Image: pirates.gif] Dog  
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#11

Miracle or Coincidence?
(02-02-2020, 09:46 AM)airportkid Wrote: The following is a true account.  Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.  I'm airportkid, licensed aircraft inspector.  This week, another episode of Miracle or Coincidence; tonight's story:  The Pilot Who Saved His Own Life By Forgetting The Towbar.

It was a fine day at the airport and our pilot decided to wash his airplane.  He'd have to taxi it to the washrack, so he attached the towbar to the nosewheel and pulled the airplane out of the hangar.  A hangar neighbor stopped by and they chatted.  Then our pilot hopped into the airplane, hollered "clear!" and hit the starter.  One blade swung by and CLANG! - a blade struck the still attached towbar.  All too common oops.  Very embarrassing.  Very expensive.

The rules are explicit:  if you prang a propellor badly enough to send it to the prop shop, it doesn't matter how you did it, with the engine running, or engine dead and by pulling a hangar door into a blade, or hitting the towbar because you forgot to remove it, the required action is a law of the United States:  Pull the engine, disassemble it, and check for possible internal damage.  Minimum bill:  about $20K, and 60 to 90 days downtime.  That's without turning it into an overhaul, just doing what's called an IRAN - Inspect and Repair As Necessary.  That excludes whatever fixing or replacing the prop costs, in this case about $8K because the prop had three blades and a constant speed hub.

The money in this instance wasn't an issue - insurance covered it (the total bill approached $40K).  But the downtime hurt like hell - the pilot had to cancel a trip to Mexico he was hosting with 8 other people.  He hired me to do the R&R (Remove and Replace) of the engine, and soon he had the engine in the back of his van and drove it himself to the engine shop in LA.

And then wait.  The engine was ready for return after about 65 days, and he brought it back in his van.

An engine comes off an airplane a lot faster than it goes back on.  Taking it off, you disconnect everything, bag and photograph the parts, the whole operation is less than a day.  But hanging it back on takes a lot more time because of sequence.  It's too easy, in reassembly, to get in your own way.  You reassemble B to C, and later realize you've made it impossible to attach D to G because getting B and C back together completely obstructs access to G.  D to G has to happen before B to C.

The entire engine rehanging is that way.  You make your way carefully through the parts inventory making sure the next thing you do won't block another assembly later on.  It's tedious.  And our pilot was chafing - he wanted to get back flying, now that the engine and prop were at hand and airworthy.

Finally, it was time to make the first test run.  I had an assistant monitor from outside while I set up starting the engine.  Fuel valve on.  Boost pump on.  Throttle cracked.  Mixture Rich.  Hit the primer.

"It's leaking fuel!" said the assistant.

"Damn!" I said.  "Primer?"  The primer system is a labyrinth of tiny copper tubing and small fittings - I must've missed tightening a fitting.

"Not sure," said the assistant.  He stepped around to the other side of the engine.  I gave the primer another plunge.

"Still leaking," he said.  "It's not the primer."

"Crap!" I said.  I shut off the pump, killed the master and got out of the airplane to take a look.

A geyser of fuel spray was erupting out of one of the fuel feed hoses.  From the middle of the hose, not at one of its end fittings.  Holy crap!  I hurriedly shut the fuel valve off; the geyser abated.  The hose section was obviously garbage.  I got on the phone to my LA hose supplier and ordered 4 new type D hoses to replace the entire fuel feed system because if one of the hoses was trash, the other 3 might be right behind it in terms of deterioration.

While awaiting the new hoses (roughly $150 per hose), I set about checking out the bad hose.  It was a hose assembly with external steel braid, which looks pretty, but makes visual inspection of the hose itself impossible.  I removed the end fittings and began teasing apart the strands of the steel braid to expose the hose.  This gets bloody - those strand ends are sharp and stiff and there are a million of them as the braid is pulled apart using needle nose pliers and wire cutters.

As the hose itself was exposed I was surprised to discover that whatever the hose was, it was decidedly not aviation type hose.  Aviation hose has an embedded steel braid, or at least a reinforcing braid if not steel - this hose had no reinforcing braid of any kind.  The only braid was the decorative external steel braid.

It was also the consistency of a stale Oreo cookie.  I quickly found the leak - a tear in the hose almost all the way around its circumference.  Manipulating it with my fingers, it crumbled and broke, rotten through.

And that's when I realized our pilot had saved his own life pranging the prop on the towbar.

Until he did that, the fuel feed hoses sat undisturbed in place, and didn't leak.  But disconnecting them to pull the engine, and later reconnecting them, they'd been bent all kinds of ways to get them into place.  And that broke their rotteness through so that they finally leaked - and leaked at geyser discharge rate.

Had his goof not forced their disassembly, they'd be intact right now as we speak, a timebomb that normal engine vibration would ultimately crumble to leaking, only it'd happen in flight, and he'd have an instant in flight engine fire.  He'd be dead.

It'd be very easy to look at all the circumstances of this episode and conclude a miracle has taken place.  The timing is just too spooky.  And the irony makes it look like the handiwork of an especially droll god.

Obviously, I don't think it was a miracle at all, just a fortunate piece of damn good lock.

But here's the thing - how would you tell?  By what measure could anyone point to this and say it had to be a miracle?  There are certain theist contributors here of whom I'd bet a large sum they'd call this not just a miracle but an obvious miracle, had it been them the fortunate pilot.

Every airliner that takes off, every ship that sets sail carries a passenger manifest with a few seats empty, but not unbooked.  Some people just don't get to the gate in time.  Or are diverted.  But when an airliner crashes, when a ship sinks, suddenly the people who would have been in those empty seats feel the discomforting breeze of fate - were they detained "for a reason"?  Was their escape "miraculous"?

"Will Fit" parts? Where was his god when that hose was installed?
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#12

Miracle or Coincidence?
Let's see, the odds of winning the Powerball lottery is 1 in 292 million.   If you win, is that a miracle or coincidence?    Consider
                                                         T4618
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#13

Miracle or Coincidence?
Quote:But here's the thing - how would you tell?


Well if it HAD been a "miracle" the plane would have conked out at 10,000 feet over a major city and a gazillion people would swear that they saw a hand appear out of a heavenly glow to support the plane down to the ground safely.  Now that's a fucking miracle!

What you are describing is merely good luck.  There is bad luck, too.  Happens all the time.  Just ask Boeing.
Robert G. Ingersoll : “No man with a sense of humor ever founded a religion.”
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#14

Miracle or Coincidence?
(02-02-2020, 01:32 PM)Alan V Wrote: When looking at why something happens, we want to find both a necessary and a sufficient cause.  So for instance, an all-powerful God might be a sufficient cause for the existence of the universe, just as aliens from outer space visiting Earth might be a sufficient cause for the pyramids in Egypt.  But are either necessary?  

We favor certain causal explanations over others because they not only can explain what we see, but because they are economical, which means they require the fewest moving parts possible.  "As simple as possible, but no simpler," as Einstein said.  Supernatural explanations are never as simple as possible, because they require, at minimum, a whole other level to reality for their explanations.  That's why material explanations are always to be preferred, because we already know that reality, at minimum, has such a material level.

Further, there is the whole question of what exactly is an improbable event?  It seems to me that everything that happens is an almost impossibly improbable event, because everything is so specific.  It's just the nature of the world that many improbable things happen while billions of other improbable things do not.  The lottery winner can't claim it was a miracle that he won if a hundred million other people played and lost at the same time.  So even though this is the long way around to the point in comparison, Abaris (above) was right.  You have to look at the question statistically instead of trying to judge it in isolation.

There's an additional layer here which theists are often eager to overlook, and that is the utility of the explanation -- how much does it increase our understanding of the phenomena? This also addresses Possibletarian's idea that we are conditioned to look for reasons. I think it's more than conditioning, it's hard-wired into us. We are evolved to always look for reasons because doing so has important payoffs. The better we understand why something happened or how something works, the better that we're able to leverage that information to our advantage. Every advantage over our environment that we can acquire ultimately improves our chances for survival, so those monkeys that looked harder and more successfully for reasons lived and multiplied, while those who didn't or didn't do so to the same degree were outbred by their inquiring peers, eventually being eliminated from the gene pool. Information of this sort has enormous value, so we are constantly seeking reasons that are not only sufficient to explain the phenomena, but also provide us an understanding of the phenomena. This is one key weakness to most theological explanations in that they explain the phenomena, but there's no predictive value or utility inherent to the explanation that "GodDidIt" or that it was just magicked into being. That's why theology focuses on revealed truth, because without it, the explanations are of little benefit. Knowing that there is a God who wants to be pleased is of little value if we don't know what it is that pleases that God. So utility of the explanation, what is sometimes referred to as explanatory power, is essential to a good explanation. Unfortunately it's a subtle point, and the one theist I've spoken with about this, Steve, just doesn't get it. Lacking an actual how or why something happened, we're reduced to accepting this or that person's say about the thing, a revelation about what is the best way to exploit that situation, how to lick that God's spittle, and profit from the existence of a higher power. But why believe this person here rather than that person over there?
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#15

Miracle or Coincidence?
(02-02-2020, 04:42 PM)Dānu Wrote: This is one key weakness to most theological explanations in that they explain the phenomena, but there's no predictive value or utility inherent to the explanation that "GodDidIt" or that it was just magicked into being.

You make several important points. 

Responding to the above, when it comes to chance occurrences, materialistic explanations may offer us no greater advantages than theological explanations -- none in either case.  So all humans need is the tendency to cherry-pick information, coupled with a gambling mentality and a desire to feel important, to prefer theistic stories of miracles, a caring God, and so on.  Which I guess is why we are where we are about such things.

Selling yourself as more important than you really are can affect your chances in a social group, even if you are making up stories. I call it "social proof," when you are rewarded for telling a good story or simply for believing the same thing as other people. It doesn't get people anywhere vis-a-vis the real world, but it gets you somewhere in a social group -- at least until that group is corrected by external realities.
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#16

Miracle or Coincidence?
How do we know that it wasn't gremlins?
Don't mistake me for those nice folks from Give-A-Shit county.
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#17

Miracle or Coincidence?
Evidence of supernatural intervention: Zero. Sounds like a pretty mundane series of screw-ups. A competent mechanic would have gotten the right hose on the engine in the first place, so what must we conclude about a deity that does that sort of slipshod work?

I hope that you were able to trace back the origin of those fuel lines. The guy who spranged his prop might not be the only one flying on defective parts and the others might find out in significantly less miraculous manners.
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#18

Miracle or Coincidence?
There's no saying his eventual fuel leak would have been a fatal event. Turn off the boost pump and selector, and the fire goes out. It happens now and again. But it does make a good story Smile
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#19

Miracle or Coincidence?
Such a responsible job you have mate!  It certainly was very interesting to me to read of
the engine reconditioning scenario.  Thank you.

Re miracles.  Nope, they just don't happen.  The good outcome of this story relied solely
on your personal skills, training, and experience.  No gods necessary.  In fact, it's just
like the thoracic surgeon saving someone's life with successful coronary bypass surgery.

Focus, intent, and practise.

    Sun
I'm a creationist;   I believe that man created God.
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#20

Miracle or Coincidence?
It proves Jebus really does like a hoser.
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#21

Miracle or Coincidence?
A miraculous coincidence, obviously. Thank you, Flying Spaghetti Monster!
In the beginning was the misteak.
Book of Erors 1:1


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#22

Miracle or Coincidence?
(02-02-2020, 03:47 PM)Dancefortwo Wrote: Let's see, the odds of winning the Powerball lottery is 1 in 292 million.   If you win, is that a miracle or coincidence?    Consider

If you're a desperate Christian who prayed to Jesus and you won, it's obviously a miracle.  Nod
No gods necessary
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#23

Miracle or Coincidence?
(02-02-2020, 03:49 PM)Minimalist Wrote: There is bad luck, too.  Happens all the time.  Just ask Boeing.

The Max 8 was not bad luck, it was an accident waiting to happen -- or two, in this case. The lack of redundancy in the pitots, combined with a piss-poor training regimen (a PowerPoint video? Really?) was not bad luck. It was corner-cutting taken to the point that 346 people died for a company's willingness to put the bottom-line above lives.

Ask Ford or GM about this, with their Pinto or Corvair models, respectively.
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#24

Miracle or Coincidence?
(02-02-2020, 05:51 PM)Alan V Wrote:
(02-02-2020, 04:42 PM)Dānu Wrote: This is one key weakness to most theological explanations in that they explain the phenomena, but there's no predictive value or utility inherent to the explanation that "GodDidIt" or that it was just magicked into being.

You make several important points. 

Responding to the above, when it comes to chance occurrences, materialistic explanations may offer us no greater advantages than theological explanations -- none in either case.  So all humans need is the tendency to cherry-pick information, coupled with a gambling mentality and a desire to feel important, to prefer theistic stories of miracles, a caring God, and so on.  Which I guess is why we are where we are about such things.  

Selling yourself as more important than you really are can affect your chances in a social group, even if you are making up stories.  I call it "social proof," when you are rewarded for telling a good story or simply for believing the same thing as other people.  It doesn't get people anywhere vis-a-vis the real world, but it gets you somewhere in a social group -- at least until that group is corrected by external realities.

You have a fair point in here, but the fact is that there are often outliers who aren't beholden to groupthink and will follow evidence even when it induces cognitive dissonance. The folks who absorb those lessons will be more likely to survive. I reckon that how washing hands, for instance, came to be more widespread.

It's hard to say how much human history has been influenced by outliers from your model who just won't.shut.up. But we learn from and enjoy the fruits of their voices.

Science is often stultified by conformalist thinking, but it is often revolutionized by individuals.
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#25

Miracle or Coincidence?
(02-02-2020, 08:02 PM)skyking Wrote: There's no saying his eventual fuel leak would have been a fatal event. Turn off the boost pump and selector, and the fire goes out. It happens now and again. But it does make a good story Smile

Hopefully before the fire fries other fittings required for safe operation, in a single-engined aircraft.
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