tisdag 21 augusti 2012

To Speak or Not To Speak (about theory of flight)

                                         Silence is gold but duct tape is silver.

As soon as you say or write something you may reveal ignorance, innocence or lack of sophistication.

To Speak is silver but Not To Speak is gold. My dear collegues at KTH in aerodynamics prefer the golden option.

But Reviewer 2 of our article New Theory of Flight has written a report, which can be analyzed. Let us consider one important aspect of the report. The review starts out with the following frank admission:
  • Aerodynamics today is therefore almost always taught in a truncated version ... (which) has lost much of the profundity. 
  • Even the truncated version is no longer as highly respected as it used to be.
  • In consequence, there are many employed today in the aerospace industry, and even in academia, whose grasp of the basic theory of flight contains many gaps. 
  • These gaps are apparent to thoughtful students, who frequently attempt to fill them in for themselves, although the remedy is usually worse than the disease. 
  • I believe that the authors ... are right to quarrel with the truncated version that they, like others, have apparently received.
OK, so we read that the reviewer is critical to the way state-of-the-art aerodynamics is presented today by living academic scientists with the result that the basic theory of flight is not understood by aerospace engineers.  This is scary and heavy criticism of in particular AIAA by the reviewer, fully in line with the criticism of our article. So far so good from our perspective.

But then the reviewer changes gear:
  • All of the criticisms that comprise Section I of their paper can be answered, and I will try to do this below.
  • ... all these difficult issues were struggled with years ago by the founding fathers of the subject, and resolved in completely satisfactory ways. 
  • Sadly, the outcomes of those struggles have since been simplified or discarded in modern presentations to create a pragmatic treatment focusing on utility. 
  • Undergraduate textbooks these days all too often simply omit anything that students find difficult. 
The reviewer then presents a 6 page attempt of resurrection of the forgotten theory by the founding now dead fathers.

Doing so the reviewer reveals a misunderstanding of the nature and role of scientific discussion and publication. If the reviewer believes that state-of-the-art aerodynamics education is deficient and needs to be corrected, and that the reviewer has the remedy, the reviewer should make this public to the scientific community e.g. in an article submitted to AIAA Journal, instead of hiding this in anonymous form in a referee report closed to inspection.

After having so resurrected aerodynamics from its present collapse, the reviewer feels armed to kill our article by:
  • Regrettably, it is my conclusion that publication of any of this material, in any form, would be highly retrogressive. 
What is so regrettable is however not so clear. Maybe, the reviewer is regretting to have written the review.

PS Remember that a dead scientist does not speak. Neither a dead witness in a gangster trial.

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