Good science lands the plane, bad science takes the credit..
In a decidedly more optimistic and productive world, (a few months ago), I purchased a fantastic new drone called the Mavic 2 Pro which makes taking aerial video absurdly easy — even for someone with questionable hand-eye coordination like myself. The science behind it is utterly predictable. Four high-speed rotors, controlled by on-board intelligent circuits, and optical sensors all harness the science of aerodynamics, so that all you have to do is swipe your finger on the control screen to have it take off vertically. You can take your hands off the controls and it will hover there, 200 feet up, its gimbal keeping the visual image utterly still, even in moderate wind. I believe some folks have actually flown and controlled this model, on 5-8 mile flights. It takes stunning 4K video with a Hasseblad camera that allows for manual focus, exposure and ISO control.
It’s an amazing example of good science. It performs as expected because it’s the result of accurately measuring the objective world and its physical laws. I can’t think of any engineering/science discipline more accountable to reality than flight, particularly manned flight. If your product puts 300 people 36,000 feet in the air, your calculations have to be precise, and repeatable.
This sort of science, the science based on observation, makes our lives better. If you told me as a boy I would be able to take video like this, I would have taken it as a kind of science-fiction reverie — thrilling but not very likely.
I have a good friend who has fought Lyme disease for 20 years and it’s been a bitter, painful struggle, not just because of the tortuous discomfort, but because it reveals how many doctors don’t know — or care to know — about the scope of the infection itself, or the possible treatments. After year of treatment failures, my friend has been cured by a new drug. He experiences no symptoms and hasn’t for a year or more.
This sort of success gets generally and broadly credited to “science.” When we effortlessly pour K-cup coffee, fly to India on a bargain fare, discover that glaucoma can now be controlled, and note that our car can intelligently nudge us away from a collision, it’s no wonder that we come to trust in that thing we call “science.”
Unfortunately, the word gets attached to disciplines, and endeavors, that are either hopelessly complex (social “science”, climate “science”) or that purport to describe phenomena far beyond our ability to measure and record (evolutionary “science,” origins of the universe “science.”) The good scientists put a useful drug in your hand and the bad scientist takes credit for it. We are complicit in this. We allow this to take place without even knowing it’s happened. Because insulin is controlling your diabetes, you actually let some climate scientist tell you the ice caps will melt in ten years, even though his academic “discipline” has offered up false prophecy after false prophecy.
Over the course of this Commie flu crisis, it’s startling to observe not just the false predictions (“millions will die“), but also to witness the extreme enabling we do as a culture, bowing to the guy in the white coat. He’s taking credit for the science of flight, even as he’s offering up serial and bogus epidemic predictions.
In this sense, science can be something like false religion. We’re like pagans who marvel at the rising of the sun and the rain bringing up the crops, and we appreciate the crafty fellow who harnessed fire for us — and then we give the witch doctor in the white coat credit for it all.