Are We Scientists?

South Central New York Hang Glider Pilots' Association

Are We Scientists?

Postby wingspan33 » Fri Sep 20, 2019 6:53 pm

I was talking to a young lady about thermals causing cumulus clouds the other day and she wondered if I was a scientist. I told her "No" but that I was a hang glider pilot and we have to know about lots of subjects in order to get the best flights possible. She responded (paraphrasing here) "Well, you sure sound like a scientist!" .

That has stuck in my mind since over a week ago. And has caused me to wonder, . . . Are we scientists? Our position as hang glider pilots give us a unique perspective on many things. To have the best flights possible we need to be taught or research many different topics. And we combine these into a very specific view point. It sure sounds like science to me. But until this young lady pointed it out I never thought of myself that way.

I'd love to hear for other US Hawks members on how they think about this concept.
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Re: Are We Scientists?

Postby Bob Kuczewski » Fri Sep 20, 2019 7:59 pm

The words "science" and "scientist" can have different meanings to different people.

In general, both words are related to understanding how things in the world actually work. From that general point of view, we're all involved in a pursuit of "science". But what tends to distinguish true scientists is their adherence to the scientific method which involves observing, hypothesizing, and testing the validity of their hypotheses. The scientific method stresses objectivity and repeatability. So if Scott has confirmed a hypothesis in his New York lab, then Sam should be able to confirm the same hypothesis in his Texas lab. So sharing of results is a big part of the scientific method, and that's why publication and peer review are so important.

So science is really a methodology for finding the truth. Two scientists may start out with totally different hypotheses about some phenomenon, and they could argue forever and never find agreement. But by following the scientific method (honestly and faithfully) they will generally be brought to the same conclusion.

In my experience, real scientists have a deep reverence for the truth. Of course their egos will want their own hypothesis to be right. But they value getting the right (true) answer more than they value their egos.

So to answer the question "are we scientists", I'd say that depends on how willing we are to sacrifice what we want to believe for what the facts actually tell us. In that regard, I think there is a much higher degree of scientific thinking here at the U.S. Hawks than at USHPA or on the doppleganger sites. People here tend to be more willing to get to the actual facts and less willing to believe rumors. That's a scientific approach.
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Re: Are We Scientists?

Postby wingspan33 » Fri Sep 20, 2019 8:55 pm

I agree! But would you agree that my laboratory is in my local atmosphere and that Sam's lab is in his? We know many things due to previous scientific findings, but perhaps we may notice something, as hang gliding scientists, about (say) climate change that other observers may not notice.

I wonder if some other researcher(s) could use the data hang glider pilots could provide. En mass every hang gliding flight's length, degree of lift, sink, etc., world wide over a year, may add to some over all understanding.

Now this is making me think about finding an official atmospheric scientist who might say "Yes, data from real time hang gliding flights might be useful!" Imagine the US Hawks being given a grant for us to provide flight data over a year or two. ? ? ? You may say :srofl: but I have just found myself very interested in looking into this idea. You may call me a dreamer, . . .
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