Simon Griffee

Why Wings Work ➶

17 October 2014

But, even as a child, I found that it presented me with a puzzle: how can a plane fly inverted (upside down). When I pressed my 6th grade science teacher on this question, he just got mad, denied that planes could fly inverted and tried to continue his lecture. I was very frustrated and argued until he said, “Shut up, Raskin!” I will relate what happened next later in this essay.

I wish I could send this essay to the 6th grade science teacher who could not take the time to listen to my reasoning. Here’s what happened: he sent me to the principal’s office when I came in the next day with a balsa model plane with dead flat wings. It would fly with either side up depending on how an aluminum foil elevator adjustment was set. I used it to demonstrate that the explanation the class had been given must have been wrong, somehow. The principal, however, was informed that my offense was “flying paper airplanes in class” as though done with disruptive intent. After being warned that I was to improve my behavior, I went to my beloved math teacher who suggested that I go to the library to find out how airplanes fly–only to discover that all the books agreed with my science teacher! It was a shock to realize that my teacher and even the library books could be wrong. And it was a revelation that I could trust my own thinking in the face of such concerted opposition. My playing with model airplanes had led me to take a major step toward intellectual independence–and a spirit of innovation that later led me to create the Macintosh computer project (and other, less-well-known inventions) as an adult.