Thursday, 29 November 2012

Short Sight

You probably heard about the British Spitfires which might have been found in Burma. The BBC article is here:

Apart from thinking that this is really cool, I have very few to add to the article as history is definitely not my area of expertise. However, when I was watching the news being given in the BBC channel on the TV, I heard the guy who was giving the news add a "funny" comment at the end saying that if they don't find the planes in the excavation that could turn out to be a "wild goose chase". According to the site Oxford Dictionaries, the definition of a wild goose chase is:
  a foolish and hopeless search for or pursuit of something unattainable
    | physicists searching for the hypothetical particle may be on a wild goose chase
Now, if I forgive the reference to foolish physicists in the example, we still see that the reporter implied that if the planes are not found, then the whole project, which apparently took 16 years up to now, can be dismissed as a foolish thing.

I cannot imagine a comment more stupid and more short sighted than this. Even if the planes are not there, the whole search generated a lot of things that by now means are foolish. Would you like me to enumerate some?

1. To start with, the amount of historic information collected during the search was already something to justify the project. Yes, historic knowledge is important. Even about those Spitfires.

2. Many people were involved in the project. These people learned (although for a lot of people today learning has no value at all...) and were employed (this is for those who worship the Market). 

3. Contacts had been established between people of the two countries. Political, cultural, scientific. If you don't think that this is good, I cannot convince you. 

4. Techniques were developed. Don't be a fool to say that they only used techniques that already existed. As a scientist I can say for sure that no technique is perfectly adapted to everything. You have to develop it to use in your area.

Well, if you read the article, you might be thinking that I am being unfair with that particular journalist as the expression is repeated in the article and it's said that "Project archaeologist Andy Brockman accepted the search for the aircraft shipped in for the war with Japan could turn into a wild goose chase". I don't know how accurate this is, specially because I know how journalists misquote scientists with probability one, but if he really admitted that, he is also wrong. That would be said, as he is a main scientist in the project...

The mastermind of the project is a man named David Cundall, which is described as a farmer and aviation enthusiast. The person who is financing the project is a Russian games company named . Of course they will claim any profits that comes from a successful end, but I don't think this is wrong in any way. At least, they are creating things (knowledge and passion, if you haven't noticed already) that will last and illuminate much more than, let's say, a bridge or a skyscraper. 

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