But What Does It Mean to Me?

Nov. 10, 2016

In 1965 laser beams were brand new. I had heard of lasers and read about them in science magazines, but never seen one or even expected to see one.

Then a student at Georgia Tech took me to a science lab and showed me a real, live laser beam turned on and lasing away. I was in absolute awe. On the other hand, I couldn’t figure out what it could do for humanity. What would a laser beam cost, anyway? How would it be used?

Today I’ve got several lasers designed to point out objects on a screen. They were given to me by my customers after my presentations.

Recently, Wife Gail bought a laser beam — dirt cheap — to be used as a toy for our cat! We lase the little red dot on the floor and the cat chases it all over the house at furious speed.

Benjamin Franklin watched one of the earliest flights of a hot-air balloon. Another spectator asked, “But of what good is it?” Franklin responded, “Of what good is a newborn baby?”

Remember Sputnik, the first man-made satellite (Russian, to our horror)? We wondered anew, but of what use is it? In a few short years, we launched our first communication satellites, Telstar one and two and they broadcast TV and other info across oceans. Satellites made GPS possible, and we’ve been using GPS since the 1980s. (The first time Gail and I rented a car with GPS, Gail fiddled with it for several minutes then announced, “That oughta work.” She then pushed one more button and the lady on the GPS loudly proclaimed a single word “NO!”)

In each case above, most people probably assumed that the new invention had nothing to do with them!

I am reminded of Yogi Berra’s famous Yogism—“It’s déjà vu all over again.”

How many of you have seen the video of Elon Musk’s rocket with the escape capsule on the nose? They fired the rocket—the same rocket that has flown five times and landed safely each time—the rocket soared, the escape capsule separated from the rocket then parachuted to earth.

Ah, but what will that have to do with me? I’m not an astronaut?

Y’know I can’t answer that question. But I’d bet that even at my age I’ll live long enough to see some part of that new technology  benefit me personally, aviation in general and airports in particular. I dunno what or how, but, as the revival preacher says, I believe.

BTW, isn’t it wonderful to see the great strides in aerospace since the free market has moved into the field via people like Elon Musk, using their own money? I love it.

I can’t wait ‘to see tomorrow.