Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/79

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69
THE PROBLEM OF A FLYING-MACHINE.


choose, to establish their own libraries and reading-rooms, to build their own tenement-houses, and to scorn charity as they now have good reason to scorn such dispensers of charity.

The basing of all so-called charitable and benevolent work upon such principles as have been indicated, or rather the substitution of right-seeking and right-doing (which is but the simple practice of justice), will require earnest study and a great change in our spirit and methods. Those who in preceding years have here listened to outlines of work adapted for this section as presented by Professor Elliott and Major Alvord should notice that the bounds will be much enlarged if we seek to solve the problems which shall enable us to make our altruism economically beneficial. This certainly should be the case. That we should pretend to be doing. good to all men, and yet be deceiving both ourselves and them, while really doing harm to both, needs only to be demonstrated to secure our condemnation. And giving alms to show even to ourselves our good motives, or in order to indulge our benevolent impulses, is certainly the most deceitful form of selfishness, since it appears in the form of altruism — is evil and only evil.


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THE PROBLEM OF A FLYING-MACHINE.

By JOSEPH LE CONTE,

PROFESSOR OF GEOLOGY AND NATURAL HISTORY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA.

IN "The Popular Science Monthly" for November, 1885 (vol. xxviii, p. 1), Mr. Mather closes an excellent article on flying-machines with the following weighty remark: "These are the most important inventions of this class — i. e., self-raising, self-propelling machines. It must be confessed that the results are far from encouraging. But, there are the birds; and they completely refute the argument of those who say that it is impossible to make a flying-machine."

Now, I wish to take issue with Mr. Mather in this conclusion. I am one of those who think that a flying-machine, in the sense indicated above — i. e., self-raising, self-propelling — is impossible, in spite of the testimony of the birds. Of course, it is understood that I am speaking of true flight, like that of a bird or an insect, and not of ballooning nor any combination of ballooning with flying. This is sufficiently implied in the words "self-raising and self-propelling." I wish now to give, very briefly, a reason for my faith. I can best do so with brevity and clearness by a series of propositions which I hope will lead us, step by step, to absolute demonstration. I believe this is important, in order to check baseless expectations and limit effort to the right direction.