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What Drives A Helicopter?

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Posted by Paul R. Martin on July 1, 2001 16:24:24 UTC

In another thread, Mike asked "What 'drives' Life?". In the discussion that followed, the comparison was made with the question, What drives an Apache helicopter. Alex correctly pointed out that the laws of physics completely explain how the helicopter works. The laws of conservation, symmetry, entropy, and all the rest, completely explain what makes the helicopter fly. This explanation has counterparts in life: digestion, metabolism, nerve signaling, muscle contraction, mechanics of limbs, etc.

Mario added that another interesting question is how the helicopter came into existence. He explained that it took a mix of ideas (i.e. creative thought by people like Leonardo and Sikorsky) and evolution (trial and error experimentation with materials, prototypes and earlier models) in order to make a helicopter. The corresponding counterparts in life are a little less clear.

But you didn't answer Mike's question. He asked, What drives a helicopter?

The answer to his question is "The pilot."

I suggest that no helicopter has ever successfully flown from point A to point B without being under the control of a conscious pilot. The laws of physics can explain why the rotors beat, why the helicopter lifts off the ground, and why it attains a certain attitude and direction. But the laws of physics do not explain why the helicopter follows the route from point A to point B. Neither does evolution or the designer or the manufacturer cause the helicopter to go from point A to point B. The conscious pilot does that, and only the conscious pilot.

The laws of physics can predict the aerodynamic behavior of the helicopter but they cannot predict the flight path from A to B. In order to predict the flight path, you need to communicate, either directly or indirectly, with the conscious pilot, or an equally conscious commander.

If we apply Harv's view of "universal principles and logico-mathematical truths that inspire change and growth in the Cosmos" to the helicopter, then, if I understand him correctly, he says that The Supreme Commander has a set of master flight plans that directs and controls all flights of all helicopters, and the pilots are just along for the ride having the illusion of control. Maybe someday, but not with present-day helicopters.

If we define the word 'drive' to mean the function performed by the pilot, then Mike asks a very good question: What is the counterpart to the pilot in the deliberate movement of living animals? Or, as he put it, What drives life?

Warm regards,


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