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¨  Were the Wright Brothers given any awards?
¨  Did Wilbur Wright have any kids and did he ever get married?
¨  When, where and how did Wilbur Wright die?
¨  What is the history and rules of the pole vault event in Track and Field?
¨  Did the Wright Brothers have a favorite childhood story?
¨  Origin of the term "dog-fight"
¨  How do we, as the human race, know what is true and what is a lie?

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Were the Wright Brothers given any awards?

ANSWER from Steve Englehart on 24 January 2007:
At first, the brothers not only got no awards, many people refused to believe they had even flown.  Later, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC officially announced that one of their people had flown first.  This made the brothers so angry that when the Smithsonian asked if they could have a copy of the Wrights' airplane to put next to the Smithsonian's, the Wrights refused.  It was only after World War II that the Smithsonian admitted the Wrights were the first to fly, and then the plane went to them, where you can still see it today.  So that reward was very late in coming.  Otherwise, the brothers occasionally received commendations from the foreign governments they sold planes to.  And - though not an award - the first men to land on the moon took a piece of the fabric from the first airplane's wing with them on their space ride.

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Did Wilbur Wright have any kids and did he ever get married?

ANSWER from Steve Englehart on 9 December 2005:
I'm sorry to say that Wilbur never married or had kids.  The Wrights were a close-knit family - the brothers' father was alive and they had both other brothers and a sister - so the brothers never felt lonely.  In addition, they were devoted to building the best bicycle for their bicycle business, then devoted to solving the riddle of flight.  And once they solved it, there were endless legal wars with competitors - which led to his early death.  So Wilbur never had time to turn his attention to the ladies.

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When, where and how did Wilbur Wright die?

ANSWER from Steve Englehart on 1 December 2005:
Wilbur died May 30, 1912.  I imagine he was at home in Ohio but I'm not sure.  He died of typhoid fever, but he was also under stress from other inventors claiming THEY had invented the aeroplane and suing the Wrights.  A month before he died, he wrote, "It is rather amusing, after having been called fools and fakers for six or eight years, to find now that people knew exactly how to fly all the time."

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What is the history and rules of the pole vault event in Track and Field?

ANSWER from Scott Davis on 8 November 2005:
Pole vaulting has been around for over 100 years.  The athlete runs down a runway with a pole and plants the pole in a small rectangular box.  The athlete then swings up on the pole and tries to get over the bar without knocking it off.  The poles used today are fiberglass and they bend when planted which acts like a whip to help the athlete get much higher.  The world record now for men is over 20 feet!!  For women, a Russian lady has gone over 16 feet!!

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Did the Wright Brothers have a favorite childhood story?

ANSWER from Steve Englehart on 20 January 2005:
I've looked through all my reference material and I can't find anything about their favorite story.  As noted in our book (Countdown to Flight!), they loved little mechanical things like the helicopter, and they took the Bible very seriously (with their father being a minister).

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Where, what and when did the origin of the term "dog-fight" begin relating to aircraft?

ANSWER from Bob Raab on 20 January 2004:
I do not have an historical reference for the term "dog fight", however, I do know that it comes from WW I, and having seen dogs fight I can
understand the comparison.  Dogs chase each others tails, are up, down, around and around, and rolling all about.  In WW I the aircraft speeds were less then 100 mph, so they remained in close proximity during a fight, and to an observer on the ground the similarity to dogs fighting would come easily.  With the speeds and armaments of jet aircraft the engagement is spread over miles so the term may not be as appropriate, but is still used.  Prior to the Vietnam War, and due to the development of missiles, it was thought that the "dog fight" was a thing of the past, and the primary fighter of that day, the F4 Phantom, was designed without guns.

A pilot can get a missile "lock on" at night, in the clouds, and miles before he can see his enemy.  However, the rules of engagement as applied in Vietnam, required that the pilot have visual identification before he could fire.  In many instances he didn't get a visual until he was too close to fire a missile, taking away the advantage of surprise and the advantage of high tech armaments.  So a gun was designed for the F4 and the dog fight was reborn.  Modern day fighters have guns and missiles, and the dog fight is an integral part of fighter pilot training.  Dog fight training begins with simple acrobatics to accustom the pilot in controlling the aircraft in any attitude, nose straight down, straight up, upside down, etc.  In advanced training you spend hours in simulated aerial combat with another aircraft, each trying to get into firing position on the other.  Next to landing on and taking off from an aircraft carrier, it's the most fun thing to do in an airplane.

Another term you may come across related to aircraft dogfights is "lead the target".  For example, if my aircraft is approaching the enemy from the side, I have to aim well ahead of the other aircraft since it will take, say, 1 second for a bullet to reach the target.  A football quarterback does the same thing.  He has to lead his receiver since the receiver is running his position will change while the ball is in the air.  If an aircraft is moving at 300 mph it will travel 420 feet before the bullet gets to where I aimed.  Therefore I have to estimate the target's speed in miles per hour, multiply that by 1.4, and aim or "lead the target" by that many feet.  In the old days, WWI and early WWII, that is how it was done.  Today, since everything is so fast the pilot doesn't have time to think about that, and since it is very difficult to estimate aircraft speed, there is a computerized gun sight that "leads the target" for you.

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I feel, and from what I have read, our whole history is a lie.  How do we, as the human race, know what is true and what is a lie?  When is the truth going to be told as it really is, that we are not alone in this universe, and that life as it seems on this planet is only an illusion?

ANSWER from Michelle Mock on 23 June 2004:
The thing about history is that it is all a matter of perspective.  The written word attempts to record what has happened but it is sprinkled with the bias and perspective of the person writing.  So, we have to read and interpret what we read and form our own opinions about Truth.  There are obviously facts in history that can not be disputed (although some will claim that events never happened at all).  We have to use our own thinking power and decide for ourselves what is real and what is illusion.

When you look at the sky on a clear night, you see many dots of light.  Many of those dots of light are stars just like our own sun, which could have planets just like our Earth orbiting around.  Certainly, many scientists and others believe that we are not alone in this universe.  Many also believe that our definition of life, and intelligent life as well, is not necessarily the only definition of life.  This is why we explore our universe.  We are curious about what is out there.  We want to learn more about our beginnings.

Your letter brings up two points worth noting:

1) Do not believe everything you read.  People can pretty much write anything and it does not have to be true.  Even reliable sources write from a certain perspective so people will disagree.  [Beware of people who spout garbage just to cause controversy.]

2)  We don't know if there is life beyond our planet but we keep looking.

Many will disagree with this answer, and they have that right, these only my opinions.

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10 July 2007

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