The Wild Goose Chase And Bicycle Aerodynamics - Friday, December 26, 1902
The History: Wilbur responded to Octave Chanute's letter of December 21st. He apologizes for the misunderstanding. There is no reference to Maxim's and Lilienthal's machines in the article. The Smithsonian paper stated it would discuss the weight, area and horsepower of flying objects both found in nature and man-made, beginning with the hummingbird. Consequently, Wilbur took for granted that the largest man-made machines, such as Maxim's and Lilienthal's should have been included in the pamphlet. He did not intend on sending Chanute on "a wild goose chase" to locate the information.
Wilbur also writes Chanute that he is returning his anemometer. Wilbur had hoped to use the anemometer for an experiment in bicycle aerodynamics. He wanted to determine the air resistance (drag) a human body creates riding downhill on a bicycle. Unfortunately, the wind conditions were never correct for him to conduct the experiment.
Having received negative replies from several manufacturers regarding the availability of a suitable motor they began work on their own motor around Christmas, 1902 (December 25, 1902). The motor used in their December 15, 1902 experiment is believed to be the same one which powered some of the bicycle shop equipment and was used to power their wind tunnel. Charles E. "Charlie" Taylor, a machinist and their chief mechanic in the bicycle shop worked on the construction of the motor for the brothers. The motor took about 6 weeks build.
The term "a wild goose chase" means to hunt for something impossible to find. Maxim's and Lilienthal's machines are not mentioned in the Smithsonian paper, so Chanute will never be able to find any reference to those machines in the paper.
Have you ever written a letter or an email which was misunderstood? Perhaps you were just joking with the person in the letter and they were offended? However, you know if you had been there speaking in front of the person, they would have seen the expression on your face or the tone in your voice. They would have known what you meant and would not have been hurt.
Unfortunately, some misunderstandings and differences of opinion are beginning to arise between the Wrights and their colleague, Octave Chanute. Sadly, over time this situation will have a negative effect on their friendship.
An anemometer is an instrument which measures the force or speed of the wind. Chanute's anemometer was used to record wind speed in the 1902 glider experiments. (See October 8, 1902 for an example of the 1902 glider results).
You've probably seen modern competitive cyclists. A great deal of science and engineering goes into the development of their equipment and clothing. Aerodynamic studies have been conducted to examine equipment design and the cyclist's body position to reduce drag and therefore, increase the cyclist's speed. On December 26, 1902 we see Wilbur Wright contemplate one of the first practical examples of sports aerodynamics. Our project's main website "The K-8 Aeronautics Internet Textbook" contains a large section on Aerodynamics in Sports Equipment.