Evidence conforms to conceptions just as often
as conceptions conform to evidence.—Ludwik
Fleck, Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact
By the end of grade school, my mother maintains, I had attempted to deconstruct everything in the house at least once (including a squirrel that fell to its death on the front walk). Somewhere in the fog of my childhood, I shifted from deconstruction to construction, and one of my earliest machinations was a windmill, inspired by a dusty three-foot-diameter turbine blade laying idle in the garage thanks to my father’s job at a fanand-turbine manufacturer. Fortunately, the turbine’s hub screws fit snugly around a found steel pipe, which formed a relatively solid, if rusty, axle for the contraption. I mounted the axle in wood rather than steel, since my parents had neglected to teach me to weld. There were no bearings, but I dusted the naked holes with powdered graphite for lubrication; I was serious. Lacking the resources to design a tower, a wood picnic table in the backyard proved sufficient.
Some subsequent day, as cool winds ripped leaves from surrounding oak trees and threw them