Famous people, bad predictions

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webmaster | 01/12/12
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As we rang in the New Year last week, I thought about making some predictions for the next 12 months. Prognostication seemed appropriate for several reasons, not the least of which is the belief held by some people that the world will come to an end on Dec. 21, according to the Maya Long-Count Calendar. However, there are many pitfalls in making long-term forecasts.

Travel

In 1968, Business Week, a respectable periodical, speculated that “with over 15 types of foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big share of the market for itself.” Today, the Toyota Camry is the largest-selling passenger car in the U.S., and South Korean imports are challenging American auto makers.

Maderans, like myself, who oppose high-speed rail coming through our city might have taken comfort from a statement made by Dr. Dionysius Lardner, professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy at University College in London. The learned scientist, who died in 1859, said, “Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.”

On a related topic, the president of Michigan Savings Bank, an adviser to Henry Ford, offered his other clients this advice: “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty — a fad.” And, of course, Lord Kelvin will always be remembered for address that he gave to the British Royal Society in 1895 in which he said, “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” ...

 

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