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- January 1, 2018: Vol. 12, Number 1

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What is normal

by Joe Valente

In the early 1950s, the US Air Force had a bit of a problem. A new generation of jets kept crashing for no apparent reason, which is not exactly what you want, or need, at the best of times. Clearly, the top brass needed someone to blame and, after a lot of finger pointing, decided that all the crashing was down to badly-designed cockpits, and so the answer was that a new type of cockpit was needed, one that was designed around the normal, the average pilot.

At this point enter a certain Gilbert Daniels, one of those researchers who had mastered the art of counting. He set out to measure more than 4,000 pilots with plenty of gusto, taking measurements across 140 dimensions of size, in order to define the normal and tailor the cockpit accordingly. It made him happy to while away his days defining the normal. How tall was the average pilot? How wide, number of teeth, size of foot, number of fingers, etc … So, when all the counting was done, how many of the 4,000 pilots were a

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