Dream in a bottle

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10th February 1989
Dear Amy,
I must write a special letter and thank you for the dream in a bottle. You are the first person in the world who has sent me one of these and it intrigued me very much. I also liked the dream. Tonight I shall go down to the village and blow it through the window of some sleeping child and see if it works. With love from,
Roald Dahl

Shaun Usher, the curator of the fabulous book Letters of Note: Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience, had the prescience to rescue and print this letter penned by beloved British author Roald Dahl to a 9-year-old fan. Dahl, a fighter pilot in WWII, went on to write many books, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. The dream in a bottle from Amy was inspired by another of Dahl’s magical stories, The BFG, about a Big Friendly Giant who collects nice dreams and blows them through the windows of sleeping children.

When I opened the Word doc “LIDAR_FLYING” emailed to me by Valerie C. Coffey, the writer of this month’s cover story, like Dahl I had a feeling of delight and gratitude: Someone had collected dreams and blown them into my in-box.

As I read Coffey’s article on eVTOLs and looked over the accompanying table of flying vehicles currently in development, not only did I feel it was imperative to include the table in this issue (the experimentation!), but I remembered my 9-year-old self again — a little girl riding in her dad’s Olds 88 while he gunned its V-8 up Spring Avenue and I yelled from the back, “Make it fly, Daddy! Make it fly!”

As an adult, holding onto the animated world of our childhood fantasies isn’t an easy thing to do. Scientists and writers seem to have an uncanny gift for mining the thread of connection, though, and it can be a tremendous source of energy and creativity. I hope a twinkle of that creativity is visible in the lidar special section: in the interview with Velodyne’s Marta Hall, in Don Wilkins’ article on optical vehicle-to-vehicle communication, in Jason Palidwar’s “Industry Insight”, and in the evolution of components discussed by Matt Robinson of Laser Components.

Coincidentally, Dahl was one of the co-writers of the screenplay for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the 1968 musical adventure about a flying car. If, like Dahl, you’re one of the lucky adults connected to childhood fantasies — and they include making the future fly — have a ball! (Just please take care of the birds up there; they’re magical, too!)


Published: November 2019

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