As amazing as it may seem, there’s considerable evidence that Joe Caldert, a plumber from St. Francis, Kan., submitted the design which was the basis for BP’s at least temporarily successful effort to stop the flow of oil.

At the very least, Caldert’s proposal, which he relayed through a University of California at Berkeley professor, closely resembles the technique BP is using. This is an interesting example of how knowledge widely distributed through society can be brought to bear on difficult problems—and how credentialed experts inside or outside government and the academy do not have a monopoly on useful knowledge.