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QUANTITY HAS A QUALITY ALL OF ITS OWN.

So said Uncle Joe (Stalin), or something like this; not wrong either as the Wehrmacht found out to it's cost.

There is a sort of Moore's* law of making things by which for every doubling of quantity, costs drop by 20% or so- without any limit that's apparent as yet. It's why you can now buy a $75 smartphone that has more computing power than the Apollo moon mission.

Ford's 1908 to 1927 model T is the poster boy for this effect, so maybe we should call it the T law.

And it doesn't only apply to manufactured items; cars and other assembled things are scalable; but so is a large part of all human endeavour- from the roads these cars drive on, to mining , farming (especially farming), entertainment (including creative elements), health care and even government.

It is this mechanism and pretty much only this mechanism that enables our planet to support 7 billion people in health and comfort that not even a few hundred thousand could enjoy in paleolithic times- notwithstanding disparities, then and now.

But this statement of the T law is a bit backwards; a more useful expression of it is that the prosperity which supports our long and comfortable lives is primarily a function of total population. A better life for all comes along as a consequence of their being more of us - provided we continue to manage the side effects of greater population density effectively of course.

But an ever increasing sub-set of humankind seems to be choosing to repudiate the crucial importance of scale for our wellbeing while ranting on about self sufficiency, sustainability, 'smaller is better' and the evils of globalisation. And railing against the internal combustion engine, shale oil, corporate farming, big business, (big everything actually) and sliced bread- when it is precisely these things that are providing them with the personal freedom to push their destructive anti-development, anti-everything-productive agendas. They're the new version of rich kids embracing socialism so as to give the finger to their parents.

Not that we don't need sensible judgement as to how we use the contents of this now-opened Pandora's box.

But contrary to populist views, there don't appear to be any looming resource shortages that will be limiting, although maintaining adequate air and water (fresh and salt) quality is a challenge we'll need to apply ourselves to.

And as threats go, AGW (human caused global warming) is flavour of the month but whatever the human contribution is to the general warming we've been experiencing since the last glacial maximum (around 24,000 years ago) current trends seem to be within longer term historical norms, and don't look like unduly straining our capacity to adapt. Well need to keep an eye on this though.

But WINTER IS COMING- the next ice age is a real threat.

It will surely cause us to lose scale to the extent that civilisation is unlikely to survive in anything but vestigial form. Which won't be a good thing except by putting an end to sillynesses such as personal trainers and unsustainable causes like "organic" food.

But if this current interglacial stretches out for long enough (with a bit of help from AGW?) and the world doesn't succumb to religious nutters like Greenpeace, just maybe we can get enough in the bank to ease us through to the next benign climatic period, or even better, get a toehold off-planet.

That feels better, now where was I?

Ah, closer to home, it's the same lack of understanding of the T law that causes people to complain about how expensive kites are by comparison to similar things that are made in much larger volume (clothes, even tents). They tend to blame rip-off manufacturers and retailers instead .

Of course kites are expensive for what they are -the entire world kite industry (not including Indian paper fighters) is smaller than Mid Canterbury's small seeds sector- and there are only 30,000 people living here.

And mea culpa, I've just been caught out by a consequence I hadn't recently thought through.

The T law also makes complexity of almost no consequence. Simple isn't superior any more- unless it also works as well or better, because volume manufacturing, a global market and efficient international small-package couriers can now make very complex things available everywhere at not much above the cost of materials.

3 sqm 5 cell Skin Image Taken Nov 2013
3 sqm 5 cell Skin
Image Taken Nov 2013
I've been taking some pride in having refined my Skin (single skin 4 line kite) design to just 5 panels, 16 bridles and 2 brakes while improving it's flyability almost daily.

So pleased that I took time out last week to add graphics- and there's only one step down the style-over-substance road after this one: bags!

But now I see that this is probably wrong headed unless I can also eventually take its performance up by many notches- a big ask, as high performance/simple is much more difficult to do than high performance/complex.

As I said last month- at least I know what I'll be doing for the next few years.

Anyway, this was brought into focus for me last weekend, at the famous Ashburton International Kite festival (called the Flight for Life), when I flew a prototype single skin traction kite that is quite the opposite of the Skin. It has 25 cells, more than 200 bridles and very high aspect ratio, and its performance is truly astonishing, unbelievable even. Un-collapsible, with more pull for it's size than comparable ram air 'foils and needing much less wind (all typical single skin characteristics), it also has L/D that's 'foil equivalent (better than most I'd say), excellent handling and instant power.

Wow! - really WOW! A glimpse of the future; conventional 'foils will become forgotten museum pieces. LEI's need to watch their backs also.



But your next questions will remain unanswered; except that I didn't make it, and it's not from either Ozone or Flysurfer. For now, I'm not letting on who did- or when/if it and derivatives will become available.

And yes, there are no photos, except that it may be in the background of some "Flight for Life" postings- which also won't help with either identification or detail. But there is no possible way that breakthroughs as dramatic as this can hide for long- so just be patient.



And, not particularly apropos, on the day after "Flight for Life" we went to Mt Sunday in Mid Canterbury's back country to fly kites. Mt Sunday was the set for Edoras, the Capital of Rohan in "Lord of the Rings".

And fly we did, and not just kites either, as it was VERY windy there.

Which is not unusual; 100km/hr and gusty beyond belief is common in this area.

Pete (son) used to kite water ski with one 8ft stunt kite just down the road at Lake Clearwater- overpowered at times. This quantity of wind definitely has a quality all of its own.

Of the many kites we hauled up Mt Sunday, only two came out of their bags- one of Perrin Melchoir's boxes and a 9sq.m Airbanners pilot. Both survived, but barely.

A maxi Octopus made a break for freedom- still in it's bag- with Tan Xinbo in pursuit.

Tan then tried to fly his shoes, but couldn't get the bridling quite right.

Stefan Cook had a bit more success with his hat and socks.

Perrin himself was the best performing kite on the day.

And it reminded me, if I ever needed the reminder, of how silly I was to have persisted in using this area for all the early work we did with traction kites and kite surfing.

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Tan Xinbo Tries A
Mountain Truffle
9sq m Airbanners Pilot
in strong winds
Perrin Kite.
Best performing kite.
Perrin Melchior's box kite
Images Turned Off Images Turned Off Images Turned Off Images Turned Off
Ray In A Tree with John Tan Stefan Cook Flying His Hat Tan Xinbo Flying His Shoes Tan Xinbo In Pursuit

Peter Lynn, Ashburton, New Zealand, December 1 '13

*In 1965 Gordon Moore predicted that the number of transistors in integrated circuits would double every two years or so and this has so far been broadly correct (it's now taking 3 years).


Octopus
Peter Lynn Kites Ltd
105 Alford Forest Rd
Ashburton 8300
NEW ZEALAND
Ph: +64 (0) 3 308 4538
Fax: + 64 (0)3 308 1905
Email: peter@peterlynnhimself.com
Website :www.peterlynnhimself.com
 

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