Thursday, 31 July 2008

Kan Kats Kreate Kites?

Cat kites, not to be confused with kitkats (a massively disappointing chocolate treat to be referred to later), is the notion that a strategically shaven and geled (gelled?) cat would be aerodynamically stable enough to be flown on a long piece of string in a kite fashion.

Though this may initially sound like a cruel method of producing cheap amusement (because it is), the harder idea is really "how realistic is it?". Owing to me not having a clue how to even begin to work this one out, I will not be giving an explanation, but instead I intend to stand in a very large dark room with a knife, and start stabbing wildly at a small dog with the word "answer" stenciled on to its fur (I hear the trick is to use as large a knife as possible).

Dennis the cat for the purpose of the experiment will be augmented. He is a natural long haired tabby that I took from an old lady who lives nearby and will probably forget that she even had a cat (until I fly said cat into her window at high speeds that is).

Now the point of geling the fur is to try and produce a large flat "wing" that will bring about lift. Cats have a very low terminal velocity and so will survive most falls without death. This is very calming for me as I would usually think twice before sending prototype-tiddles out of a 3rd floor window.

Mk I is the basic "cat-wing", where the fur has been molded using a mixture of Max Factor's Nightshade holding putty and PVA glue to form a horizontal panel. Though this did work to increase wind resistance, it ultimately failed due to the cat wriggling in mid air until the air tight shield fell apart.

Mk II was the same design but with the wriggling issue resolved through judicious application of house brick v1.3. Results were improved until the cat's heavy head caused it to nose dive and the hair to act more like the wing on a free fall bomb. It was interesting to note that much like a free fall bomb, the cat did not overcome its terminal velocity and that the terminal velocity was very terminal.

Mk III was a large scale overhaul including an entire new cat (my neighbor has...had 2). The cat wasn't on its own here though, as most of the "wings" of the MkII moggy glider had survived and were attached to the Mk III to create a rather impressive wingspan. This time my hopes of success were higher and I endeavored to launch kitty kite in a more traditional fashion by running along an elevated hill pulling on the lead of moggy with a long piece of string with bright ribbons (I had hoped that the cat would be encouraged to chase the ribbons to aid me, but the partial asphyxiation of the subject meant that I ended up doing all the work). Though partial lift was achieved, the constant clattering along the ground of the subject meant that the delicate wing shape was ruined before it could be effective.

Mk Iv was a night time launch (apparently the locals didn't take kindly to what I was doing during MkIII testing). This time to avoid wing degradation, i used a launcher using the roof of my car. Once lift had taken the cat off the roof, I could start reeling out the line and let kitty take an aerial view of the M3 by night.

Though Mk Iv may have been entirely successful, we will never know how successful. I didn't tie the other end of the line to anything, and there were no lights on the cat kite. Either the cat reached altitude and flew off, or it quickly fell of the back of my car as I reached speed and was pulled not by a gust of wind, but a vehicle travelling in the other direction. The search for the flight recorder will continue.

So as not to cause unjust upsetting of readers, I would like to caveat my previous statement. I was referring to 2 fingered kitkats sucking. For some reason 4 fingered ones are still great.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Resulting from the random subject generator: 50p

The 50p coin has a long and tricky to recall past. Though stooped in history, many pages and chapters of the coin's early days are now lost; burnt by peoples innability to perfectly remember exact events, and my unwillingness to research anything before narrating lives purely through unintelligent imagination.

Digressions aside, for now at least, lets delve into the missing chapters until words and letters spring forth from the narrow gaps where the pages used to reside.

The 50, jingler or halfpund as its modern day users may call it, was first brought about in a time before decimalisation. The 50 was an anniversary gift associated with silver and so the Queen's coronation demi-centenary was marked with 1000 of these coins being fired into the air by 50 cannon.

The result was a horrendous massacre. 30 died from the resulting rain-silver and the short black felt hats worn by the queen's guard did little to protect them. Two things resulted from this historic mis-calculation. Firstly, the coins were reduced from their original 2 and a half foot diameter to 1 inch. Secondly, the guards hats were increased in height to over a foot. Protecting them from all further royal celebrations.

The 'biddy' was also unusual for its hexagonal sides. It was hoped that though no-one needed these coins, they would be used more if they served a practical purpose. Carpenters and architects were quick to take up the new moneys as they were frequently perplexed by 60 degree issues. Now they had an easily pocketable guide to the 60 degrees in an attractive silver finish.

The coin's decorations have also changed from their humble beginnings. To start with, the coins were not obvious as to their value. 50p in those days equated to about 3 and one half happencrown shilling, which is what an average farmer would earn per week. To help the proles understand what the funny shiny thing was, the following text was written on the coin's "tail" side:

"Here lies our beloved value. Buried beneath its shiny surface ever under the wrath of our Lord God is his blessings and value. He blesses us with not just 1 shillings worth of love, but over a crown hapen worth. That's a lot. Its like he's hugging you right now. Please use this coin to buy things of virtue, such as corn on the cob or play size crucificies, so that he will smile on us instead of setting fire to our toes. For ever and ever, the End."

This was why the original coin was so big. Each coin was hand written by a monk scholar in molten silver, and took about 2 days to make.

On resizing the coin to the new "fun size 50", the text was changed to have more concise "worth 1 sheep".

When the world wars arrived like a noisy neighbour to our doors, the government requested that all coins be returned for the war effort (in exchange for 1 sheep). Many thousands of coins were in circulation by that point, and extra sheep had to be flown in from Greenland to cover the shortage, but eventually the coins were recalled in their entirety where they were melted down to make tanks.

At the end of the war, it was decided that the coins should be introduced, along with round numbers. When rationing finally stopped in 1982, the coins were released in a special commemorative edition showing the queen smoking a pipe to symbolise the end of tobacco rationing.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

more of the same-ish

and while we are on the subject, and whilst I'm programming, I'll take a quick dig at the debating society posters, which for the most part seem to be produced by an automated system designed to provoke people into turning up. Stuff like 'This house believes that women are retarded as a species and should not be let near any mains electricity' kind of stuff. So here are some of mine, thanks to the autodebater 5000 (patent pending):

This house believes that the consumption of family for food is unnecessary
This house believes that the firing of dogs for public entertainment is evil
This house believes that the racing of cardinals for demonstration is a safe way to make money
This house believes that the hoisting of Vietnamese is time well spent
This house believes that the decapitation of nuns for a hobby is grounds for murder
This house believes that the consumption of knives and forks is unnecessary
This house believes that the mixing of knives and forks is a good way to kill time
This house believes that the hoisting of nuns for public entertainment is grounds for murder
This house believes that the tripping of dogs for amusement is time well spent

Automated inspiration

Well, its been too bloody long since I've written anything. Perhaps my mind has calmed down a bit; perhaps my boss has started slipping sedatives into my morning coffee; perhaps this is all a giant conspiracy to stop free thought that has not affected anyone else because.... well, looks like I'm fine afterall. So to help quench this drought, I've written another fantastic piece of software that comes up with inspiring topics of discussion. Observe!

Why do old people get cold?
How do you make the universe end up inverted?
Who made old people become exploding?
An encyclopaedia of communists
Why can't goal posts start off hot?
Why old people?
Why do clouds get drinkable?
The history of 50p coins
What if badgers turned invisible?
The origins of knives and forks