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.

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