Freeman Dyson DTS

Rasputin22

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RIP Freeman!

     You had a chance to blow us all up with your nuclear spaceships but what a concept. I always admired your 'out of the box, out of this world thinking' up to a point...

     I could really identify with your son the Baikarda builder and loved the book. 

     Say hi to Bucky when you get there!

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Rasputin22

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George Dyson the son of Freeman. The book I posted above is a great read about the generational clash that I'm sure a lot of us here went through with our Dads. They worked it out in the end.

 

Charlie Foxtrot

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RIP Freeman!

     You had a chance to blow us all up with your nuclear spaceships but what a concept. I always admired your 'out of the box, out of this world thinking' up to a point...
Oh shi'ite, I didn't realize he worked on Project Orion.  Should've known; nuclear put-putting to the planets was soooooo Dyson.  ;)  
 

 
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Rasputin22

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I was surprised to read that Freeman was a climate denier! I guess he figured that his nuclear starship reaching earth orbit would cook everything on Earth anyway. Good think that Kennedy and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty closed down Project ORION...




 

Pertinacious Tom

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Rasputin22

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More about the canoe

Today, a kayak tells us about the Aleut people. The University of Houston's College of Engineering presents this series about the machines that make our civilization run, and the people whose ingenuity created them.

George Dyson's father, Freeman Dyson, was a great English physicist. Once involved with the atom bomb, he later worked with solar sails and interstellar flight. But here in British Columbia son George makes an earthier expression of human ingenuity.

George Dyson is the reigning expert on the subtlest and most complex vehicle ever contrived. He knows more about the baidarka -- the Aleut kayak -- than the Aleut natives themselves did.

Baidarka is a Russian word. The Russians came to the Aleutian Islands in 1732. To the sea north of the Aleutians, they gave the name of their captain -- the moody, stubborn, meticulous Dane, Vitus Bering. But, to the delicate Aleut kayak, they gave their name for a small canoe -- the name baidarka.

A small baidarka is light enough that a child can carry it. It'll capsize if you put it in the water without a passenger. It's a whalebone and driftwood frame covered with sealskin. You have to be a gymnast to get into one. But, once in, you can skim the water at 10 knots. You can land a seal -- even a whale.

Dyson has studied accounts of baidarkas from the past 260 years. The Aleuts have constantly changed and evolved them. They weren't at all conservative about engineering design. A museum curator in Anchorage told me, "The Aleuts were born gadgeteers!"

The baidarka has baffled ethnologists. The prow, for example, is forked with two tines, one above the other. We'd thought that was traditional decoration. Now we see the lower tine is deep and narrow. It cuts into the water and stabilizes the boat. The top is flat --it planes over waves for a smoother ride.

Aleut navigators rode their baidarkas far out to sea -- to California, to the warm Pacific. Aleut legend tells how we know the earth is round. They once sent young men out in two baidarkas. They came back old, without ever having found any edge.

Dyson honors the Aleut mind by mixing experience with experimentation. He's made small baidarkas. He made one that was 48 feet long with sails and outriggers. He tinkers with the shape. He calls the baidarka "a frame of mind." Now he makes them with aluminum tubing and bulkheads -- with nylon skin and lashings.

As those exquisite forms take shape we hear something the great Russian Orthodox missionary, Ivan Veniaminov, once said. He recounted the Aleut ritual of rising in the morning. One must stand, he said, naked,


face to the East, and opening the mouth inhale the light and the air, [and cry] I do not sleep. I am alive. I face you, the life-giving light, and will always live with you.


Dyson's baidarkas are more than boats. They are icons of just that way of life and light -- and buoyancy of the spirit.

I'm John Lienhard, at the University of Houston, where we're interested in the way inventive minds work.

 

Rasputin22

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    I found a trove of Georges kayaks from a recent builders log. Waterjet cut aluminum frames, stems, brackets lashed Eskimo style to aluminum bent tubing. Beautiful work!

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Local article about the big Baikarda.

It's a crazy artifact," Dyson said. "I was young and ambitious, and a little crazy."

 ​
Dyson moved to British Columbia when he was 17. He worked odd jobs and lived in what is now Belcarra Park, on Burrard Inlet, across from Vancouver.

“I could paddle downtown in an hour,” he said.

Vancouver officials let Dyson and other tenants stay in their small cluster of waterfront cabins, a lodge, and the treehouse.

Dyson had built a few smaller kayaks when he decided to outdo the 30-footers built by early Russians exploring the Northwest. While his 48-footer, when rigged with sails, moved well downwind, it was difficult to maneuver at other times.

"It's just unwieldy," Dyson said. "Going from 30 to 48 didn't seem such a big jump, but it was."

 ​
Still, the kayak was special enough to him to be the only one he ever christened. Its name is "Mount Fairweather," for the 15,325-foot B.C. coastal peak Dyson gazed at while working in Southeast Alaska.

The kayak is made of windfall spruce, fiberglass and aluminum. When Dyson moved to Bellingham, he left it in the woods up on a cradle, but the cradle rotted and the kayak fell to the ground, where it provided shelter for a stinky otter. Otherwise, it was in good shape.

"It was amazing how well it held up," Dyson said.

The kayak might still be there, but Metro Vancouver recently moved to evict the cabins' occupants so the park could be expanded and beach access improved. When Dyson returned to the park in June to ready the kayak for its transfer, the cabin residents were moved to tears, he said.

"The boat had become the icon of the community," he said.

 ​
Dyson returned to B.C. two weeks ago in his motorized boat to tow the kayak back to Bellingham. He moored it temporarily at Squalicum Harbor until the morning of Thursday, Aug. 7, when he and some friends maneuvered it to the shoreline of Whatcom Creek inside Maritime Heritage Park. That afternoon, Dyson and 17 other people carried the kayak through the park, across Holly Street and into Dyson's business.

Dyson hopes to find a museum, boating center or other locale willing to properly care for and display the kayak. Until then, it's safe and dry in his basement.

In his first book, "Baidarka: The Kayak," Dyson called the kayak his "necessary monster," something he felt compelled to create.

"I had to do this thing to prove it was possible," he said

 

Pertinacious Tom

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A small baidarka is light enough that a child can carry it. It'll capsize if you put it in the water without a passenger. It's a whalebone and driftwood frame covered with sealskin. You have to be a gymnast to get into one. But, once in, you can skim the water at 10 knots. You can land a seal -- even a whale.
10 knots? I'd have to see it to believe it.

 

Steam Flyer

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