Post December 17, 2007, 01:52:33 PM

Re: The Missing Bag by J. Alan Brown

...The octal system, while interesting, really doesn't factor into the resolution of the story. It only becomes relevant if the number of bags exceed 8. The number 5 in octal is 5 in decimal (as a side note, 9 in decimal is 10 in octal). What is relevant is they start counting at 0, not 1. Also, the statement that they counted the spaces between the fingers is incorrect. Rather, the first finger is treated 0, not 1. If they indeed counted the spaces, then their mentality is based on their counts beginning at 1.

I think the ONLY relevant part of the discussion was the "counting spaces instead of fingers" remark. This, and this alone, is sufficient to account for the misinterpretation that drives the whole story. Sneaker signals "four"; Earther sees it as "five". The rest was unnecessary, but you can chalk that up to Academic Infodump, where an expert* tries to inflate his importance by dazzling the audience with trivia. (*The one in the story. Maybe J. Alan was trying to make the expert look like a jerk?)

...I was a bit surprised that shutting down the port for a few hours would have such a devastating impact. Airports today are delayed due to a number of reasons, even (or especially) during holidays. I can't think of any lawsuit that would be successful. If there is a bomb scare, the courts would be more than sympathetic. I'm sure a few yahoos would try, but "...lawsuits [going] on for a decade" seems outlandish.

And here I thought Jaimie was a resident of the Ewe Ess of A, land of the lawsuit and the huge settlement for trivial injuries. As an airport planner and former airline employee, I can tell you that the impact of closing a major airport for a few hours can easily run into millions of dollars. Airplanes and flight crews ain't where they need to be to fly downstream flights; flight crews need to be replaced as they exceed their maximum hours on duty for the day, so overtime and salaries for idle crew stack up; passengers and freight miss connections (and perishable freight ... perishes). Closing one major airport affects flight schedules across whole continents. Now, extend that to an air and SPACE port, where missing a launch window might mean a delay of weeks or months (or a much more fuel-hungry orbital path) ...

The flashbacks were a Rashomon tribute, I think -- showing events from different points of view. Of course, since the airport personnel interviewed were describing different events in the sequence from curb (entering the terminal) to gate (boarding the air- or space-craft), this is not entirely true... (the upcoming movie "Vantage Point" shows the same 15 minutes from six or eight different viewpoints!).

You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.

Jack London (1876-1916)