Monday, June 14, 2010

Getting outside the box....

I was talking with a longtime friend in Ohio this morning.  Bruce is a retired agricultural seed salesman who has a broad streak of that mid-western pragmatism that has been the mainstay of farmers since a plow first broke soil. In fact, I doubt that a person could succeed as a farmer unless he or she was willing to deal with situations based on what is in front of them and what works.  It isn't about 'theory' or 'knowledge' as much as it is about understanding the problem at hand and having a tendency to think creatively, regardless of conventional wisdom, or long-standing practices. 

We got around to the BP mess in the gulf and his comment was, "They ought to turn some farmers loose on this; they'd come up with something that works."  I thought about it and told him I agreed.  We wondered aloud where all the stunning brain-power of MIT, Cal Tech, NASA, hundreds of other institutions and corporations is hiding.  Here is an immense and terrible problem and peoples' lives are being ruined, a critical eco-system is being trashed.....and we are all waiting for one foreign corporation to come up with a solution.

Well, they have come up with a list of them....and not a single one has worked.  My dear wife commented the other day: "It's like they are throwing stuff at a wall and hoping something will stick."  (I think she did actually say 'stuff'....not 'sh*t. fwiw) So, yes, this is not a gimme kind of a problem, made immensely more complicated due to the fact that it is happening at 5000 feet, where the pressure and conditions make it much more challenging.  I have no doubt that if it were happening at 300 or 500 feet that it would have been dealt with in a matter of days.

But, it is what it is, and that's where some creative thinking, and some down to earth pragmatism come in.  Bruce and I both had the same idea: a heavy iron funnel, inverted and able to be dropped onto the pipe with enough force to 'slam fit' it to the opening.  I could imagine putting a thick lining of un-vulcanized rubber in the funnel to act as a large and resilient gasket.  Hey, it's just an idle idea, and I have a feeling that there are literally THOUSANDS of such ideas out there.   But, I also am sensing that the egos of the engineers involved with solving this problem and the channels of communication are blocking any possibility that such a simple solution could make its way into use. 

 I do not think this is a situation where conventional practices will suffice.  I believe that there is a creative and bold solution someplace outside of the apparently very limited box that the engineers are in.  And, my God it is frustrating watching them dither about with stuff like 'top hats' and 'junk shots', making more excuses and  telling us that it will be AUGUST before they can stop this disaster.  

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