Saturday, October 29, 2011

Finding Balance

The problem with unlimited possibilities is that there are too many parameters for a limited mind to consider. This year, the Science Olympiad helicopter can be built out of any material, and the only limiting factor is the rotors can't be longer than 35 cm. The rubber motor (think: twisted rubber band) could be any length and weight. We could have a 500 foot rubber band motoring our copter if we wanted. The organizers were anticipating flights of 3-4 minutes. So naturally, our team set about building a copter with a long motor stick to handle the long motor we intended to use. Ben's copter flew well, though not as long as we hoped. The torque in the motor stick seemed to be absorbing the energy. He will need to figure out how to brace it without adding much weight. Asherel's motor stick was a good foot or so long, and very sturdy. She weighed her copter- over 7 grams! Almost double the weight of Ben's. In the rubber powered copter world, this is a machine that needs a little Lean Cuisine. We thought it was not likely this behemoth would leave the ground even with the huge motor. We were correct.

And this is the essence of the problem for the helicopter designer. Weight vs. stability. Strong helicopters tend to be heavy. Heavy weights require massive energy to lift off. This is why elephants don't fly. Light helicopters are immensely fragile. It doesn't take much to get them off the ground, but it also doesn't take much to snap their skinny little spars and motor sticks, sending hard working Science Olympiads crying weeweewee all the way home. In addition, light copters tend to flex, absorbing energy that is needed for lift. The perfect balance has to be found.

Balance in life... Every school year I struggle with the perfect balance. I know what it takes to get a kid through all those highschool courses, but I also know that when they finish highschool and head off to college, they leave me behind. This is how it should be, but still, I want those fleeting days remaining with us to be joyful. How can they be joyful when one is required to learn quadratic equations and the process by which ions in the thylakoid lumen are pumped throught the ATP synthase to become ATP? There just aren't enough hours in the day to learn everything that needs to be learned, or to do all the wonderful extra activities that one yearns to do. And not only was the helicopter not flying, but the trebuchet arm was now hitting the edge of the frame and it might take major re-engineering to correct this problem. Too much! Too much! Somehow, impossibly, in my opinion, one must find a balance.

There are countless examples in the Bible of God's leaders collapsing before Him, and saying, the task you gave me is too much. Many, including the great prophet Elijah cry out, Just kill me now. At one time or another, we all quake with the impossibility of life's demands. God agrees. Often it is too much. We can't do it. But He also reminds us, we don't need to do it by ourselves. Again, I am reminded that God's strength, added to my weakness equals success. He may define success differently, but really, as I look at the results of my labor, and compare it with the results of His in the glorious blazing background of Autumn, I know whose definition I better be using.

Mark 10: 26-31
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”  27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
 28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”
   29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

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