Sunday, March 06, 2005

A Boy and His Kite

   A simple paper kite, in the shape of an elongated diamond, some string and a little breeze: the best physics lesson a 10 year old could receive. The boy assembled his kite carefully, setting the yoke dimensions just so and adding a couple of feet of tail, made from cloth rags taken from the laundry room. It was an unseasonably warm afternoon in March, the snow had been gone for a week and as he made his way to the school yard he gave the kite a little push up in the air, letting it out about six feet. It followed like an obedient dog, always tugging at the leash a bit, but never going off on its own. At the school the kite seemed sluggish, the boy removed a bit of tail which was a slight improvement. He removed a little more and the kite surged upward. He flew the kite over the school, over the parking lot and the softball field, until the string was out all the way. He tugged on the string from side to side and the kite, now just a speck in the sky, curved and swooped, like a large bird of prey.

   After a while, the sun began to fade, and with it the wind. The boy worked the kite in, losing a little height, but still maintaining a taut line. As the kite came back over the school, the wind died altogether. Still, as if by some miracle, the kite flew. Only 30 or 40 feet in the air, it hovered noiselessly, the cheap paper not even rustling. The sky reddened, the boy headed for home, the kite in tow - now only about 20 feet up. As he headed into the alley, he wound the string in until he could pluck the kite out of the air, like a falling leaf. He put it under his arm, went into the house, and shut the door.

By Professor Batty



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