Yarn winder

The devil is always in the details.


Here we have the yarn winder, mostly sorta but not really working. We’re like, 77% of the way to working. But the act of trying to get to 100% operational is breaking the machine down even as it stumbles toward completion. 

It’s possible that both the first and second Death Stars in Star Wars blew up, not because of the actions of a brace squadron of resistance fighters — but because they were overdesigned technical marvels that failed at their first test firing. Even an empire as vast as a galaxy — especially an empire as vast as a galaxy — can build a non-functional superweapon that destroys itself on ignition. All the other empires so far that have built superweapons have done the same; why not assume the same of the Galactic Empire?

How do I extrapolate that from a yarn winder?

Simple. Gears are required — by the laws of nature, mind you — to be a particular shape. Why are the teeth of a gear on a Colonial or US Civil War-era mill so exact, so huge, so regular? They were ground that way by the first six months or so of operation. The engineers who built them over-engineered them, and then let nature do what nature does — which is grind down and wear away things that are even slightly unfit for their environment. 

And so, as I test and shape the gears of my yarn winder, the plywood chips away and the teeth get narrower and the profile of the gears gets sloppier. In time one of the teeth will break and I’ll build the whole thing anew. 

When designing, especially for the long haul, the needs of the design must take into account the question of lifespan. In a school program, maybe that’s a week or even two days — the length of the project. But in a machine, it’s hundreds of hours of use.  Maybe thousands. Even as I build this machine, it’s breaking down so that parts will need replacement and repair. 

And it occurs to me that maybe the Sith masters knew this. They derived as much satisfaction and peace of mind from the deaths of millions of life forms on a planet, as on a space station. The ability to destroy planets or planetoids though quality design, or space stations through bad design, equally serves the Dark Side. 

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