email

The Quantum Elbow
__—— an eBook for the Kindle.  This book is the first of a series named Vortex Evolution... 

An engineer working in aircraft accident investigation takes a physics course to improve his understanding of electronics, and stumbles on an idea.  Over thirty years, that idea develops, and he finally patents his invention, then thinks about applying it to the real world...  but, by this time, he is already nearing retirement age.  An array of his Quantum Elbows can be used as an engine, but produces a violent vortex that makes it unlikely to ever be used widely for aviation purposes.  He looks for specialized applications, and employs a young protege to advance the new technology.
He finds the ideal ‘niche’ for his invention.  Orbital satellite launches and space-junk destruction become the focus for his small firm, to the ultimate benefit of all people on Earth, because his ‘QE’ technology is cheaper and cleaner than rocket technology – and that damaging vortex does no harm up there.  But his young protege has grander plans...  interstellar plans.

Interested?  Available for Kindle from Amazon, US$2.60 – 312 ‘Amazon pages’.  Read the first Chapter of The Quantum Elbow here...


1:  Genesis

...Brisbane, Australia, 40 years ago
Judging by his actions and attitudes, many work colleagues assumed that Terry Gadson had been a spoiled, rich kid, because an aeronautical engineering degree was not a cheap or easy qualification to obtain, and aeronautical maintenance catered to well-heeled clients who owned aircraft.  But they were wrong.  Up until his tenth year, his talented father had been building his construction company, concentrating on small commercial properties where margins were tight.  The Gadsons had known real hardships.  But, when builder Paul Gadson formed a partnership with a local architect, Gadson Construction had moved into larger commercial jobs on Australia’s affluent Gold Coast, a tourist Mecca with frequent up-market building project opportunities.  The family’s fortunes had started to improve substantially at that time.  As a result, by the time that Terry was at High School and deciding what sort of career he wanted to pursue, money had only recently ceased to be a problem.
The young Terry Gadson had been fascinated by aircraft of all types so, despite his father’s desire to see his son follow him into the construction industry, Terry went to university and studied aircraft design.  His father quite rightly pointed out – many times – that career options in this specialized field were extremely limited in a country like Australia, but Terry simply followed his heart.  He worked hard and earned his academic success, so parental career criticisms tended to be subdued.  Their son was proving his merit, after all, even if not in a field they might have preferred.  Perhaps, if the family had not recently become so wealthy, or had been wealthy for a long enough time to take a more balanced, long-term view, Terry would have been gently pressured to reconsider his aeronautical focus and perhaps apply his engineering skills to building needs...  but he wasn’t.  He automatically became a product of his environment, and his stubborn streak.
*  *  *  *  *
Straightening from his crouch behind the hangar door, Jim Palano swore at his grinning companion.  “Christ, Terry!  You could have killed us both!”
Terry Gadson laughed at the discomfort of his friend, waving his hands around to try dispelling the thick cloud of black smoke.  &lrdquo;You just weren’t expecting the noise or the flame – but I was!  I bet there isn’t much left of that exhaust system!  Mission accomplished, Jim.  I need to rig up a big blower fan to test the next phase, but this went pretty much exactly as I expected.  Dalby Crop-duster 131 is as good as solved.”  The sound of running feet intruded on the conversation, and presently a small group of airport officials sprinted into view, dire expectations plain on their faces.  One puffing orange-overalled man carried a fire extinguisher, and a siren could be heard suddenly starting in the distance.
Jim faced the approaching group, holding up his hands.  “All under control, Mr Watson – it’s just Boy Wonder here.  He finished running his experiment to duplicate the Dalby crash and it just produced the same explosion effect the eyewitnesses reported.”
Even Jim Palano struggled to avoid laughing at the obvious battle of emotions evident in the Maintenance Chief’s face as he realized with relief that the apparent disaster was actually a small triumph.  Terry Gadson laughed outright, and the Maintenance Chief rounded on him.
“Bloody hell, Terry!  You can’t keep doing this.  Don’t get me wrong – you’ve got a natural flare for investigative engineering, all very good, but you positively give me the shits every time you test some new theory.  You do good work, man, but you’re gonna have to learn to keep us better advised when you start making bloody window-rattling explosions, or I’ll bloody well roster you back onto routine maintenance work!  I mean it!”
One of the newcomers laid a restraining hand on the Maintenance Chief’s arm and directed a doubtful glare at the young maintenance engineer-turned accident investigator.  “Is this true?  You’ve figured out what happened at Dalby?  What was it?  That whole fleet is still grounded.”
Terry sobered immediately.  “I’m now very sure it was caused by Super Phosphate, Mr Davidson – that was the cargo in the hopper.  I need to run one more test to simulate the next phase of the accident, but I expect that part to be easy.  It wasn’t a craft malfunction or a pilot error – it was mostly an inadequate design allowance on the engine cowling ventilation.  Being a pusher-prop design, the cargo hopper is forward of the engine, and when it’s filled up in a farmer’s field it often overflows.  Super Phosphate is a very fine powder and that’s the core of the problem.
“Some of the spilled powder flowed into the air intakes on the top of the engine cowling.  Under the intakes there’s a series of ducted baffles to equalize pressure in the engine bay and the powder filled those up because they all have a rolled edge to them – like a small lip.  Fine while the aircraft is sitting in a horizontal position on the ground.  But when the craft took off, was nose-up with a healthy airflow over the engine cowling, all that powder dumped off the back of those baffles.  Probably something like a shovel-full of it funneled straight into the air intake on the engine.  The engine, running on full throttle, choked with a sudden loss of air as the powder flowed through the air filters, running the fuel mixture incredibly rich.  It backfired violently, sending a whacking great gout of flame through the exhaust system – and stalled.  That’s the end of phase one of the accident.  That’s the part I just tested.  The craft is now about twenty or thirty feet in the air, nose up with a dead engine and no power.  What would any good pilot do in that situation?”
“Well, shove the stick forward to get the nose down and look for somewhere to ditch.”
“I agree, and I think that’s exactly what the pilot did.  He got the nose forward violently on momentum and that’s where phase two starts.  The throttle is still wide open, of course, but the Super Phosphate is now gone from the air intake, and the engine catches again with the airflow over the prop.  The whole series of events would take less than, say two seconds.  He’s now nose-down in a heavy aircraft just ten feet or so from the ground at full throttle and flies straight into the deck at maximum acceleration.  Right behind his seat is half a ton of Super Phosphate and a roaring engine.  He didn’t stand a chance.”
“Fuck!  Poor bastard – what a way to go!”  Harold Watson grabbed Terry Gadson’s sleeve.  “Shit!  I’m sorry, Terry.  I think you’re absolutely right.  That fits exactly with what we know about the accident.  What do we need to do to correct it?”
Terry thought for a moment.  “I still need to run an experiment to prove that the engine would refire after stalling to be absolutely sure.  But correcting it?  Well, I think that an improved hopper neck with baffles to prevent overflow filling those air intakes would be needed, and certainly the pressure-equalizing ducting under the engine cowling needs to be changed.  Maybe remove all those rolled edges, or make sure they all roll downwards so they can’t silt up.  Move the air intakes?  Hell, I’d need to think about it a bit, you know – I’ve just concentrated on spotting potential problems up to now.”
Jim Palano stood back to watch the interplay.  Terry had done it again – and ruffled feathers in doing so, as usual.  He and Terry had both been drafted into the engineering crew at Archerfield Aero Maintenance straight out of university and Terry had quickly proved his genius.  The gangling engineer was really an aircraft designer, but there wasn’t much scope for employment in that specialist area, so he now occupied a special though precarious voluntary position at AAM overseeing any accident investigations the company pursued in addition to his regular maintenance and repair work.  He had developed a nose for design errors on aircraft using the airport maintenance facilities and had successfully lobbied for design modifications in several cases.
At just under thirty, he was considered a real asset, and a prime reason for two small commercial operators contracting their modest fleets of light commercial aircraft to AAM’s commercial maintenance operation.  Jim wondered how long Terry would remain contented with the restrictive employment conditions at the airport maintenance and repair company.  It was hard to tell.
Terry was a bit of a loner – very introspective.  Although Jim had been through university with him, now worked with him, and had learned to fly with him as they both indulged their love of flight, he didn’t understand him
Terry Gadson performed all his experimental work on accident investigations in a run-down pre-fab hangar on the extreme southern edge of the airport precinct.  He had started his accident work in the main hangars, along with the regular maintenance work, but had been progressively banished because of the rather unpredictable nature of his work and the disruption caused to important routine procedures.  This old hangar was the third home for the resident accident investigation expert, and likely to be the last, too.  A new, large hangar was scheduled to be built in its place within two years, and Terry would then have to take his disruptive work elsewhere.
*  *  *  *  *
He eventually took the work to an old remote outback property far to the west, on the dry western edge of the fertile Darling Downs, and a full seven hundred kilometers from his Brisbane home for the simplest of reasons.  A distant Gadson relative had once farmed there, but had allowed the place to deteriorate when he got very old, and had willed it to Terry when he died.  In fact, it was not worth very much by then.  It was mostly scrub-land and it had been years since any cattle had been raised there.
Events led inexorably to this because of Terry’s long-standing love of aircraft.  He had rebuilt a crashed Cessna as a hobby project, which had taken two years in the maintenance hangars before it was finished and licensed.  His sudden increase in mobility coincided with his increased immersion in accident work at AAM, and gradually changed his world-view.  During the time that he was using the small plane to fly pleasure trips radiating out of AAM’s Archerfield base in every possible direction, he learned that he had inherited the western farm property, and it had its own private airstrip.  Farmers on remote western properties routinely commuted to Brisbane or Toowoomba by light aircraft, and that lifestyle appealed to him.
The clincher was that it was not too far from the Hampton Yards – a graveyard for old aircraft.  Not everyone’s idea of heaven, but perfect for Terry.  For about six months he commuted to work in Brisbane by air, renting a small apartment near the Archerfield airport and, when the small hangar that housed his accident investigation equipment finally faced the demolition crew, he made a proposition to Archerfield Aero Machinery.
It was a very convenient solution for the company.  The accident investigation skills of their talented young engineer could be retained, albeit restricted to weekends and evenings, and the disruption to their routine work removed to a safe place.  They made a gift of the small hangar to Terry and even provided a crew to dismantle it and re-erect it on his barren farm.  Terry also paid a few thousand dollars for some of the well-used company-owned workshop equipment needed to set up his experiments, plus transport to his western hideaway.  He ended up with a rather tattered hangar in his back yard, adjacent to his small private airstrip, where he could house his Cessna and perform accident investigations.
He was well pleased with the arrangement, since a hangar and workshop equipment would have been very expensive if he had been forced to buy everything new.  He was not poor, and his parents, who sometimes contributed to costs, were fairly wealthy, but saving money where possible was a natural instinct.  There were also some other buildings on the property that had not been used for at least several years, probably decades, so one shed near the house became his main workshop.  That kept heavy lifting and machining work out of the hangar.  The old workers’ huts were simply given a coat of paint, but otherwise left as they were.
Aviation companies all over Australia kept up with industry news, and reports of innovative and successful accident investigations were always news – Terry Gadson’s name was often raised in influential circles.  There was never any firm contract with AAM, but they expected that Terry would continue to treat the hangar as ‘theirs’, even though it was now housed on his property, and had been a gift.  Their accident investigation work would not be compromised.
That had been the start of Gadson Aviation, and it had gone from strength to strength over the years as Terry’s reputation grew.  Mostly Terry sub-contracted to AAM because they provided the manpower from their maintenance staff, typically flying from Archerfield to ‘Elysium’ on a Friday, working over the weekend, and flying back on Saturday or Sunday evening – a popular work assignment despite the fairly rudimentary accommodations at Terry’s farmhouse.
Terry personally thrived on the separation of his regular work from his accident work, and really enjoyed the remote isolation of his new home.  He liked commuting large distances on a regular basis.  It suited his solitary nature, and his solitary address provided other benefits, too.  The Australian government subsidized tertiary education for people living in remote areas, so Terry was able to enroll for a degree course in physics at practically no cost, to be completed part-time by correspondence.  Credit points from his engineering degree gave him a flying start, and he enjoyed the course despite the expected five years that would be required to complete it.  Physics at this specialist level was a new field for him and it opened new possibilities for deeper understanding in his engineering interests.  The unpredictable, wild and often bizarre nature of physics at the quantum level provided a startling contrast to the ordered world of engineering.
Although Terry could not see the emerging pattern at the time, and was quite content with his part-time employment on maintenance work at AAM plus accident investigation work at his home, his own success was driving events – Archerfield Aero Machinery benefited more from Terry’s crash investigation work than they did from his maintenance work at Archerfield.  And all his disruptive activities happened hundreds of kilometers away from the smooth operations at Archerfield!  Within only a few years, Terry had a string of modestly successful accident investigations in the light aircraft field behind him and was developing a small but solid reputation in the private, club, and light commercial air fraternity as a clever investigator.  Not only could he usually find causes for baffling accidents and malfunctions, he could often recommend measures to prevent repetition of them.
Grateful clients, especially the light commercial operators, often offered a bonus for successful, speedy resolution of potentially lethal problems, but Terry always explained that, as an employee of AAM, he just couldn’t accept such payments.  After several offers, his employers agreed when some clients suggested they instead donate older workshop equipment to Terry to help him with future investigations.  That ultimately benefited them anyway. He got his massive fork-lift that way.
The hangar at the optimistically named Elysium started to slowly fill with assorted equipment.  One major benefit arising from his success was virtually unlimited access to aircraft spare parts from the Hampton Yards just an hour by road from his new home.  He could buy second-hand parts at a substantial discount from the aircraft wrecking yards.  Two small commercial air operators, both direct past beneficiaries of Terry’s accident investigation work, were part-owners of the yards.
Flight Magazine twice followed accident investigations at Elysium after a colleague of one of the magazine’s editors had been involved in one and had been very impressed.  The articles created a lot of interest in the aviation industry.  Although the stories emphasized the success of the team as a whole rather than the brilliance of any individual, Archerfield Aero Machinery gained a good deal of publicity and a number of inquiries from outside their usual sphere of operations.  Despite the AAM focus, they didn’t do Terry’s growing reputation any harm, either!
An employment tipping-point arrived when Terry was working only a three-day week on routine maintenance at AAM.  Friday morning usually heralded the exodus of a select handful of AAM staff from Archerfield by company aircraft to Elysium to assist Terry with specific ongoing investigations for up to two days – a popular work assignment.  They usually stayed overnight at the sprawling farmhouse and returned to Archerfield Airport on Saturday evening, although this pattern sometimes varied if clients also wanted to attend, or if individuals wanted to use their own private aircraft.
The small airstrip at Elysium sometimes had three or four light aircraft parked by the hangar, with quite a bit of commuting traffic, shuttling clients and AAM staff to and fro.  The accident investigation part of Terry’s working life was becoming steadily more important.
*  *  *  *  *
Not all of Terry Gadson’s early career as an aircraft accident investigator was smooth sailing, of course.  Being a talented young specialist did not protect him from the same exposure to life’s misfortunes as other people.  As he progressed through his physics degree studies, he had some startling ideas that he thought worth developing, and his good friend, Jim Palano, was nearly always among the working visitors from AAM, often with his wife, Narelle, who was an electrical engineer.  So he often discussed these ideas with Jim, because physics at a quantum mechanics level sounded like the wildest fantasy to people with ordered engineering minds.
It was a standard joke among AAM staff that keeping Terry focused on the job at hand was Jim’s major contribution to accident work.  To aero engineers, phenomena that relied on probability and circumstance, and could not be confidently predicted, then bolted, glued or screwed to an air frame, was so much nonsense.  Isaac Newton’s mechanical world-view prevailed.  Albert Einstein had been a clever chap, no doubt, but his ideas about space-time and light had been fanciful at best, and quite irrelevant for everyday purposes.  All the newer theorists, talking of strings, endless parallel dimensions and dark matter...  they had simply lost sight of reality.  Quantum physics was purely for theoretical work.  Both Jim and Terry knew the attitudes and tended to play to the audience – their discussions and arguments were part of the Elysium experience.
So it was a particularly sad time for Terry when Jim visited a doctor for relief of what he thought was indigestion, and was diagnosed with bowel cancer.  It was too advanced, too late, and Jim was dead within a few weeks.  Terry was shattered – Jim had been an important part of his career motivation, and his death led to serious gloomy thoughts about giving up aero work and looking for a different career.  Narelle took it hard, too, and even when she resumed her working life and often flew to Elysium for accident work, Terry saw that he wasn’t the only one treating her with kid gloves.
Out of deference, he sometimes talked to her about his physics studies, like he had with Jim, and tolerated her sarcastic put-downs, because that was what other AAM staff expected, and it always got a laugh.  Terry’s fascination with quantum effects was a well-understood eccentricity.  But Narelle was an electrician – she would know that quantum effects were real.  They were part of most electronic components, so her bravado and abrasive attitude was partly bluff, he knew.  Being socially correct with Narelle at that time was a delicate balancing act for everyone.
But some people are naturally better at business management than others, and she was a lot better than Terry, so when she criticized his wasteful business methods and poor business arrangement with AAM, his single biggest client, that hurt, because she was obviously right, and all the AAM staff knew that, too.  To make matters worse at about that same time, his parents, now enjoying their retirement in a luxury apartment tower at Surfers Paradise, were both shot dead in a hostage stand-off between police and suspected drug dealers.  They were just unlucky enough to live on the same floor as the apartment used by the crooks, who had heard that the police were about to raid them, and had simply rounded up a handful of hostages at gunpoint.  The Gadsons had resisted being taken hostage, so had been shot and thrown over their own balcony high above the crowded street below as a warning.
Terry’s life hit rock bottom and everyone started treating him as carefully as they did Narelle.  So perhaps it wasn’t very surprising that Narelle approached Terry during an accident investigation weekend to make a proposal – strictly business – between them.  She needed to make a new start in the aero maintenance industry, and not necessarily as an aero electrician.  He needed a business manager, he needed to cut his part-time employment relationship with AAM, who were now simply taking advantage of his growing reputation, and he needed someone to handle client communications and canvass work for Gadson Aviation.
Terry digested the unpalatable fact that he couldn’t both canvass business and perform investigation work at the same time.  He was only one man.  Nor could he effectively handle the administration of quotations, invoicing, liaison with government aviation authorities, keep proper accounting records, or a dozen other business essentials, without some qualified help.  Narelle’s proposal actually made sense.  It was an informal arrangement at first, but the immediate advantages were so obvious that it soon became permanent.
All work for AAM continued to happen at Elysium, with the manpower supplied by AAM, usually Friday and Saturday, far from Archerfield, which was steadily becoming a more densely populated suburb of Brisbane.  Work for Coolum Aviation Maintenance, a similar firm located a couple of hundred kilometers north of Brisbane, was a fly-in, fly-out job for Terry.  Tuesday and Wednesday most weeks, using their workshop equipment and maintenance staff.  Those two regular clients – AAM in Brisbane and CAM on the Sunshine Coast – formed the basis of a small but profitable business, and Terry’s natural tendency to be very single-minded about everything was given full rein.
Narelle usually flew in to Elysium on Monday and used the two CAM days to catch up on her office work and discuss jobs with clients while Terry was away.  They regularly discussed business matters on Mondays, so Narelle had a room at Elysium set aside for her exclusive use.  Elysium became a neutral zone with often quite abrasive meetings.  Like most business relationships, though, they both made small compromises to accommodate each other’s known needs and business-related tasks, and Gadson Aviation started to run more smoothly than ever before.
It was Narelle who insisted that Terry should pursue his improbable theories about quantum effects on curved space-time, and stop bothering other work associates with them, in case he should develop a reputation for eccentricity that could damage the business.  She, as an aero electrician, could even offer a small degree of help.  Terry’s ideas involved a ‘magnetic bottle’ with a bend in it, and that would mean making bespoke electromagnet coils so that he could build test equipment.  She could do that better than he could.
*  *  *  *  *

back to top