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Application of Ideality and Science to Underwater Rescue

Application of Ideality and Science to Underwater Rescue

| On 16, Sep 2002

Application of Ideality and Science to Underwater Rescue

By Roni Horowitz,

(Editor’s note: This was issue 81 of Roni Horowitz’s newsletter on ASIT. It is a great TRIZ story, and one with personal meaning for editor Ellen Domb, who has used the technique! See the notes at the end of the story.)

Hi everyone,

Here’s the quote for this week:
“The ideal system is when there is no system.”
– Genrich Altshuller

Today’s story is very much related to this week’s quote.

In issue 79 of this newsletter I mentioned an interesting book that I was reading about innovation called “Weird Ideas That Work”. Today’s story is taken from there.

The following paragraph was taken from Page 77 of the book:

“Charles Momsen was a submarine commander in the United States Navy in the 1920s. He stood by while sailors died in a sunken submarine, with no way to help. The pain and frustration prompted Momsen to develop ideas about ways that sailors could escape from sunken submarines…”

The story goes on to describe the system Momsen developed called “Momsen Lungs” (which looked something like a life jacket with a nose plug hanging from it) and the difficulties faced in convincing his superiors to fund the project.

Finally Momsen was given the Distinguished Service Medal, and the navy ordered 7000 Momsen Lungs for all active navy submarines.

So far, this is a rather common story about someone having a hard time trying to convince a stagnant “system” to innovate.

But then I got to page 116 of the book, where I surprisingly found the following paragraph:

“The hazards of failing to identify and then test ‘dumb’ or ‘obvious’ assumptions are illustrated by the technology ultimately found to be superior to the Momsen Lungs for escaping from sunken submarines – no technology at all! …Research ultimately showed that free ascent – filling one’s lungs with air and slowly exhaling on the way to the surface – is the most effective way to escape from a submarine at any depth up to 300 feet.”

Well this is something I have known for a long time: when facing a problem in a system, people tend to mindlessly assume that something has to be *added* to the system in order to solve the problem.

I believe this is an automatic response that is deeply engraved in our nervous system. But we ASITers are of course immune to this phenomenon because we have the Closed World condition to guide us!

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More Editor’s notes: ASIT calls the ‘Closed World condition’ what TRIZ calls ‘use of resources.’ Here, the knowledge of science (expansion of gases when pressure is reduced) is also applied.

Ellen Domb’s personal experience with the free ascent method was in 1970, scuba diving in the days before submersible air pressure gauges were available for amateur divers. At that time, scuba tanks had a device called a ‘J-valve’-you used up the air until it felt hard to breathe, then you flipped the handle on the J-valve, and got enough air to surface safely. My valve handle must have been pushed to the final position by something I did during the dive. It got hard to breathe, I went to move the handle, and found it was already in the new position. In other words, I was at 85 feet in Florida’s Pennekamp Park with no air! The free ascent is mentioned in dive training, and, since my buddy was about 50 feet away, I decided to start a free ascent, rather than try to chase him with my last breath. It worked! The air in my lungs expanded throughout the ascent. The biggest problem was psychological-dive training emphasizes making a slow ascent, breathing in and out, so that the air in your lungs won’t expand too fast and cause an embolism. But, when you are only breathing out, not in, it is hard to go slowly. I’ve been diving ever since, but, I’ve been a good customer for every advance in equipment that helps you plan your air use-underwater gauges, underwater computers…