Letter to the Editor

Recent discussions of kites as part of an explanation of lights in the night sky (September, October, and December by Kottmeyer, Stacy, and Bloomberg) would make good kite material -- they are paper-thin. People with knowledge of balloons, kites, other lifting systems, batteries, and electronics ought to be consulted.

Such knowledge is not esoteric; for instance, I just brought up 100 entries from an AltaVista worldwide web search on: kite* AND (parafoil OR kytoon OR "kite balloon"). Powerful, stable parafoils were sold at retail by Jalbert (see http://www.wamnet.net/~wind/). Kytoons (http://shiva.earth.monash.edu.au/docs/s_kytoon.jpg) were available from Dewey and Almy, which (at least in 1973) was a division of W.R. Grace Co. I don't recall that either was a new product in the early 1970's. Kite balloons of various sorts were used in the First World War.

The wind at night, a trickier subject, is part of a field of study known as boundary layer meteorology. The first step in researching such a case would be to study local surface weather observations and data from the closest pairs of 12-hour radiosonde launches spanning the time of the incident, data that may still be available from the National Climate Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

Now let's get down to specifics regarding Mr. Kottmeyer's idea: What inventive kid at Phillips Exeter Academy in 1965 had a father or big brother at nearby MIT?

Ron Larkin
Vice Chairperson, REALL

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