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Miracle Fabrics

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Miracle: A marvelous event exceeding the known powers of nature, and therefore supposed to be due to the special intervention of the Deity or of some supernatural agency. Oxford Universal Dictionary.

The industry publication Sportstyle, July 1998 issue, has an article titled "Second Skin." It is an interview with Mary Ellen Smith, senior materials researcher for Nike. Apparently the interview took place after she spoke at the Fashion Fabric Exhibition in New York.

Fabrics according to Ms. Smith "will no longer be passive systems. They will respond to our bodies and our environment. The materials will become us." Passive fabrics are what we now have. Active fabrics are what she is suggesting we will eventually have.

The following is a direct quote.
"This Brave New World of fabrics may not be such a bad place to live. Consider the possibilities: As our second skin, these new fabrics will respond to our body forms with a custom fit each time we wear a garment. Forget having to squeeze into your size 6 jeans the morning after a hefty late-night meal. New-era denims will sense those extra little fat cells and accommodate your abdomen accordingly. [Didn't she ever hear of Spandex?]
  • >Like mini-retractable awnings over your favorite outdoor café, these high-tech textiles will sense when it's raining outside [does it rain inside?] and automatically close the holes between their fibers [how about spaces between the yarns] and stitches to keep dry. They'll fend off the sun's damaging rays, too. 
  • >Feeling a hot flash coming on? These self-regulating fabrics will respond to body temperature fluctuations. They'll absorb your body heat to cool you off or generate additional heat if you've got a chill. 
  • >Miracle fabrics will make moisture transport a two-way street. [I couldn't believe she said this, read on.] Not only will these techy textiles absorb your perspiration and wick it away, but they will do the opposite as well: Wet your skin when its feeling kind of dry. [I we will wear a holding tank.] 
  • >Reflective fabrics will shine even farther. How would you like to wear a jacket with mini TV screens on it, so you can keep up with the latest Brady Bunch re-runs? With a little help from fiber optics, it might one day be possible. 
  • >High-tech doesn't necessarily mean high-pollutant. Hopefully, these fabrics of the future will be made without toxins, harmful chemicals, dyes and insecticides. 
  • >The fabrics of the future will think for us and make decisions for us. The possibilities are endless."

My first thought after reading this was, is it any wonder that Nike is having problems.
Does she really believe what she has said, or is she parroting the sales representatives who think they have materials that will work as stated? I think she is a parrot. Imagine stating that fabrics will think for us and make decisions for us is unimaginable to me.

Imagine inanimate material able to do something, that is what she is saying. Further, what is wrong with the reporter who interviewed this person? It seems to me that the reporter should have gotten up and left this person to babble on with her thoughts, and not commit such nonsense to print.

QUESTIONS FROM WOMEN

For the past three years I have been involved with BOW, Becoming an Outdoor Woman. It is a program promoted throughout all of the states as well as many, if not all, of the Canadian provinces. It is sponsored by the Division of Wildlife from each state. Its success has been nothing less than enormous. The education women are receiving from the program is excellent. However, many of them now have questions about equipment, the primary one relating to staying comfortable, i.e., staying warm.

I have written many times on the subject of how to stay warm, so here is a little refresher for the many women who are asking this question. First, it is important to know that heat is created from or by muscle mass. Men create more heat than women because they have more muscle mass. Therefore, women need more insulation for equalizing temperature than do men.

Second, all of the clothing worn should be vapor-permeable. Women new to the active, outdoor world hear about waterproof-breatheables. They do not work as advertised. You can purchase waterproof rain garments. You can purchase garments made from material that is vapor-permeable. You cannot purchase a single garment that will have both characteristics. The reason for wearing vapor-permeable fabric garments is simple: the moisture you generate gets away from your skin surface, so it stays dry, and, therefore, you stay comfortable. I always recommend the first layer of clothing be fishnet long underwear. Everything worn over the fishnets will perform better, even-cotton. Yes, if you wear jeans over fishnets your legs will not get cold.

For more detail please contact me and I'll send you copies of earlier newsletters.

Another question that has come up deals with sleeping bags that are made specifically for women. Nonsense. The insulation used in the bag determines if the bag is good or bad. If the insulation doesn't keep your body heat in the bag, it is irrelevant how it is shaped, you simply will not stay warm. The only reason some manufacturers are selling "women-specific" bags because it is an advertising ploy.
A woman camping where the temperature never goes below +32 degrees should use a +20 degree rated bag. If the temperature is +20 degrees the bag should be rated for 0 degrees. Also, use a 0 degree rated bag when you go above 7,000 feet. The thinner air makes the body work harder to maintain itself, so more insulation is necessary even though the air temperature is not so low.

THE MILITARY

As many of you know, I am the largest supplier of sleeping bags to the military. This is a position of which I am very proud and value highly. Everyone in the military deserves the best we can supply them with so they can do the best job possible protecting our way of life.

Recently I bid on a small contract put out by Charleston AFB, South Carolina. I was very surprised to have lost it. The contract was for some sleeping bags and Camelback water containers. The low bidder won because he underbid me on the water containers. His price was $2.60 per container lower than my cost. Since we both were buying from the same supplier, I made inquiry as to how this was possible. I was told that he probably bid the civilian version, which is made from a less costly material.

The solicitation had a specific National Stock Number (NSN) noted for this product. The civilian version does not meet spec. However, the contracting officer as well as the end item user would never know the difference.

This is not the first time I have come across this type of situation. It happens all too frequently. In this case the company is located in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and is a retail store. I can only imagine how they stick it to the soldiers stationed at Fort Bragg, who shop in the store.

I have commented in the past about the immorality of the government employees who put their protectors in harm's way with inadequate equipment, and now we have a number of suppliers doing exactly the same thing. When these inadequate products fail, they are replaced. This becomes very costly for us taxpayers.

FLOTATION GARMENTS

Friday, July 24, 1998, Mat Manfreddi tries out the same suit-the original one I tested- only not in my swimming pool, but in a lake just outside of Anchorage, Alaska. The water temperature about 50 degrees. Mat was testing the suit to find out if he would float and also to see how warm he would stay. Until he jumped into the water, he only had my word that he would float and stay warm. He floated and stayed warm.

As I have stated in prior discussions about these suits, they are not watertight like immersion suits. They function like wet suits. When water gets into the suit it is heated by conduction, conducting heat from the body. Since the fabrics are waterproof, the water in the suit never gets out. The insulation can be 1/2 inch to two inches thick. The shell fabric only recognizes the temperature of the water. It does not differentiate between water temperature of, say, 45 degrees and air temperature of 45 degrees. Therefore, after the initial shock one experiences from 45 degree water, they find themselves in an isolated pool of warm water. Further heat loss is radically reduced. The Lamilite insulation simply works the same in the water as it does on land.


KNOWLEDGE: "Knowledge" is a mental grasp of a fact(s) of reality, reached either by perceptual observation or by a process of reason based on perceptual observation.
Ayn Rand, "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology" (1979)

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