What does it mean to resolve a technical contradiction?

Y. B. Karasik,
Thoughts Guiding Systems Corp.,
Ottawa, Canada.
e-mail:karasik@sympatico.ca

In the light of the new definition of a technical contradiction as an unwanted coupling of parameters of a technical system, the question arises what does it mean to resolve a technical contradiction? The answer, naturally, is that resolution of a technical contradiction means either

  1. uncoupling the parameters, or
  2. changing their coupling to a neutral or tolerable, or
  3. changing their coupling to a wanted one.

For example, if the linear coupling between parameters X and Y, Y= aX +b, is unwanted, then logarithmic coupling might be tolerable or neutral: Y = log(X). Sometimes, just changing the values of the constants a and b of the linear coupling may convert it into a tolerable one.

In the problem of icebreaker the relationship between its speed S and power P was unwanted because it was supposed to be monotonically increasing. But if it could be somehow converted into a monotonically decreasing one, e.g. P = 1/S, then it would have definitely become wanted. Even a monotonically increasing dependence P = aS + b could be made tolerable if the value of a was made small enough.

Basically, the formulation of the icebreaker problem is so vague that it does not even specify what dependence between speed and power looks like. One can only infer from the problem description that the dependence is monotonically increasing. But whether it is exponential, linear, or logarithmic, or else is not specified. Meanwhile, if a monotonically increasing dependence is of the saturation type (i.e. it never breaks through some limit), then it could be okay.

Thus, before rushing to resolve a technical contradiction indicated in a problem it is always advisable to figure out what exactly the dependence looks like. It may turn out that it is not so intolerable as it might seemed.


Appendix: The problem of icebreaker as stated by G.S. Altshuller

There are actually several statements:

  1. A modern icebreaker is nearly completely occupied by engine and what you need for the engine. Cargo is transported by cargo ships going through the channel made by icebreaker. The speed is small. In the ice of 3m thick the speed does not exceed the speed of the pedestrian ... Hence the problem: how to increase the speed of the icebreaker without increasing the engine's power? (see http://www.altshuller.ru/triz/triz63.asp.)

  2. Icebreaker moving through the ice on the principle of the wedge. If the ice has a thickness of 2-3 m, the speed does not exceed the walking speed (4 km / h). A hundred years - since the appearance of the first icebreaker - the increase in speed was achieved mainly due to the increase in capacity of the propulsion system. In the modern icebreakers engine power per ton displacement is 5-6 times greater than that of ocean liners. Engines and service systems occupy 70% of the hull length. The cargo is transported on ships that follow icebreaker. How to increase the speed of icebreaker by half? (from the book "To find an idea".)