the mind of war

is an excellent book about John Boyd by Grant T. Hammond (isbn 978-1588341785). As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:
…in order to determine the consistency of any new system we must construct or uncover another system beyond it… One cannot determine the character or nature of a system within itself. Moreover, attempts to do so lead to confusion and disorder.
he was always testing the limits - of airplanes, people, science, the military, and, most especially, bureaucracies.
In dozens of interviews, conducted for this book, the most consistent theme and nearly universal comment was that John Boyd was the essence of an honourable man and incorruptible.
Oral, not written, communication and conviction, not accuracy, still rule in military culture.
Boyd liked putting things together (synthesis) better than analysis (taking things apart)...
He also came to appreciate the routine practice and repetition that was required to become really good at something and to overcome the boredom by focusing on minute improvements.
He observed very carefully.
Boyd could go from 500 knots to stall speed, practically stopping the plane in midair, which would force any aircraft on his tail to overshoot him and thus gain the advantage for Boyd. In another trick, he would stand the F-100 on its tail and slide down the pillar of its own exhaust. Fire would come out of the intake in the nose of the aircraft and the tailpipe simultaneously. A seemingly impossible feat, it was challenged by others. Boyd when to Edwards Air Force Base in California, where NASA had two fully instrumented F-100 aircraft, and demonstrated it and other techniques to a series of nonbelievers. The test pilot at Edwards who challenged him at the time was a fellow by the name of Neil Armstrong.
Boyd had never designed an airplane before, but as he told Colonel Ricci and Gen. Casey Dempsey, "I could fuck up and do better than this."
The rule of thumb in the Air Force is that a plane will gain a pound of weight a day for the life of the aircraft.
High entropy implies a low potential for doing work, a low capacity for taking action or a high degree of confusion or disorder… The tendency is for entropy to increase in a system that is closed or cannot communicate with the external systems or environments.
A natural teacher, he understood that if he told you something, he robbed you of the opportunity to ever truly know it for yourself.
We are never deceived. We only deceive ourselves. [Goethe]
Boyd's dictum: "Ask for my loyalty and I'll give you my honesty. Ask for my honesty and you'll have my loyalty."

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