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Topic: Re: should students watch this video series?: Dimensions
(originally in French)

Replies: 1   Last Post: Sep 2, 2014 2:27 PM

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kirby urner

Posts: 3,690
Registered: 11/29/05
Re: should students watch this video series?: Dimensions (originally in French)
Posted: Sep 2, 2014 12:46 PM
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On Mon, Sep 1, 2014 at 8:31 PM, GS Chandy <> wrote:

> Responding to Kirby Urner's (KU's) post dt. Sep 1, 2014 10:57 PM (
>, below my
> signature:
> OK.
> Agreed to several of your positions in your post.
> I re-iterate, however:
> i) Despite all developments, interest generated, etc, etc - Buckminster
> Fuller's insights have not yet become 'common currency' as they should have
> been, given their transcendental importance. I am not knowledgeable enough
> to seek to change any of this. (I've not yet read EJ Applewhite's 'Cosmic
> Fishing'; I may do that in due course).

I'd agree with your assessment re 'common currency', but then Fuller
intuitively appreciated what Wittgenstein taught us: that a namespace may
be deliberately remote yet internally consistent enough to feel
"systematic" to those diving in. "This planet appears to support life" one
might exclaim, upon landing.

Synergetics is such a remote vocabulary, with interwoven concepts and a
systematic structure, but then so is Martin Heidegger's stuff, and no one
seems to think Martin's stuff should be "common currency" -- it's enough
that we read him in philosophy departments. So is "to make Synergetics
'common currency'" really the mission?

True story: Fuller was on the brink of being famous for his 10 * F * F + 2
formula, where F stands for Frequency as used in geodesic dome
architecture. This very formula made it to the front page of the New York
Herald Tribune in the 1960s in connection with breakthroughs in our
understanding of the molecular structure of the virus.



In a virus, the RNA-protecting shell or capsid is made from sub-units
called capsomeres. By taking F as the number of between-capsomere
intervals, and using 10*F*F+2 on capsid "shell frequencies" of 1,2,3,4,5
and 6, we obtain corresponding counts of 12, 42, 92, 162, 252 and 812
capsomeres. "All of these numbers are in fact found in actual viruses, 12
for certain bacteriophages, 42 for wart viruses, 92 for reovirus, 162 for
herpesvirus, 252 for adenovirus and 812 for a virus attacking crane-flies
(Tipula or daddy-long-legs)" - The Natural History of Viruses by C.H.
Andrews (W.W. Norton R Co., 1967).


So when the Scientific American got around to summarizing these
breakthroughs, why wasn't Fuller's name mentioned?

Applewhite sent me a file containing relevant correspondence. Coxeter
wrote a somewhat finger-wagging article saying "Bucky, if you'd only
studied more math you'd know Michael Goldberg already published about this
stuff in a journal published in Tokyo" and indeed Goldberg's stuff was

But then Fuller's 10*F*F + 2 had a different lineage, as 2*P*F*F + 2 where
2 is always present and P a product of low order other primes.

The shape of the concentric sphere packing changes as a function of P.
That was more general too, but Coxeter's article was enough to dislodge
Fuller from the official history.

Reading more into that file, I'd say Fuller had become something of a hot
potato for the establishment / mainstream by that time.

Although he'd worked closely with the Pentagon through two world wars, and
was branded a Cold Warrior by some, as his companies took defense contracts
for the DEW line radomes (a topic in Popko's new book, Divided Spheres), he
was also becoming a counter-culture hero lecturing to packed houses with no
one in much control of what he said or spoke about. That made him somewhat
dangerous, a wild card, and a magazine such as Scientific American would be
glad of Coxeter's coming to the rescue with that article.

Plus lets remember Donald Coxeter's own run in with Fuller early on, when
his son, likewise a Canadian, tried to get some of those same DEW line
contracts and the Pentagon said it was locked in to Fuller as the chief
patent holder. That really pissed Donald (the dad) off, as King of
Infinite Space makes clear (the new Coxeter bio).

Fuller and Coxeter became friends later and Coxeter was OK with Synergetics
being dedicated to him, on the understanding that any "cultish" side to
Bucky, any "tetrahedron worship" would be left to the flower children (the
hippies) and their little domes in the woods.

Coxeter was a died-in-the-wool geometer, not an iconoclast / maverick in
the way Fuller was. He'd studied with Wittgenstein in Cambridge and
allowed his chambers to be used by the latter's students for those intimate
philosophy lectures for which Wittgenstein later became famous.

All of which is to say, even with the best action plans in the world, one
still has to face the fear and loathing some editorial committees have for
wild cards like Fuller, precisely because of his radical views.

Albert Einstein (one of Fuller's heroes) is a similar case, rubbing a lot
of people the wrong way with his politics, which were closer to those of
Linus Pauling than say Edward Teller. If Einstein hadn't been super famous
in physics circles, his name wouldn't be a household name either (unless
he'd accepted the job offer of first president of Israel, a position he
wisely refused, not having the right instincts for such a political

Fuller is widely known for his dome, but he's still too much of a hot
potato to be gratuitously included in K-12 textbooks for example.
Actually, he is included, at least in side-bar, in at least one high school
geometry book I've seen, but with no mention of his Synergetics and its
concept of a "minimum system" and how this relates to a "concentric
hierarchy" of polyhedrons.[2]

> ii) The 'conventional' summaries, etc, have little or no value in complex
> systems.

"This is what the mission was", and "this is what I did to accomplish the
mission" is not uninteresting I don't think. That's the kind of thing I've
been covering, giving examples of missions and action plans designed to
accomplish them.

Again, I'm not sure the mission was ever to make Fuller's Synergetics more
common currency than it could become in just a single generation. Some
measure of realism should be adopted.

On the other hand, as a remote namespace that supports intelligent life, I
think Synergetics, somewhat like General Semantics by Alfred Korzybsky,
still has a following.

Growing up overseas, I found Bucky books on many a diplomat's shelf. U
Thant, one time general secretary of the UN, has a blurb on the back of one
of the Synergetics editions, consistent with my impression that even
Synergetics itself might be something a cultural attache connected with a
US Embassy might intelligently discuss with her counterparts.

Fuller was popular with both Russians and Chinese and was a guest of Indira
Gandhi a few times. One of my early websites on Fuller was mirrored in
Iran for awhile. Geodesic domes and spheres have become important in
Islamic-influenced cultures.


PS: here In Portland, Fuller's ideas are a lot better known, thanks to me
and my friends doing local classes. Here are slides from a Portland Free
Skool class I did. I've done others with Saturday Academy, sometimes using
the moniker "Martian Math":

Exhibit A: the late Ed Applewhite's business card (one of many). I
mentioned he didn't have a PhD and that might have been another barrier to
more widespread acceptance of Fuller's ideas:
(Dr. Loeb had a PhD though, so that's probably not a great hypothesis on my
part -- plus Fuller himself had like eleven honorary PhDs).

[1] (virus
story). Also see On-line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences, looking up
with 1, 12, 42, 92... (you'll find a link to my
web site under Links).

[2] (high school textbook with Bucky in side-bar)

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