rbf

Buckminster Fuller’s Ultra-Micro Computer

Published on 12 July 2014, Fuller’s 119th birthday.
See also: Buckminster Fuller and the Twelfth of July.

“Never show half-finished work.” So said R. Buckminster Fuller in the March 1960 issue of Architectural Design. By the time the phrase “never show half-finished work” appeared in his book Critical Path (1981), “Universal Requirements Checklist” had been renamed “Comprehensively Anticipatory Design Science’s Universal Requirements for Realizing Omnihumanity Advantaging Local Environmental Controls, Which are Omniconsiderate of Both Cosmic Evolution Potentials and Terrestrial Ecological Integrities.”

The evolution of the simple “Universal Requirements Checklist” to “Comprehensively Anticipatory Design Science’s Universal Requirements… ” is representative of Fuller’s process. Fuller’s ideas grow more complex each time they are presented, sometimes obscuring the original idea. But if you can find your way to that central early idea, there is often something of great value.

Everything is equally connected to everything in Fuller’s writing. Fuller was unable to speak of mathematics, ethics, his individual life, global distribution of goods and services – everything – without speaking of all of it. You’d recognize it as the way crazy men talked, if crazy men were courted by publishers and universities all over the planet, and if crazy men earned dozens of ground-breaking patents, and most of all if crazy men and their crazy ideas didn’t turn out to be merely decades ahead of their time. I have some half-finished work by Fuller in which he clearly states an idea decades ahead of when he said it. I also have the finished work, still ahead of its time but nearly impenetrable in how it is presented.

The clearly stated work is a transcription of a recording Fuller made in the late 1960s. The transcriptions reside in Box 9, Folder 3 of the Stanford University Special Collection of R. Buckminster Fuller. The transcriptions document a series of discussions between Fuller and his patent attorney, D. Verner Smythe. The patent was not pursued and does not appear in Inventions, Fuller’s book of patents. The subject of the patent does, however, appear in Fuller’s magnum opus, Synergetics (1975 and 1979). To understand a node of Fuller’s thought requires tracing an idea across many other nodes of Fuller’s thought. But by tracing a line from diary entries through transcribed monologues through published books, Fuller is shown to predict atomic-scale computers nearly forty years before today’s discussion of graphine semi-conductor computers.

The nucleus of Fuller’s story is a simple diary entry from 1 February 1928: “after much philosophical thought while walking about worked out theory of spheres.” By 1939, in a letter intended for publication to Joe Bryant, the walking about had been expanded upon. Now there were thoughts of suicide and murder, a mugging that broke Fuller’s cheek bone (never otherwise confirmed), and a disembodied voice that told him: “You think truthfully. From now on, you need never await temporal attestation to your thoughts.” By the 1970s the story included Fuller floating in the air, surrounded by a sphere of light. Fuller’s story pulses, from an amateur consideration of geometry to a blessing from the hand of God and back again.

Fuller’s theory of spheres is a synthesis of established mathematics, personal insights and numerology. His theory of spheres is a thought experiment that can be reproduced with physical models. Imagine a single sphere floating in space. Add another to it, and a third so that all three are touching each other. Add another sphere that touch only the first two so that the center of each sphere is on a plane. Add a fifth and a sixth sphere, both touching the initial sphere and its neighbor, and the result is six spheres around one. Three more spheres can be nested in the six spaces above and below the plane such that they touch the initial sphere and two of their neighbors.



illustrations Copyright (c) 1975 the Estate of Buckminster Fuller.

IF three spheres nested below are staggered so that they alternately nest above and below the plane, the center of every sphere is an equal distance from all of its nearest neighbors, all spheres are an equal distance from the central sphere, and lines drawn from the center of all external spheres to their external neighbor form a cuboctahedron. A cuboctahedron is a polyhedron made up of eight triangular faces and six square faces. It can also be viewed as three interlocking hexagons, or a faceted globe with triangular poles and a hexagon equator.

Sphere-packing is an idea as old as the first stack of cannonballs or oranges. But Fuller’s theory of spheres led to a discovery that is unique. A tetrahedron made with ridged struts and flexible joints will hold its shape even when pressure is applied to a strut or a joint. Most other similarly constructed polyhedron will collapse under pressure. The cuboctahedron will also collapse, but in an interesting way. If pressure is applied to opposing triangular sets of struts, the hexagon between them will ripple. The struts double and form an octahedron (eight triangular faces). Between the cuboctahedron and octahedron, an implied icosahedron polyhedra (twenty sides) can be seen. And with a little hand work, the octahedron can be twisted into a triple-strutted tetrahedron. Fuller called this the “jitterbug transformation” and it is a mathematical insight that is his alone.

Having discovered the jitterbug transformation, Fuller considered it signficant and needed to find a use for it. He made a cuboctahedron cage of curved wire and rotated it on a globe until the wire least overlapped land masses. The cuboctahedron was the basis of his first Dymaxion Projection Map. The cuboctahedron was also the basis for Fuller’s earlier geodesic domes. In Fuller’s earlier geodesic domes a cuboctahedron was puffed up into a sphere, with the triangular and square faces faceted into smaller triangles and squares. Some of the lines that make up the faces run nearly all the way around such a sphere, and these Fuller called great circuits. The great circuits are the struts on Fuller’s earlier geodesic domes. Later he switched to “type two geodesic domes” based on the icosohedra, and an icosohedron based Dymaxion Projection Map. But he never abandoned his attraction to the cuboctahedron. He used it as a symbol for his mail order business in Philadelpha in the early 1980s.

Sphere packing (or as Fuller called it, the closest packing of spheres) twelve around one creates an implied cuboctahedron. If more spheres are placed around cuboctahedron, a larger cuboctahedron is formed. Every new layer of spheres makes a more sharply angled cuboctahedron, never a sphere. With one sphere in the center, the first layer has 12 spheres. The second layer will hold 42 spheres, the third layer 92, the fourth layer 162 and the fifth layer 252. All of these layers and every layer following ends in the number two. Round the number of spheres in a layer (10, 40, 90, 160, 250) and divide the numbers by ten and a progression by the second power is revealed (1, 4, 9, 16, 25). This is also an original discovery by Fuller.

The discovery could not be left as it was found. Fuller’s style of closest packing of spheres could not just be, it had to be meaningful. Adding the number of spheres in the first, second and third layer of spheres around a nucleus sphere (12 + 42 + 92) yields 146 spheres. This is the number of neutrons in the element uranium. Add 92 to 146 to yield 238, the number of neutrons and protons in the element uranium. From this numerological correspondence Fuller concluded that his style of sphere packing was descriptive of the structure of atoms, and thus all matter.

The cuboctahedron as a model for all matter, even this was not inclusive enough for Fuller. He imagined ideas were spheres. Not that spheres are a model for ideas, but that ideas were physical spheres. Some ideas are too specific to be of importance and some ideas are too general to be of importance. Ideas that are too specific are small spheres and ideas that are too general are large spheres. Small idea spheres will cluster around a center, large idea spheres will be pushed further from a central point. One idea is a free-floating nothing, two connected ideas might suggest something worth pursuing, three connected ideas point to a pattern, and four connected ideas form a tetrahedron. A tetrahedron of ideas will include ideas relevant to each thought and exclude irrelevant ideas, because a tetrahedron is the most simple polyhedron that has an inside and an outside (after spheres, I might add). Thus it takes four ideas to make a thought, and the shape of a thought is thus a tetrahedron. Fuller’s theory of spheres was a description of all matter and all consciousness.

These are examples of how Fuller’s thoughts breathed in and out, pulsed and jumped, danced a jitterbug. There was no clear demarkation line between established mathematics, numerology, personal biography, original insights, physical models and cosmic truths. There are good reasons to try and tease out what was original to Fuller and what he took from others, what is actionable and what is ornamentation. One of those good reasons is to speak plainly of when Fuller was decades ahead of his time, because sometimes Fuller was his own worst promoter.

In 1968 and 1969 Fuller met with his attourney Dale D. Klaus. The meeting was a monologue in which Fuller initiated a patent tentatively titled “Energy Systems for Computer Memory.” The trancribed meeting was combined with pages from the 1955 manuscript of what would later be published as Synergetics and Synergetics II. Fuller said his new kind of computer memory would differ from all existing computer memory:

Instead of having linear arrangements which is the way they tend to do things – linear and matrix array, I could do it omnidirectional phenomenon.

Fuller’s computer is a layered cuboctahedrons, each layer made of spheres. Fuller describes the spheres as glass coated with gold, silver, copper or aluminum depending on their location in the array. But Fuller also speaks of individual atoms of these materials, predicting by decades the nanocomputers under development today.

These layers of cuboctahedrons would have arrays of hexagons on their equators, and the nanocomputers of today are made of layers of hexagons. The fifth layer of a layered cuboctahedron of spheres would have the potential for a new nucleus sphere.

Conventional ciruits are described by Fuller as computing in a flat, ninety-degree, x/y array. Fulller’s computer would function in three dimensions at both sixty-degree and ninety-degree angles. The Fuller computer would begin a process with an electric impulse to the central, nucleus sphere. That signal would radiate out in all directions to the surrounding spheres. The radiating signal would terminate based on the strength of the signal, the material of the surrounding spheres, and the distance of a sphere from the nucleus sphere. The pattern of where the signal terminated constitutes stored information. Fuller speaks of his computer as made up of coated glass spheres, but also as single atoms of different elements.

I can lead a wire into one of the spheres at the center of the system and give that a load – and it would have to go out through it’s 12 contact points and by the frequency I give it I am sure I could round a special layer. […] I am planning to have a conductor to the center of the mass of atoms. There would be one atom that makes contact, we wouldn’t even have to see it. Well, the balls, the atoms by the time we get thorugh all the electrons actually have the same… we find with the electron microscope they look just like the same spheres. So by giving the right frequency and going out the right radial distance from there and pick up that information from millions and millions out there at that particular layer.

Three great circles could be done in gold, the four great circles could have been done in silver, the six great circles could have been done in copper and the twelve great circles could be done in aluminum. Now they are all conducting but they are all quite different.

Now about layers. If I were making this myself, say in ping-pong ball size, I couldn’t have very many layers. I figure in this room here I could have 100 layers or so. But if I were to use it… once I made this model then we would know this is exactly the same model as the closest packed spheres, as atoms. So then I would be able to assume millions of layers around a given atom.

Not all atoms but most atoms are packed that way […] So now we would be able for a given frequency… we would know how many special case informations we have stored there and how many relationships there are. […] There is no absolute continuum anyway so even those gold atoms… they happen to be closest and they will simply go from one to the other. But their resistances come in here, too. You will find there is a jump, there is a little jump from atom to atoms. A quantum jump.

There is a resistance difference due to the vertexes they go through. There is a resistance differential. Information can be stored in layer after layer and I think this is a storage system if you talk about compactness, there is nothing to compare it to.

I have re-arranged some of the above quotes to join like ideas, but I have not otherwise edited what Fuller said. His thinking-out-loud is not made up of complete and actionable ideas, but it does clearly point to an atom-sized hex-based system of computer memory. This is identical to the graphine memory systems now under development.

Compare the above rough take on Fuller’s computer with the following description as found in Synergetics:

I am confident that I have discovered and developed the conceptual insights governing the complete family of variables involved in realization by humanity of usable access to the ultimate computer… ultimate meaning here: the most comprehensive, incisive and swiftest possible information-storing, retrieving, and variably processing facility with the least possible physical involvement and the least possible investment of human initiative and cosmic energization. […] We have here the disclosure of a new phase of geometry employing the invisible circuitry of nature. The computer based on such a design could be no bigger than the subvisibly dimensioned domain of a pinhead’s glitter, with closures and pulsations which interconnect at the vector equilibrium stage and disconnect at the icosahedron stage in Milky-Way-like remoteness from one another of individual energy stars. […] The atomically furnished isotropic vector matrix can be described as an omnidirectional matrix of “lights,” as the four-dimensional counterpart of the two-dimensional light-bulb-matrix of the Broadway-and-Forty-second Street, New York City billboards with their fields of powerful little light bulbs at each vertex which are controlled remotely off-and-on in intensity as well as in color. Our four-dimensional, isotropic vector matrix will display all the atom “stars” concentrically matrixed around each isotropic vector equilibrium’s nuclear vertex. By “lighting” the atoms of which they consist, humans’ innermost guts could be illustrated and illuminated. Automatically turning on all the right lights at the right time, atomically constituted, center-of-being light, “you,” with all its organically arranged “body” of lights omnisurrounding “you,” could move through space in a multidimensional way just by synchronously activating the same number of lights in the same you-surrounding pattern, with all the four-dimensional optical effect (as with two-dimensional, planar movies), by successively activating each of the lights from one isotropic vector vertex to the next, with small, local “movement” variations of “you” accomplished by special local matrix sequence programmings. We could progressively and discretely activate each of the atoms of such a four-dimensional isotropic vector matrix to become “lights,” and could move a multidimensional control “form” through the isotropic multidimensional circuitry activating field. The control form could be a “sphere,” a “vector equilibrium,” or any other system including complex you-and-me, et al. This multidimensional scanning group of points can be programmed multidimensionally on a computer in such a manner that a concentric spherical cluster of four-dimensional “light” points can be progressively “turned on” to comprise a “substance” which seemingly moves from here to there. […] The ultra micro computer (UMC) employs step-up, step-down, transforming visible controls between the invisible circuitry of the atomic computer complex pinhead- size programmer and the popular outdoor, high-inthe-sky, “billboard” size, human readability.

The above quotes are from “Nuclear Computer Design,” section 427.00 of Synergetics. This is the same section in which Fuller suggest in antiquity humans were scanned atom by atom at a distant location and teleported to Earth by radio frequencies.

Teleportation aside, compare Fuller’s description of hexagon-based layered computer systems described in 1968 with these recent press releases…

It would sound like so much crazy talk, were he not also talking (in a byzantine way) of technologies the world is discovering to be true decades after Fuller described them.

SOURCES (Chronological)
Fuller, R. Buckminster: “Unviersal Requirements Check List.” Architectural Design March 1960.
Fuller, R. Buckminster: “Energy Systems for Computer Memory.” Unpublished manuscript 1968–1969.
Fuller, R. Buckminster: Synergetics. Macmillan Publishing Co. 1975.
Fuller, R. Buckminster: Synergetics II. Macmillan Publishing Co. 1979.
Fuller, R. Buckminster: Critical Path. New York: St. Martin’s Press 1981.
Lorance, Loretta: Becoming Bucky Fuller. Cambridge: MIT Press 2009.

Trevor Blake is the the author of The Buckminster Fuller Bibliography and The Lost Inventions of Buckminster Fuller.

Saturday, July 12th, 2014 geodesic, maps, rbf, synergetics

Buckminster Fuller’s Automatic Cotton Mill

R. Buckminster Fuller Automatic Cotton Mill

When Fuller was seventeen years old, in 1912, he spent the majority of his annual budget for attending Harvard University in a week entertaining actress Marilyn Miller and her friends. In the course of his revelry he skipped his first mid-year exam. Being unable to pay his tuition and having brought shame to his school and family, Fuller was expelled. His family sent him to work in a Canadian factory to get a taste of manual labor.

In February 1914 a cousin (or a distant relative) of Fuller secured an apprentice mechanic job for him at the then-new Connecticut Canada Textile Company on Rue du Pacifique between Rue Kitchener and Rue Galt O in Sherbrooke, Quebec. The cotton mills operated on a line shaft, where a single motor powered belts which turned machinery throughout the building. Line shaft factories give priority to the belt, not ventilation or sunlight. Dust and noise from the belt were constant. Fuller’s job was to install new equipment and to keep the belt on line. Fuller wrote:

Here I learned to assemble and erect cotton mill machinery. I finally mastered on my own the assemblage and installation of each and every type of cotton manufacturing machine. The installation included running of the pulley-shafting throughout the buildings and its over-all alignment from the power house take-off through to each belted-in and aligned production machine. – letter to John McHale, 7 January 1955.

Fuller claimed his time at the Connecticut Canada Textile Company was his first exposure to industry, metallurgy, drafting and keeping a notebook. While Fuller had invented before, now he saw invention as a marketable skill. Not everything that is invented or marketed comes to fruition. Fuller claimed he designed improved mill machine parts but never claimed that these parts were manufactured, tested or used. Three years later, as a member of the U.S. Navy Reserve Force, he claimed to have invented a crane and hook system to upend overturned airplanes in the water. Fuller claimed this device was built and saved many lives, but no record of this crane exists in his papers or in Navy records.

Between his job at the Connecticut Canada Textile Company and the U.S. Navy Reserve Force, Fuller was re-admitted to Harvard and expelled a second time. The reasons for his second expulsion have never been specified beyond his “lack of sustained interest in the processes within the University.”

Fuller placed himself and his ideas at the center of wherever he was. When Fuller worked for Phelps Dodge Corporation in 1938, he used copper as the standard for measuring human progress in an appendix to his book Nine Chains to the Moon. In 1951 Fuller was the Visiting Seminar Director at North Carolina State University, and the standard for measuring human progress was cotton. In “The Textile Mill of Tomorrow” (American Fabrics magazine Spring 1953), Fuller wrote: “Manufacture of cotton goods is one of the oldest of industrial enterprises. Its mechanical evolution initiated much of the general scheme of specialized and integrated functioning in industry.”

The Textile Mill of the Tomorrow benefits from “a comprehensive resurvey of cotton manufacturing evolution from our great hindsight advantage,” revealing assumptions about cotton mills no longer relevant to an industrial society. For example, in the past a cotton mill had to be near a river to take advantage of water wheel power “requiring translations of power by belting pulleys and meticulous parallelling of shafting in the most geometrically economical patterns.” Pulley shafting is “piecemeal and intermittent,” limiting, requiring precise alignment. The line shaft work that was a point of personal pride for Fuller was an anachronism when carried out by others. Line shaft power transmission was not the only anachronism in the textile mill of the past. Walls and floors were artifacts that made sense in ancient history but which needed to be resurveyed. “Logical for the preservation of the expensive [mill] machinery was its housing: one hundred percent compressively-conceived stone masonry for vertical components, and heavily sectioned wooden platforms for horizontal components.” Walls and floors might provide sunlight to one story but not the rest, and “there was a consequent lack of energy efficiency in providing desirable air conditioning.” The resurveyed textile mill was a negation of Fuller’s experience in the Connecticut Canada Textile Company. In place of a line drive, electric motors. In place of dark walls and floors, a lattice dome and floor that allowed sunlight in every location. In place of stifling air, an open breeze. And in place of noise, a lack of humans to hear noise.

The 90% Automatic Cotton Mill of American Fabrics includes several of Fuller’s interests to date. The building is suspended from a six-sided central mast, as was his 4-D House of 1928. Waste is packaged in the building as waste is packaged in his 1937 Dymaxion Bathroom. Fuller compared man to machinery in his 1938 book Nine Chains to the Moon. He wrote a man is:

A self-balancing, 28-jointed adapter-base biped; an electro-mechanical reduction-plant, integral with segregated stowages of special energy extracts in storage batteries, for subsequent actuation of thousands of hydraulic and pneumatic pumps, with motors attached; 62,000 miles of capillaries; millions of warning signal, railroad and conveyor systems; crushers and cranes (of which the arms are magnificent 23-jointed affairs with self-surfacing and lubricating systems, and a universally distributed telephone system needing no service for 70 years if well managed); the whole, extraordinarily complex mechanism guided with exquisite precision from a turret in which are located telescopic and microscopic self-registering and recording range finders, a spectroscope, et cetera, the turret control being closely allied with an air conditioning intake-and-exhaust, and a main fuel intake.

The “totally new start in cotton mill conception” would be a machine as a man, “similar to the digestive, shunting, secretive, and regenerative process of the human anatomy.” The new mill would not contain men, it would be a man as in der Mensch als Industriepalast. Air circulates in the building in a torus fashion as it did in his Dymaxion Deployment Units of 1940. The outer shell of the building is a geodesic dome (type 2, 16 frequency), a form Fuller had begun to explore at Black Mountain College in 1948. The function of the “robot weather control tower” at the summit of the mill in some drawings is not explained, but it is a tensegrity tower as Fuller had seen in the work of Kenneth Snelson at Black Mountain College in June 1948. In other drawings it resembles the Skylon tower from the 1951 Festival of Britain. Photographs of the four-foot model show several objects at the top: a ring, a spiral, a tensegrity.

Raw material was to be brought into the mill on the ground floor. There it would be loaded into an icosahedral elevator and moved upwards for processing. Each floor would have a specialized function. The uppermost of eight floors (including the ground floor) was for picking, the seventh floor for carding, the sixth for framing, the fifth for spinning, the fourth for slashing and spooling, the third and second for looms, and the ground floor was for storage, office, and shipping of the finished fabrics. Each floor was made up of octet truss frames, strong enough to hold machinery but porous enough to pass the cotton between floors at any location.

The character of the 90% Automatic Cotton Mill was defined by Fuller. The physical model of the mill was constructed by students at North Carolina State University. A photograph by Ralph Mills in American Fabrics shows twelve of the twenty students who worked on this model. They are (clockwise, starting with Fuller): R. Buckminster Fuller, Jeff Brooks III, Ligon Flynn, Al Cameron, Ralph Knowles, Richard Leaman, Bruno Leon, T. C. Howard, John Caldwell, Frosty Coile, Paul Shimamato, Fred Taylor, Sherman Pardue, Jr. Fuller marshaled “all [NCSU's] architectural students, within the N.C. State Engineering, Textile, and Business Administration Schools and expert consultation” to his project. Fuller’s students toured regional cotton mills and built the model to Fuller’s specifications. It was later described as a ‘fountain factory,’ as raw materials were imported at the base and finished products were exported from the summit. The model is no longer extant but a number of detailed photographs are preserved by North Carolina State University.

The 90% Automatic Cotton Mill was a successful model that remains unrealized, in part and in whole. Although there are thousands of tensegrity sculptures, tensegrity has yet to be used in architecture. Multi-story geodesic hemispheres have been built but none that are suspended from a central mast. The octet truss has been used in roofing (notably the Ford Rotunda dome), as scaffolding that can support suspended weight and in the temporary structures of A. G. Bell such as his triangle tower and Cygnet flyer. But the octet truss has never been used as long-term load-bearing floors. The most realized component of the 90% Automatic Cotton Mill is factory automation.

Factory automation has deep roots in the textile industry. Automated looms of the 1700s were controlled by punch cards. Punch cards were the data storage media for the 1890 US Census, which was carried out by Tabulating Machine Company, which later became IBM. Philip K. Dick wrote of an automated factory in his 1955 short story “Autofac.” General Motors experimented with a ‘lights out’ factory (requiring no humans, no lights are needed) in the 1980s, and the Japanese robotics firm FANUC has owned a robot factory that produces robots since 2001.

Where there is factory automation, there are displaced workers. A 90% automatic cotton mill means 90% automatic unemployment for former cotton mill workers. Fuller anticipated complete unemployment to be both inevitable and desirable.

[Entire automation of work industry] was always inherent in the intellectual pacing of industry. Its complete attainment is suddenly imminent. Marx’s workers, the automaton, the muscles and reflex machine, is replaced by automation. Man, losing all significance as physical producer, becomes utterly essential to the industrial equation only as the regenerative consumer. The industrial wealth potential of automated production capability may only be realized by an anticipatory designed, systematically established and credit-accounting matching consumer capacity. – Ideas and Integrities

It is easy to demonstrate to those who will take the time and the trouble to unbias their thoughts that automation swiftly can multiply the physical energy of wealth much more rapidly and profusely than can man’s muscle and brain-reflexed, manually-controlled production. On the other hand humans alone can foresee, integrate, and anticipate the new tasks to be done by progressively automated wealth-producing machinery. To take advantage of the fabulous magnitudes of real wealth waiting to be employed intelligently by humans and unblock automation’s postponement by organized labor we must give each human who is or becomes unemployed a life fellowship in research and development or in just simple thinking. – Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth

It was not difficult for the intellectual Fuller to work in a cotton mill. He could not imagine it would be difficult in turn for the average cotton mill worker to become an intellectual. Fuller wrote as workers are displaced by automation they should be given a credit, a fellowship, so that they can consume the wealth now generated by machines. Fuller got his money for college from his family, he got paid by a college to lecture and he got his cotton mill model as free student labor. Perhaps in the same way Fuller projected his own body on buildings, his own experiences on society, his own preferences on the universe, he projected that all those who did not work could get their support from… somewhere. “I see the hydrogen atom doesn’t have to earn a living before behaving like a hydrogen atom. In fact, as best I can see, only human beings operate on the basis of ‘having to earn a living.’ The concept is one introduced into social conventions only by the temporal power structure’s dictums of the ages. If I am doing what God’s evolutionary strategy needs to have accomplished, I need spend no further time worrying about such matters.”

Notes
Fuller, R. Buckminster: Nine Chains to the Moon. Garden City: Doubleday & Company Inc. 1938.
Architectural Forum Volume 96 Number 5. May 1952. “Factory of the Future.”
Fuller, R. Buckminster: American Fabrics. New York: Reporter Publications Inc., Spring 1953.
Fuller, R. Buckminster: Ideas and Integrities. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall 1963.
Fuller, R. Buckminster: Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. New York: Pocket Books 1969.
Fuller, R. Buckminster and Robert Marks: The Dymaxion World of Buckminster Fuller. Garden City: Anchor Books 1973.
Kenner, Hugh: Bucky: A Guided Tour of Buckminster Fuller. New York: William Morrow & Company Inc. 1973.
Lord, Athena V.: Pilot for Spaceship Earth. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co. Inc. 1978.
Potter, Robert R.: Buckminster Fuller. Englewood Cliffs: Silver Burdett Press 1999.
Sieden, Lloyd S.: Buckminster Fuller’s Universe. Cambridge: Perseus Publishing 2000.
Krausse, Joachim and Claude Lichtenstein (ed): Your Private Sky: Discourse. Baden: Lars Muller Publisher 2001.
Lichtenstein, Claude (ed): Your Private Sky: The Art of Design Science. Baden: Lars Muller Publisher 2001.
Zung, Thomas T. K. ed.: Buckminster Fuller: Anthology for the New Millennium. New York: St. Martin’s Press 2001.
Lorance, Loretta: Becoming Bucky Fuller. Cambridge: MIT Press 2009.
Chu, Hsiao-Yun and Roberto G. Trujille: New Views on R. Buckminster Fuller. Stanford: Stanford University Press 2009.

North Carolina State University: Geodesic Textile Mill. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

Wikipedia: History of Numerical Control.

Wikipedia: Lights Out Manufacturing.

Wikipedia: Punched Card.

Monday, November 11th, 2013 domes, rbf, synchronofile, tensegrity

Synergetics Stew July 2013

Ownership is going to go – not because it is politically unattractive, but because it is onerous. Man thought he had roots, not legs, and could keep many treasures. Now that we have refrigerators and cans, he doesn’t have to go where his roots are. He goes where his legs can take him. Museums existed when we had roots. Now we should take things out of museums and put them were they belong. Young people will be able to go around the world to see these things. Do you know they are rebuilding Babylon? – RBF interviewed by Lynn Sherr in Herald Advertiser, 25 October 1971.

The Buckminster Fuller Institute published the book Synergetic Stew: Explorations in Dymaxion Dining in 1982. Under this name, synchronofile.com publishes an irregular collection of brief notes relating to Buckminster Fuller.

☂ I continue to index the papers of the Buckminster Fuller Virtual Institute, donated by Joe Moore in 2013. My Fuller collection is now made up of tens of thousands of items and weights over five tons. These books, newspapers, magazines and other artifacts are available for study by appointment. As duplicates appear I am adding them to a lending library.

Divided Spheres / Geodesics and the Orderly Subdivision of the Sphere by Edward S. Popko (CRC Press: Boca Radon 2012) does us the tremendous honor of including synchronofile.com among only a small number of links in the reference section of this important book.

☂ Sam Green and Yo La Tengo continue to tour their show titled The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller. Each performance is unique, including information about Fuller’s relation to the location of the performance.

☂ The 50-foot Fly’s Eye dome commissioned by RBF and constructed by John Warren has been restored. After decades of rough storage in a California cow pasture, it is now on exhibition at the Toulouse International Art Festival in France.

☂ A fascinating collection of links on the mathematics of bee hives, specifically the hexagonal honeycomb. This is of interest to those following RBF’s claim that nature is efficient.

☂ R. Buckminster Fuller: THE HISTORY (and Mystery) OF THE UNIVERSE by D. W. Jacobs is not yet available on DVD. But sections of the play have been documented and are online. From the 2008 performance, a trailer. From the 2010 performance, a rehearsal and a trailer.

☂ Sam Lanahan accompanied Buckminster Fuller on his speaking tour of Southeast Asia in 1976. Currently he is promoting a new invention called FlexBlox.

Trevor Blake is the author of the Buckminster Fuller Bibliography, available at synchronofile.com

Friday, July 12th, 2013 books, rbf, synchronofile, video

The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller

Sam Green & Yo La Tengo will be performing The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller on Wednesday 12 September 2012 in Portland Oregon, USA.

Drawing equal inspiration from TEDtalks and Benshi film narration, The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller is a new “live documentary” from filmmaker Sam Green. Accompanied by a score performed live by Yo La Tengo, Green will cue images and narrate the film, exploring Fuller’s utopian vision that a design revolution could usher in radical social change.

Green is a documentary filmmaker based in New York and San Francisco. His film The Weather Underground was nominated for an Academy Award, broadcast nationally on PBS, and included in the 2004 Whitney Biennial. He has received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, Creative Capital, and the NEA. Yo La Tengo is a critically acclaimed indie rock band from Hoboken, New Jersey. They’ve recorded twelve studio albums, written soundtracks to the films Junebug, Shortbus, and Old Joy, and provided a score for the surrealist aquatic films of Jean Painlevé.

The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller premiered at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art as part of the 2012 San Francisco International Film Festival.

Location, Tickets, Information, Links.

Saturday, August 25th, 2012 art, portland, rbf

The Lost Inventions of Buckminster Fuller – Kindle Edition

Buckminster Fuller is widely known as the inventor of the geodesic dome, tensegrity, the Dymaxion Dwelling Unit and more. The Lost Inventions of Buckminster Fuller brings Fuller’s role in all of these discoveries into question, while presenting hard evidence that he is under-credited for many other remarkable inventions.

Trevor Blake (author of The Buckminster Fuller Bibliography) is a leading independent scholar on Fuller. Also found in this book are an analysis of geodesic dome integrity when subject to earthquakes, the influence on Fuller by Technocracy Incorporated, the influence of Fuller on the television program Lost, and much more.

US$ 1.99.

Buckminster Fuller Bibliography – Kindle Edition

The Buckminster Fuller Bibliography is the most complete and accurate bibliography of “Bucky” Fuller to date. Excellent tool for tracking Fuller’s trajectory, and for finding rare titles in the field for your own collection. Authored by Trevor Blake of synchronofile.com, an independent resource on Fuller consulted around the world. Updated for this Kindle edition.  US$ 1.99.

Fuller in Fashion

Fashion is design you wear, mobile and kinetic, including both tension and compression components.  Fashion is the valve between the environment (everything except you) and the universe (everything including you).  R. Buckminster Fuller’s influence on fashion is an undocumented parallel to his investigation into design.

☂ Fuller was attentive to his appearance. In Your Private Sky (Baden: Lars Muller Publishers 1999), Fuller is quoted as saying:

I decided to make a complete experiment of peeling off from society in general, and started wearing T-shirts which nobody was doing then, went about without a hat and in sneakers – absolutely comfortable clothes. Then when people started getting interested in my Dymaxion House, very nice people with influence, and they’d say, “l’d like to give a dinner party for you” and so forth, I would show up in khaki pants and they’d be very shocked. And when Mrs. John Alden Carpenter, head of the Arts Council in Chicago, gave a beautiful dinner party, I showed up and rudely announced, “I don’t eat that kind of food,” and was in every way obnoxious. l was putting self and comfort ahead of my Dymaxion House, and I said, “You’re not allowed to do that. You must get over that. You must stop that looking eccentric, with everybody pointing at this guy.” So I decided the way to do that was to become the invisible man, and that means a bank clerk – so I put on a black suit, bank clerk’s clothing; then they would focus on what I was saying instead of my eccentricities. I said, “I must get rid of continually making too much of myself.”

Fuller also knew of the attraction of the nude. When he exhibited the Dymaxion House in the 1920s, he placed a nude doll in its bedroom.

Continuum Fashion is the source for this graphic showing one of a pair of irregular geodesic hemispheres…

The graphic is a glimpse into the mathematics of the N12, a bikini designed with a 3-D scanner and printed with a 3-D printer. Continuum writes:

The N12 bikini is the world’s first ready-to-wear, completely 3D-printed article of clothing. All of the pieces, closures included, are made directly by 3D printing and snap together without any sewing. N12 represents the beginning of what is possible for the near future. N12 is named for the material it’s made out of: Nylon 12. This solid nylon is created by the SLS 3D printing process. Shapeways calls this material “white, strong, and flexible”, because its strength allows it to bend without breaking when printed very thin. With a minimum wall thickness of .7 mm, it is possible to make working springs and almost thread-like connections. For a bikini, the nylon is beautifully functional because it is waterproof and remarkably comfortable when wet.

☂ “When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.” This quote is attributed to R. Buckminster Fuller but I cannot find the source. More significantly, the greatest online biographer of Fuller – Joe S. Moore at his incredible buckminster.info – also cannot place this quote. Can you?

☂ Photographer Moria Simmons and a friend went as “Buckminster Fuller and the Geodesic Dame” on Halloween 2008.  See Moria’s photograph here, and more of her photography (including a sneaky shot of the Dymaxion Car and the Fuller postage stamp) here. Could this be the same Moria who knitted a geodesic hat?

Laura Dawson is a fashion designer. She used a geodesic dome to exhibit her Fall 2009 collection. (Thanks to grunch.net).

☂ The Buckminster Fuller Institute sells handbags and if memory serves they have sold pins and t-shirts in the past.

☂ Colleen Coghlan designed an inflatable type-two two-frequency geodesic pillow dome garment. She writes: “The inflatable dress (or ‘Wearable Space’) is, as the name describes, a garment that inflates into a personal space to sleep, rest or play within.”

Read more about the Wearable Space at The Cool Hunter.

☂ Connie Chang Chinchio sells a pattern for a geodesic cardigan.

Life Magazine could have published a photograph of anyone assembling a Dymaxion Map in March 1943. They chose a contortionist in her circus uniform.

Fuller Houses by Federico Neder (Baden: Lars Muller Publishers 2008) includes several items of Fuller fashion. The color plates section in the rear of the book shows a lapel pin of the Dymaxion House, presumably sold in the Henry Ford Museum where the Dymaxion House is on display. Fuller Houses also includes a sketch of a Dymaxion Hat designed by Irene Sharaff.

☂ The umbrella is a favored icon at synchronofile because it is a portable relatively inexpensive dome shelter produced on the industrial level. There are endless variations to the umbrella, from a banker’s basic black to the LED umbrellas of the film Blade RunnerThe Bucky Bar was raised in February 2010.  It was a geodesic dome made up of umbrellas designed by DUS Architects as a spontaneous (and unauthorized) dance bar in Rotterdam.

☂ Hair stylists Andreas and Markus contributed a two-frequency type two geodesic sphere hair weave to a fashion shoot by Purebred Productions.

☂ Florida-based Emilie produces beaded jewelry informed by energetic-synergetic mathematics.

☂ My first tattoo, which I gave myself around 1989, is a geometric shape referencing the work of Buckminster Fuller. No photographs of my tattoos have ever been published.

☂This essay first published on the twelfth of July 2011, a day of great significance to Buckminster Fuller.

- Trevor Blake

Trevor Blake is the author of the Buckminster Fuller Bibliography, available at synchronofile.com

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011 domes, dymaxion, geodesic, maps, rbf, shelter, synchronofile

Synergetics Stew June 2011

The Buckminster Fuller Institute published the book Synergetic Stew: Explorations in Dymaxion Dining in 1982. Under this name, synchronofile.com publishes an irregular collection of brief notes relating to Buckminster Fuller.

You are Listening to Deep Thoughts is a simple mix of a gentle background image, a quiet ambient music track and a recording of a thoughtful public speaker. More often than not, the thoughtful public speaker is R. Buckminster Fuller.

☂ “Network Awesome is a platform for entertaining and interesting TV. We spotlight the best from the past to create something new for the future. In a sense it’s TV about TV but our wider intent is to show something about culture as a whole. This can manifest itself in a kids cartoon from 1973, an interview from 1948 or a movie from 1993 – We’re pretty open minded about what Network Awesome is and what it can be. It’s our commitment to provide you what we think is interesting and clever TV – hopefully you agree.” Video of R. Buckminster Fuller regularly appears on Network Awesome.

A Picture History of Shelter Systems is just what it says on the box. Founder Bob Gillis owns several key patents for modern camping tents that meet Fuller’s criterion of portability, tension rather than compression, curves and triangles rather than straight lines and 90-degree angles, industrial production and low cost. While there are many sculptures and models that use Kenneth Snelson’s tensegrity method, Gillis may be the only man to have created a tensegrity structure for habitation as Fuller advocated.

☂ On 3 July 1980 Fuller spoke as Visiting Consultant for Windstar in Snowmass Colorado USA. Co-founder of Windstar John Denver wrote a song for Fuller that year titled What One Man Can Do. A popular photograph from Fuller’s visit to Windstar shows him with the Dymaxion car and a Fly’s Eye dome. The Dymaxion Car was restored last year, and now the Fly’s Eye dome has also been restored. The dome will be on exhibit at Art Basel, Design Miami and Dacra, all located in Miami Beach Florida USA.

☂ As previously announced, D. W. Jacob’s play R. BUCKMINSTER FULLER: THE HISTORY (and mystery) OF THE UNIVERSE was performed 28 May – 4 July 2010 at the Arena Stage Crystal City in Washington, DC USA. Perhaps for the first time, scenes from the play are now online. See also this trailer from the Portland performance in 2008, and Jacob and Allegra Fuller-Snyder talking about the 2011 run here. I’m glad to have seen the play several times over, but I do hope it is filmed in full some day.

- Trevor Blake

Trevor Blake is the author of the Buckminster Fuller Bibliography, available at synchronofile.com

Sunday, June 19th, 2011 domes, dymaxion, rbf, shelter, synchronofile, video

R. Buckminster Fuller’s Influence on Science Fiction Films and Television

Valley Forge Dome

The Valley Forge dome.  Photograph by Trevor Blake

R. Buckminster Fuller’s influence on science fiction films and television during his lifetime (12 July 1895 – 1 July 1983).

First Spaceship on Venus
[Wikipedia] [IMDB] [youtube]
1960. Film. Directed by Kurt Maetzig. Based on the novel The Astronauts by Stanisław Lem. An international rocket crew finds geodesic domes on the planet Venus.

Earth II
[IMDB]
1971. Television. Directed by Tom Gries.  A space station makes a claim for independence from the Earth it orbits.  R. Buckminster Fuller is credited as the “Technical Advisor for Earth” in Earth II. Fuller’s Dymaxion Map is used to track orbiting satellites in an Earth-bound control room.

Slaughterhouse 5
[Wikipedia] [IMDB] [youtube]
1972. Film. Directed by George Roy Hill. Based on the novel Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Billy Pilgrim is kept in a geodesic dome in a zoo on the planet Tralfamadore.

Silent Running
[Wikipedia] [IMDB] [youtube]
1972. Film. Directed by Douglas Trumbull.  The spaceship Valley Forge includes several geodesic domes.

The Starlost
[Wikipedia] [IMDB] [youtube] [The Starlost: The Word]
22 September 1973 – 5 January 1974. Television. Directed by Leo Orenstein. Created by Harlan Ellison. Executive Producer was Douglas Trumbull of Silent Running.  A geodesic dome from the spaceship Valley Forge from Silent Running is re-used on the spaceship The Ark.

Battlestar Galactica
[Wikipedia] [IMDB] [Battlestar Wiki: Agro Ship]
September 17, 1978 – April 29, 1979. Television. Created by Glen A. Larson.
The geodesic dome from the spaceship Valley Forge from Silent Running which had been re-used on the spaceship The Ark in The Starlost is re-used once more on an Argo Ship. This dome is on exhibit at the EMP Science Fiction Museum between 23 October 2010 – 4 March 2012.

See also LOST Domes.

- Trevor Blake

Trevor Blake is the author of the Buckminster Fuller Bibliography, available at synchronofile.com

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011 art, books, domes, dymaxion, geodesic, maps, rbf, shelter, synchronofile, video, world game

R. Buckminster Fuller: A Verb on Two Legs

In celebration of R. Buckminster Fuller and the 12 of July, the background images from my lecture “The Approximately Omnidirectional Ephemeralization of Richard Buckminster Fuller” as an 11 minute silent b/w video.

Also: for the month of July 2010 my two books on Fuller are deeply discounted.  This is the month to buy them!

The Buckminster Fuller Bibliography – buy now for $35.00 $25.00 $1.99.

A Study of Shelter Logistics for Marine Corps Aviation – buy now for $25.00 [TEMPORARILY OUT OF PRINT]

- Trevor Blake

Trevor Blake is the author of the Buckminster Fuller Bibliography, available at synchronofile.com

Friday, July 2nd, 2010 books, rbf, shelter, synchronofile, video