Saturday, March 28, 2009

Call me Trimtab

(Above photo from
Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Mary -- the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there's a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab.
It's a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it's going right by you, that it's left you altogether. But if you're doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go.
So I said, call me Trim Tab.
Bucky quoted in the February 1972 issue of Playboy.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mechanical Jellyfish

Young Bucky loved spending his summers at the family owned Bear Island. There he learned a reverence for and appreciation of nature. Many of his inventions mirrored what he later designated as 'Natural Technology' i.e. employing the extremely efficient techniques he perceived within Nature.

One of his early inventions was a mechanical oar patterned after the motion of jellyfish. "It consisted of a tepee-like cone mounted on the end of a pole and resembled an inside-out umbrella. Standing at the rear of his boat, Fuller would pull the pole toward him through a large iron ring attached to the rear of the boat. As the peak of the umbrella-like invention pointed toward the boat, it displayed little resistance. However, when it pushed backward into the water, the cone opened, propelling the boat forward."

After this "Bucky also discovered that his boar trips were much safer and more enjoyable because he could see any hazardous or interesting events developing in front of him much more sooner than if he were rowing facing the rear."

I wonder why this simple and practical idea has not taken hold on the boating community.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Octet Truss

This morning some of us met at KL Sentral's food court to discuss Bucky. After the session I went on my walk-about of KL for photos to update my KL blog. Of course, I didn't have my brolly with me and I had to take shelter from the rain along Bukit Bintang. I looked up and noticed that the place I was sheltering under was made up of a number of tringular structures joined together.

In "Buckminster Fuller's Universe; His Life and Work" by Lloyd Steven Sieden, Sieden mentioned that when Bucky was in kindergarten, he was given dried peas and toothpicks (the traditional toy building material of the day). '... the other children immediately began reproducing structures which mirrored the buildings they observed in daily life. Naturally, their frameworks were rectangular, supported by right angle corners held firm by the dried peas. However, with no accurate visual experiance to rely upon, young Bucky began creating a structure which satisfied his sense of touch rather than imitated adult construction. Accordingly, his framework was composed of stable triangles and was, in fact, a rudimentary model of the octet truss, which he would invent and patent in 1961. .... Even today, few people who are not involved in the construction industry appreciate the importance of the octet truss. ...'

So the next time you see such a structure, you know that its Bucky's idea.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Generalized Principle

In Money & You, we always hear about generalized principles.

"The word 'generalization' as used in the literary sense means 'very broad'. It suggests trying to cover too much territory - too thinly - to be useful. The literary men say 'this is too general'. In the mathematical sense, however, the meaning of generalization is quite different.

The mathematician or the physicist looks for principles which are persistently operative in nature, which hold true in every specific case. If you can find principles that hold true in every case, then you have discovered what the scientist calls a 'generalized principle'."

(from Utopia or Oblivion)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Piano Top

Bucky begins the book 'Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth' with: " I am enthusiastic over humanity's extraordinary and sometimes very timely ingenuities. If you are in a shipwreck and all the boats are gone, a piano top buoyant enough to keep afloat that comes along makes a fortuitous life preserver."

A little later down, he adds, "I think that we are clinging on to a great many piano tops in accepting yesterday's fortuitous contrivings as constituting the only means for solving a given problem."

The question that I have to ask myself is, "how many table tops am I clinging to?" especially with my 'that's the way it's supposed to be done' and 'that's the way I've always done it' mentality.

What about you?
(Photo above from

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth

Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth is a short book by R. Buckminster Fuller, first published in 1969. The original edition is now out of print, although partial/complete copies of the text may be found on the internet, both hard-bound and paperback. A new paperback edition, (July 15, 2008) is now available however.

The book relates Earth to a spaceship flying through space. The spaceship has a finite amount of resources and cannot be resupplied.


Some of the covers dug up from the internet (I forgot the sites where these were taken from).