Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: Buckminster Fuller

 

“Technology paces industry, but there’s a long lag in the process. Industry paces economics. It changes the tools, a great ecological change…. The politician is someone who deals in man’s problems of adjustment. To ask a politician to lead us is to ask the tail of a dog to lead the dog.” — “Bucky” Fuller, 1962

Well known for his geodesic dome design, Richard Buckminster Fuller was considered quite innovative. Growing up in the 1960s, I was exposed to articles where he was more a “guru” rather than an inventor. He has many more quotes on Wikiquote than most scientists/engineers. Even though the quote above makes sense, he thought that “all politicians can and will yield enthusiastically to the computers safe flight-controlling capabilities in bringing all of humanity in for a happy landing.” He was famous promoting “synergy” and was naturally materialistic. He had many inventions that were failures, sometimes due to circumstances, and other times due to his self-promotion.

His first invention was the Stockade Building System, which used wood shavings molded into blocks with vertical holes. Brought to the market in the mid-1920s, it failed partly due to “conservative” builders, who need systems that last for ~50 years or more.* Today, we build basement walls with a similar system using foam blocks, rebar, and concrete. The Stockade failure led Fuller to contemplate suicide, where a voice told him:

You think the truth. You do not have the right to eliminate yourself. You do not belong to you. You belong to Universe. Your significance will remain forever obscure to you, but you may assume that you are fulfilling your role if you apply yourself to converting your experiences to the highest advantage of others.

Some say that the suicide story may be a myth which Fuller constructed later in life.

After his “suicide attempt,” Fuller committed to “the search for the principles governing the universe and help advance the evolution of humanity in accordance with them” and “finding ways of doing more with less to the end that all people everywhere can have more and more,” which he called “Ephemeralization.” He also constructed the word Dymaxion, a portmanteau of the words dynamic, maximum, and tension, a “maximum gain of advantage from minimal energy input.” This lead to interesting inventions, including the famous Dymaxion car, with a lightweight chassis, rear V8 engine, front-wheel drive, three wheels, and an aerodynamic body for fuel efficiency. Steering was done with the rear wheel, which allowed for a very tight turning radius. Only three prototypes were built, with major flaws during high speed/high wind conditions, and the inherit instability of rear wheel steering.

With his previous failure in home construction, you might think he would have learned from that experience. He designed the Dymaxion house in 1930’s, based on a grain bin, and then constructed it after World War II. The house used a vertical stainless-steel strut on a small foundation. The roof and floor beams radiated from this strut. Aluminum sheet metal formed the roof, ceiling and floor. The Dymaxion house was considered the first self-contained building in the 20th century. As usual, only two houses were ever built.

As for the Geodesic Dome, Fuller wasn’t the first to design such an item. A German patent in 1925 and a US patent in 1947 showed similar ideas, but Fuller didn’t mention this “prior art” in his patent applications. A concept called Tensegrity (another portmanteau of “tensional integrity”) was his most important and lasting contribution to building design, mainly due to his fame rather than unique insights.

“Bucky” Fuller was very creative and unique, but other than the geodesic dome, his Dymaxion inventions and others were dead-ends. His philosophical ideas such as Ephemeralization, Synergy, and renewable energy resonated with intellectuals in the 1960s, hence we live with these concepts today, even if we see the flaws of blindly following these ideas. To end this Quote of the Day entry, another quote is needed:

“R. Buckminster Fuller described himself as a “terrific package of experiences.” The record of Fuller’s uncredited duplication of prior work suggests that he was at times a terrific package of other people’s experiences. The greatest invention of Richard Buckminster Fuller was the character Bucky.” – Trevor Blakeen

* Because copper prices were high in the 1960’s, aluminum home wiring was tried. It works, but needs special installation procedures.

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  1. Bruce Caward Thatcher
    Bruce CawardJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Plus, he has the “buckyball” named after him, can’t remember why. A giant bunch of carbon atoms that fit together in one of the allowed arrangements – like 500 or so I think, so it is really big for a molecule. Provides crazy good slickness, lubricant. 

    Sorry, too excited to read the rest of Ricochet to look it up; I’m sure several of you have the details off the top of your head.

    • #1
    • October 23, 2018, at 5:18 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  2. RightAngles Member

    There’s a geodisic dome house in my neighborhood.

    • #2
    • October 23, 2018, at 5:37 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  3. PHCheese Member

    I always that if his name was Joe Fuller we would know a lot less about him.

    • #3
    • October 23, 2018, at 5:43 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  4. Vectorman Member
    Vectorman

    Bruce Caward (View Comment):

    Plus, he has the “buckyball” named after him, can’t remember why. A giant bunch of carbon atoms that fit together in one of the allowed arrangements – like 500 or so I think, so it is really big for a molecule. Provides crazy good slickness, lubricant.

    From Wiki:

    Carbon molecules known as fullerenes were later named by scientists for their structural and mathematical resemblance to geodesic spheres. The original one was C60 Buckminsterfullerene. From that article:

    A common, shortened name for buckminsterfullerene is “buckyballs.”

    • #4
    • October 23, 2018, at 5:44 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  5. Arahant Member

    The buckyball of carbon forms geodesic spheres with the atoms. That’s why it is named for him.

    • #5
    • October 23, 2018, at 5:44 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  6. Arahant Member

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    There’s a geodisic dome house in my neighborhood.

    My mother has one.

    https://scontent-atl3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/31164105_10215145871667738_5138356876306348412_n.jpg?_nc_cat=101&_nc_ht=scontent-atl3-1.xx&oh=fed3faa2966f85efc9607fb3835090df&oe=5C5895AF

    • #6
    • October 23, 2018, at 5:46 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  7. Vectorman Member
    Vectorman

    PHCheese (View Comment):
    I always that if his name was Joe Fuller we would know a lot less about him

    How about Alfred Fuller, who founded the Fuller Brush Company?


    This entry is part of our Quote of the Day series. We have 2 openings left on the October Schedule, and many openings on the November Schedule. We’ve even include tips for finding great quotes. Join in the fun and sign up today!

    • #7
    • October 23, 2018, at 5:47 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  8. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    Aluminum wire, with paper insulation, was called “victory wire” in WWII. Imagine the shock when it was discovered in the walls of a functioning military medical center in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

    • #8
    • October 23, 2018, at 6:04 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  9. Annefy Member

    My dad worked for Temcor, in Torrance CA, that manufactured geodesic domes. 

    When he met Buckminster Fuller, he asked him to sponsor the soccer team he was coaching. And he did.

    • #9
    • October 23, 2018, at 9:25 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  10. Dorrk Inactive

    There was an agreeable little fictional indie movie out earlier this year about an oddball kid who grew up in one of Fuller’s domes. It’s called House of Tomorrow. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it was a nice semi-comic character study with plenty of Fuller flavor.

    • #10
    • October 23, 2018, at 9:38 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  11. I Walton Member

    I’m too traditionalist to like a lot of his architecture but the quote

    Technology paces industry, but there’s a long lag in the process. Industry paces economics. It changes the tools, a great ecological change … The politician is someone who deals in man’s problems of adjustment. To ask a politician to lead us is to ask the tail of a dog to lead the dog. – “Bucky” Fuller, 1962

    is brilliant and dead right.

    • #11
    • October 24, 2018, at 6:53 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  12. RightAngles Member

    I Walton (View Comment):

    I’m too traditionalist to like a lot of his architecture but the quote

    Technology paces industry, but there’s a long lag in the process. Industry paces economics. It changes the tools, a great ecological change … The politician is someone who deals in man’s problems of adjustment. To ask a politician to lead us is to ask the tail of a dog to lead the dog. – “Bucky” Fuller, 1962

    is brilliant and dead right.

    I agree, and boy does it ever apply to 2016. The voters finally saw the truth of this.

    • #12
    • October 24, 2018, at 7:09 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk andJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’ve long been irked by the knee-jerk deification of Buckminster Fuller that I often encounter online, so I’m really happy about this OP which points out how almost nothing he invented has ever been widely adopted, and those bits that have been widely adopted weren’t really invented by him anyways.

    He was a “novelty architect”, sez I.

    These days he’s probably most famous for the buckminsterfullerene, but he didn’t invent Carbon-60! It’s only named after him because the guys who discovered it just really liked Buckminster Fuller.

    Heck, carbon-60 isn’t even a Buckminster-style geodesic! It’s structured like a soccer ball out of pentagons and hexagons, while Fuller’s geodesics were made out of triangles!

    That all being said, I still like his anti-authoritarian ethos. I just think he gets a wee bit too much praise for his architectural and scientific achievements.

    • #13
    • October 24, 2018, at 9:10 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  14. Arahant Member

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):
    I’ve long been irked by the knee-jerk deification of Buckminster Fuller that I often encounter online…

    Many years ago I dated a gal who was part of one of the more extreme Christian groups. She took me to a young adults study group one night. One of the fellows who was there went on a long tirade about how Buckminster Fuller and all of his works were of the devil. I’m sure that you could find people like him online somewhere if you looked, @misthiocracy.

     

    • #14
    • October 24, 2018, at 9:21 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  15. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk andJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):
    I’ve long been irked by the knee-jerk deification of Buckminster Fuller that I often encounter online…

    Many years ago I dated a gal who was part of one of the more extreme Christian groups. She took me to a young adults study group one night. One of the fellows who was there went on a long tirade about how Buckminster Fuller and all of his works were of the devil. I’m sure that you could find people like him online somewhere if you looked, @misthiocracy.

     

    Fool! The Devil’s works are far more influential than the works of Buckminster Fuller.

    • #15
    • October 24, 2018, at 9:28 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  16. GLDIII Temporarily Essential Reagan
    GLDIII Temporarily EssentialJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Aluminum wire, with paper insulation, was called “victory wire” in WWII. Imagine the shock when it was discovered in the walls of a functioning military medical center in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

    We have a few homes that were build in a Levittown development in Laurel MD that burned down from the use of Aluminum wire. They did not bother to use the correct switches and outlets. So after a few years with the thermal cycling of the AL wire with the copper designed fixtures all of the clamped joints loosened from the Aluminum CTE. I remember going around the house with my dad after the first death from fire down the road and changing out all of the fixtures.

     

    • #16
    • October 24, 2018, at 9:33 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  17. Arahant Member

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):
    Fool! The Devil’s works are far more influential than the works of Buckminster Fuller.

    I’m just saying one can find demonization along with the deification.

    • #17
    • October 24, 2018, at 10:27 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  18. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk andJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):
    Fool! The Devil’s works are far more influential than the works of Buckminster Fuller.

    I’m just saying one can find demonization along with the deification.

    I don’t want to demonize the guy! That’s giving him too much credit.

    • #18
    • October 24, 2018, at 10:38 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  19. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noDJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    • #19
    • October 24, 2018, at 1:47 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  20. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noDJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The geodesic dome structure is a big win in terms of structural strength per pound of materials. And Bucky introduced it after WWII when our troops were coming home and there was a big demand for new houses. Which makes complete sense.

    In these modern times, when “sustainability” is all the rage, I would think you could do a great business building residential developments of geodesic domes. 

    “Domeville – If you lived here you’d be home by now!”.

    And you could sell pentagonal and hexagonal solar panels as a side business.

    It’s also an opportunity for some creative architects to design a dome house that is much more appealing, incorporating other architectural styles.

    • #20
    • October 24, 2018, at 2:02 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  21. Steve C. Member
    USA Pavilion @ Expo 67 in Montreal
    • #21
    • October 24, 2018, at 7:57 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  22. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    GLDIII (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Aluminum wire, with paper insulation, was called “victory wire” in WWII. Imagine the shock when it was discovered in the walls of a functioning military medical center in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

    We have a few homes that were build in a Levittown development in Laurel MD that burned down from the use of Aluminum wire. They did not bother to use the correct switches and outlets. So after a few years with the thermal cycling of the AL wire with the copper designed fixtures all of the clamped joints loosened from the Aluminum CTE. I remember going around the house with my dad after the first death from fire down the road and changing out all of the fixtures.

     

    In the hospital case, the wiring was 50 years or more old.

    • #22
    • October 25, 2018, at 4:57 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  23. GLDIII Temporarily Essential Reagan
    GLDIII Temporarily EssentialJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    GLDIII (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Aluminum wire, with paper insulation, was called “victory wire” in WWII. Imagine the shock when it was discovered in the walls of a functioning military medical center in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

    We have a few homes that were build in a Levittown development in Laurel MD that burned down from the use of Aluminum wire. They did not bother to use the correct switches and outlets. So after a few years with the thermal cycling of the AL wire with the copper designed fixtures all of the clamped joints loosened from the Aluminum CTE. I remember going around the house with my dad after the first death from fire down the road and changing out all of the fixtures.

     

    In the hospital case, the wiring was 50 years or more old.

    Here I think is was a case of the Aluminum wire being cheaper and the “lowest bidding contractor” using up his supply of stitches and outlets designed to screw/clamp to copper wires. I vaguely recall that some county inspectors ended up doing time.

    • #23
    • October 25, 2018, at 5:16 PM PDT
    • 2 likes

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