Buckminster Beauty

At our house, the members of the family are variously and randomly referred to as: Frank, Cyril, Bob, Buckwheat, Johann, Young Man, Young Lady, and Buckminster. Some of those names refer to a specific family member, and some are interchangeable. It seems -- although I am not the source of this multi-name, semi-feline system -- that the names often denote the mood of the speaker. And Buckminster is generally a name coming from someone in a good mood, who refers to someone doing something - or someone who should be doing something. And sometimes, rarely, the person gets called the whole of that name: Buckminster Fuller.

Ever heard of Buckminster Fuller?

Richard Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller (July 12, 1895 – July 1, 1983) was an American architect, author, designer, futurist, inventor, and visionary. He was the second president of Mensa.

'aaaat's right. The second president of Mensa had the nickname "Bucky." I wonder what mood the speaker was in when little Bucky got that name. Was it a jealous or hateful classmate? Was it a loving uncle who couldn't help commenting on the enormous front teeth kids always end up with right after their "baby teeth" go away?

Whatever you call him, though, the man was amazing. From his list of "roles," I would guess that I would have loved to have him to dinner at my house. He would have been less likely to notice random dust or peeling paint or unfinished wallboard than conversation, and it would have been very interesting to have a conversation with such a man.

Fuller wrote more than thirty books, coining and popularizing terms such as "Spaceship Earth", ephemeralization, and synergetics. He also worked in the development of numerous inventions, chiefly in the fields of design and architecture, the best known of which is the geodesic dome. Carbon molecules known as fullerenes or buckyballs were named for their resemblance to geodesic spheres.
Would he have built such shapes from napkins at the table, I wonder? I do not think he would have worried much about social niceties - probably wouldn't have much tasted the food either, which I would find disappointing. I like to cook good food, and I like the eaters to realize what they're eating.

He was the subject of my morning's brief little research moment today because of this quote:
When I'm working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.

Me too. That's the dead giveaway. If the solution to a complicated problem is ugly, inelegant, cruel, or deliberately blind to obvious factors, then that is not the right solution. If the solution does not actually work, then that is not the real solution. Those domes of Bucky's -- they did stand up. They functioned. And they were beautiful.

Beauty. A guy with the mind of a mad scientist, the heart of a philanthropist, the social habits of a radical (he got kicked out of Harvard ... twice!), and a name that both jangles the nerves and sits like a lump, was a guy who demanded beauty in solutions. He had to factor in things like gravity and inflexible mathematics, and he had to be ready to discard the bits and pieces of a thing if those things did not fit into the design. Beauty has design - in fact, beauty flows from design. That is what Bucky saw. Workable design produces beauty; beauty is functional. And yes, it is possible for one guy to make something truly beautiful.

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.

Thanks for that, Bucky -- er ... Trim Tab.

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