Nature, Geometry, and the Symmetry of Space Third Biennial
Design Science Symposium at RISD in Providence, RI, 10-13 November
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Synergetics, in the broadest terms, is the study of spatial complexity, and as
such is an inherently comprehensive discipline. ... Experience
with synergetics encourages a new way of approaching and solving problems.
Its emphasis on visual and spatial phenomena combined with Fuller's holistic
approach fosters the kind of lateral thinking which so often leads to creative
-- Amy Edmondson, A Fuller Explanation, 1987
Thank you to SUNY Oswego, Department of Technology, Design Studio for hosting this, the third annual, SNEC workshop!
Best quote of the workshop: "Both neither" by Tom Miller.
Our event this year started off with a bang. At the reception graciously hosted by John and Judith Belt, a new participant, John Charter, burned a diamond, something most of us had never seen before. It was after dark when out on the steps of John Belt's house, John set up a torch, some liquid oxygen he'd made and a sparkley little diamond, heated up the diamond, and dropped it into the oxygen. It danced and glowed as it transformed into carbon dioxide (CO2) trapped in water which we then had a chance to drink and taste. Another 'highlight' of the night was a Don Briddell style structor built with glow sticks. It was a wonderful evening with old and new friends eating, drinking and talking well into the night.
This year's event was attended by 33 individuals each with their own notions of Synergetics and Structure. After a brief welcome Patrick Doyle started the main event by instructing on building expandable polyhedra with bamboo sticks and rubber bands. We started with a vertex, then a pentagonal face and finally an expandable dodecahedron. The materials were very tactile and enjoyable, recycled chopsticks and rubber bands served in Chinese takeout containers. Patrick's methods of instruction had both flair and simplicity that encouraged participation. Although most people were unable to finish the model during the time allotted, many of us accomplished the handedness concepts that occur at the vertices when struts come together.
I found the workshop a mutually enhancing process.
-- Nick Consoletti
After lunch Marvin Solit, with the assistance of Jean LeVaux, presented his Hierarchy of Polyvertexia (polyhedra). He started with the icosidodecahedron with its thirty vertices. He connected these vertices to their next nearest neighbor creating 60 new vertices from the 12 emergent pentagrams. He went on to demonstrate that by connecting these sixty vertices into 20 hexagons, you have 5 cuboctahedrons (5 VE) with a common center. As this process of connecting emergent vertices proceeds the cube, the tetrahedron, the octahedron, and the rhombic dodecahedrons all emerge as compound five polyhedra. Using Zometool we worked in teams making models of naturally emerging compound 5 polyhedra. Marvin had built several fascinating models of polyhedra within polyhedra demonstrating a hierarchy of structures. He also presented a compound 5 structor tetrahedron.
On display in the art exhibit area, were many new structor-actor models by Joe Clinton, as well as two new sculptures, a tribute to Ed Applewhite and a war protest piece. Dick Fischbeck had samples of a new twisted strut system and some new models, as well as some models made by John Belt's students based on the concepts of Dick's randome that he had presented to John Belt's class. Jeannie had a display of minimal structures using 10 equiangular spherical polyhedra and bubble solution. Digger O'Toole sent 12 boxes of his 1-2-3-4 geodesic sphere model kits for a 4-frequency geodesic sphere one of which was worked on intermittently and people got to take home. Digger would like your feedback.
Warren Scott Fentress next gave a computer presentation on Applied Synergetics and Sacred Geometry which covered the history and many basic principles of Fuller related geometry. Please contact Warren if you know of any venues for this wonderfully illustrated and witty presentation, which is well suited for schools. Warren's wife Johanna helped him with the 2nd part of his presentation which demonstrated Warren's Magna Blocks business venture. We played with the toys/ model materials, there was a drawing and several people won sets to take home as Warren gave the background of his business plan for this educational product.
Dinner was pizza at the studio. Energy was high and people connected with lively conversations.
After dinner Medard Gable presented a moderated discussion on Synergetics in the Social Sciences. After giving a brief history of his connections with Fuller, BFI, and the World Game, Medard reported on his latest 10-year collaborative effort initiated this year with a UN summer workshop with the BFI which is based on the Millennium Development Goals treaty signed by world leaders to improve the state of the world. The first of these annual workshops was in July 2005 and based on thinking of solutions to world hunger.
One of Medard's aims was to gain from our group a notion of how Synergetics could possibly be used to help solve social problems. Starting with the tetrahedron Medard posed the possibility that these models might be too simplistic for the complexities of social problems. There was a general disagreement, varying from suggesting the coexistence of many tetrahedra to the observation later explored in Kurt McNamara's presentation that the tetrahedron is in fact very complex. The discussion was sobering as we all appreciated the difficulty of trying to make changes that would improve the lot of people whose existence is threatened by starvation and the like while we have the luxury of thinking about esoteric math problems. There was a lot of talk of how we can improve ourselves, our communications with those around us and the precessional effects of things we do. Medard showed us a commercial for Big Picture Small World filled with the heart-wrenching facts of inequality in the world.
After Medard, most people stayed for a presentation of the Cosmic Fishing award given to him for his lifetime contributions to Synergetics including the World Game and the Design Science Lab initiative. He was pleased and I think surprised by the award built and presented by Joe Clinton. At that point someone suggested we do introductions which gave everyone who had something to say.
The workshop was very productive.
-- Medard Gable
The second day started off with Tom Miller's the Unification of Structure and How to Mass Produce the Simplest Shapes in Nature, Tom came out of the woodwork after 30 years of working on models and claimed that this was the first time he had presented his ideas in public, but spoke like an enthusiastic amateur (or polished professional, as we couldn't tell the difference). He had discovered for himself many relationships between polyhedra and had built his models in such a way that different shapes fit into each other, along with a very amusing mythology. His system was built on the ping-pong ball as a standard measurement, which also illustrated the relation of sphere packing to the models. He showed how by using a very manageable number of measurements all the shapes could be derived. He led us through a method for creating grids that could readily be used for model building and pointed out his building techniques.
Roger Tobie then gave a talk on the Structure and Distribution of Prime Numbers. His was a glimpse into the world of mathematical algorithms in a field that had fallen by the wayside but has made a resurgence due to the computer age. Prime numbers are an essential part of cryptography. Roger had made a beautiful model, a hyperbolic paraboloid, of the multiplication table that he showed was connected to testing for prime numbers.
Before lunch Dick Fischbeck gave an update on his Synergetics explorations. He's involved in a project with BFI's Bruce LaBell creating emergency shelters using materials commonly found in the developing world. He's pursuing ideas relating to the Randome concept he created 5 years ago.
Don Briddell led the next presentation which covered his work in Field Structure Theory first presented last year. He updated us on significant developments in his theory. Now besides structors, a closed energy model, there are also actors, a model which flies apart, as well as a whole family; a left and right structor joined together, a structor and an actor where the structor holds the actor in place, and more. Joe Clinton has been working with Don rather intensively this past year, both with computer graphics and modelling materials. The second part of the workshop was spent building models with some durable, colorful plastics that aren't difficult to find or afford. The importance of handedness at vertices was again an issue and somewhat clarified using various colored struts, popsicle sticks and weed-whacker filament. Don briefly covered how his theory relates to atomic and subatomic theory and promised us a metaphysical explanation if we wished, which we do.
I wanted to give you a heads-up regarding a very important organization (NRDC Action Fund) I support that fights for legislation that supports saving our natural environment. They are currently fighting against president Bush's efforts to open protected environments to oil drilling. They usually don't ask for anything other than an occasional letter to your senators or members of congress (and they take care of the details).
-- Brian McGuire
Curt McNamara gave the last presentation on modelling tools and systems science using a computer. He gave an overview of systems science (which looks for common patterns across systems in all fields of knowledge) and how it related to Fuller, and the more recent developments, stressing how its use has infiltrated diverse fields. The tetrahedron took on a whole new aspect which Bucky had explored with actions, reactions and resultants creating a cycle. The participants used magnetic models and Zome tools to come up with their own examples of a tetrahedral system.
I will just write on one instance, and that is regarding Medard Gabel's posit, what ever it was, on the social systemics emerging, the so called social sciences... The philosopher Quine, as well as contemporary scholars, along his lines of articulation have found the scientific method to be flawed. In short the distinction going back to Galileo is not so much testing but reasoning that makes the notion of science a plausible probe into the question of principles in nature. By the way, this is not a fringe argument, it is taught in philosophy of science classes in academe (have a look, at Henri Bortoft's work on German scientist/poet Goethe, which is being extended by the physicist Arthur G. Zajonc). Warren Dohemann's book, Alchemy of Intelligence, models the tetrahedron's relationship to social dynamics in daily living. Check it out. He lived in Santa Monica, California and worked with the school without walls.
-- Nick Consoletti
Unfortunately the workshop was over too soon and many people, some who had come a long way, had to leave. Before the end there was a chance to present John Belt with an appreciation award of a rotating structor and goodbyes all around. Several of us stayed the night and discussions continued on our many observations and insights as well as discussing the first stage of planning for the Synergetics Dictionary Project and the November Symposium that is rapidly approaching. There will be an art show which attendees are urged to participate in and registration ahead of time is a must since the Noguchi museum is almost guaranteed to fill up. Anyone who would like to assist please get in touch. Also accommodations in NY should be arranged as soon as possible. All in all it was a grand success. Some of you were missed but we'll hope to see you soon.
Thanks to Brian McGuire we have 50 photos from the Structure Workshop!
Jeannie Moberly wrote the first draft of this account. Edited by CJ Fearnley. Contributions from Nick Consoletti, Marvin Solit.
|List of Attendees:|
|Victor Acevedo||David Grover|
|Brian Ashline||Brian La Barr|
|Kristen Bacorn||Lawrence LeMay|
|John Belt||Jean LeVaux|
|Phil Bishop||James Lowe|
|Don Briddell||Brian McGuire|
|Rich Bush||Caitlin McGuire|
|John David Charter||Al McMahon|
|Joe Clinton||Curt McNamara|
|Nick Consoletti||Tom Miller|
|Patrick Doyle||Jeannie Moberly|
|CJ Fearnley||Michael Rowland (attended in spirit only)|
|Johanna Fentress||Marvin Solit|
|Warren Fentress||Barry Silver|
|Richard Fischbeck||Roger Tobie|
|Medard Gable||Scott Voltz|
|Ian Gallagher||John Yuan|
Exhibit space contributions:
The announcement for the Structure Workshop
The promotional flyer for the Structure Workshop
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