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Synergetics 2: Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking Paperback – March, 1983
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Fuller attempted nothing less than the reformulation of our concept of structure, by proposing a tetrahedron-based geometry over conventional cubic coordinates. The question is whether this has any practical application for ordinary life, beyond being merely an interesting topic of discussion. Fuller insisted that it did, but as Elizabeth Kolbert points out in a recent New Yorker article ("Dymaxion Man," June 9 & 16, 2008), it is difficult to call him an "inventor" when so few of his ideas ever came to fruition. Stewart Brand, the founding editor of the "Whole Earth Catalog," describes the geodesic dome, Fuller's best-known creation, as a "massive, total failure," impossible to keep from leaking, impossible to subdivide into usable living space, with enormous wasted volume in the upper area. The geodesic dome itself was not even invented by Fuller, but by Zeiss engineer Walther Bauersfeld shortly after World War One.
Fuller's philosophy, while unusual, is remarkably consistent, with a few peculiar contradictions. He focuses on "events" and "relationships," characterized respectively by the vertices and edges of polygons. The faces of polygons, in his system, are empty space, therefore, have no structural reality. Thus, solids are an illusion. The sphere, in Fuller's description, is a many-sided polygon of a frequency high enough to appear spherical. Yet, in many constructions in the book, spheres function as solid balls. Evidently, when Fuller wants to employ a solid object in a description, it is an idealized mental construct, but if anyone else does it, he never fails to point out that solids are an illusion.
Another contradiction is the Dymaxion map, which is nothing more than a variety of interrupted projection, similar to the Goode Homolosine, with the oceans divided in order to preserve the integrity of land masses. Nothing unusual here, except Fuller believed that people like Polynesians and Vikings circled the world by ocean thousands of years ago. The world map employed by these hypothetical sailors would have had Antarctica at the center, with the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans extending outward like the arms of a starfish, bounded by the edges of unknowable land masses. Thus the most consistent Fullerian world map would be an interrupted projection keeping the oceans intact, while dividing the continents.
The value of Synergetics, and Fuller's work in general, is clearly not (not yet?) its practical application. Rather, it is his ceaseless advocacy of the global perspective, of the interdependence of systems, from subatomic particles to Universe.