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Fairy Tale Geometry
August 3, 2008 6:34 PM   Subscribe

Among the works exhibited at the Whitney Museum's Buckminster Fuller exhibit is his Tetrascroll, a fairy tale based on Goldilocks and the Three Bears written for his daughter. Tetrascroll, as you might imagine from the name, is not an ordinary book, but a musing on life and geometry in the form of "a booklike artifact of twenty-six pages, each a thirty-six-inch equilateral triangle."
posted by grapefruitmoon (13 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
"a musing on life and geometry in the form of 'a booklike artifact of twenty-six pages, each a thirty-six-inch equilateral triangle.'"

Gee, thanks Dad.
posted by decoherence at 6:40 PM on August 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


decoherence writes "Gee, thanks Dad."

When your dad is the president of Mensa, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise.
posted by mullingitover at 7:30 PM on August 3, 2008


Interesting. I wonder why he chose 26 pages? Since each page is an equilateral triangle, and if it were to be the net of a regular solid, it could only be the net of a Platonic solid rather than an Archimedean or Johnson solid. But the icosahedron has 20 sides, not 26, so this cannot be the net of an icosahedron.

In one of the photos it looks like the pages are joined in a more or less linear fashion, which makes sense as the text describes its ability to be folded into a number of configurations. This also makes sense in terms of minimizing the number of edges that each page joins to. As far as I know, all geometric solid nets have at least one face that abuts more than two of its neighbors. In this way nets are constrained in how they fold up.

As far as cool uses of geometric nets goes, Fuller is kind of like Jay Adams in skateboarding; the king of his day, but the current stuff is much more advanced. Check out the Foldables group over at Flickr.
posted by Tube at 8:17 PM on August 3, 2008


Well, with 26 triangles you could make an icosahedron and replace one face with a triangular antiprism, making an octahedron perched atop an icosahedron. Or, possibly, he wrote 20 triangles of story, but then couldn't help but add six triangles of footnotes. Who knows what lurks in the mind of Buckminster Fuller?
posted by phooky at 8:39 PM on August 3, 2008


Maybe I'm dim, but is the actual book-like artifact in any of those links? The best I could find was a picture of page 11. thx
posted by msalt at 9:57 PM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was fascinated by this book when my Dad brought it home one day, mainly because I couldn't figure out what kind of book it was supposed to be, and that really made it stand out. I remember trying to explain parts of it to him after reading it, and that we were both left pretty puzzled. It's one of the books I was really keen on keeping, sure that it would yield insights througout the years.
To be sure, I never cracked much of the many scientific concepts embedded in the text. But I did take away two distinct ideas, already back then: a very specific sense of the the discovery that growing up promised to be, and the revelation for the whimsy and poesy that science could be.
posted by progosk at 11:55 PM on August 3, 2008


msalt: The second "Tetrascroll" brings up an article from the 70s, clicking "next" will bring you to more pages from the article, including more pictures from the "book." I tried to find as many sources with photos as possible, but surprisingly, there weren't very many photos out there to begin with.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:06 AM on August 4, 2008


Gee, thanks Dad.

It could have been weirder. Imagine being B. F. Skinner's daughter.
posted by pracowity at 4:41 AM on August 4, 2008


Dude, Buckminster Fuller is so weird.
(but I can't help but love everything his crackpot ass ever did.)
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 6:53 AM on August 4, 2008


Thanks for that link, pracowity. I had not seen that article before.
posted by wittgenstein at 7:14 AM on August 4, 2008


I live in a geodesic dome, but had never heard of Fuller's children's book. Happy to see it's available on Amazon! Thanks for the links, grapefruitmoon!
posted by peacecorn at 10:32 AM on August 4, 2008


Here's a Google scan of a book that has several pages of the story.

Seems a bit dense for a child, but I guess it depends on the child and the parent reading the story.
posted by eye of newt at 12:04 PM on August 4, 2008


the king of his day, but the current stuff is much more advanced. Check out the Foldables group over at Flickr.

I don't know. None of those seem more advanced than the Dymaxion mapping.
posted by signal at 12:31 PM on August 4, 2008


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