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Ornamental Globes

For those just joining us, “Spaceship Earth” became a popular meme in the 1960s with the publication of Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (1968), a bestseller by R. Buckminster Fuller, the USA’s then polymath-genius in residence, and identified in Nature as one of the most influential works of its era (November 25, 2015, page 443).

I was still in elementary school in those years, and plowed into Fuller’s writings starting at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School in the late 1970s, where I took some courses in world hunger and global development. That research led me to later coin “Motherboard Earth” for my own 1995 manifesto, about the “new circuit designs” our planet needed.

Here in 2017, and approaching the age of sixty, I’m wondering about “Space Station Earth” as possibly more apropos. As a ship, we’re parked in orbit around the sun and not aiming to go anywhere. We’ve reached our terminus, our destination, as a planetary body plus moon.

Humans may hop around within the solar system more, if we’re to follow Elon Musk’s program and Arthur C. Clarke’s. Europa or bust right?

In the meantime, we’re colonizing and terraforming the mother ship we’ve been given.

When it comes to whole Earth metaphors, I’ve mostly written about our “Global University,” most especially within the context of my ambitious project to resurrect a dying discipline: general systems theory (GST).

We may argue until the cows come home whether GST was really dying, but let me skip to my take on it: Economics, the discipline, is always warning against the danger of monopolies, meaning Economics itself deserves competition, when it comes to thinking about bread and butter issues. Enter GST, as competition for Economics. Clever no?


What’s striking about our Global University is the weakness of its curriculum, as evidenced by the unnecessarily low living standards suffered by so many of its student-faculty. We verge on being an Asylum for the Clinically Insane, some would say, or is that a euphemism for Hell?

As I put it in my namespace: the work-study programs do not yet provide sufficiently robust Food Services nor Campus Housing to keep all humanity fed and sheltered, adequately powered. We have some intriguing blueprints, bold visions, but once we deduct the amount of time-energy spent on war games around “killingry,” we don’t seem to have much wiggle room left over for our world game experiments with “livingry” (“World Game” was another of Fuller’s memes).

My friend Steve Holden, a former chairman of the Python Software Foundation, was through Portland recently and he asked about my career goals of late. Somewhat cryptically, I mentioned one of my latest Facebook threads, about “getting a JT on RT.” Steve: “Excuse me? I know what RT is, but what’s a JT?” Good question. I didn’t expect him to know.

I was addressing “curriculum weakness” in one of the ways we’re taught in our invisible army: introduce the Jitterbug Transformation as a topic for discussion. Signify the possibility of shared good times ahead.

RT, for those unfamiliar, was widely acknowledged for its potency as a propaganda outlet, by the mainstream media (and the ODNI) in this election season.

A synergy of RT and Youtube (an Alphabet company), means more “info warriors” than ever are able to circumvent the usual dish and cable TV content distribution channels and reach their fans directly from their personal workspaces (PWSs), their studios — more GST jargon.

The wild west of the Internet is where to find some of the freshest views, among so many more rotten. Creativity abounds.

The Jitterbug Transformation relates in an esoteric way to the Borromean Rings of the Borromeo family. The Catholic bishop who invented the confession booth was a Borromeo. The International Mathematical Union (“mathematicians of the world unite!”) features these rings in its logo, and at least one interpretive Youtube relates said logo to Fuller’s “moving sculpture,” the JT.

Folks in my generation got used to the geodesic dome as a symbol of positive futurism, starting with the Taj Mahal of said domes at the Montreal Expo in 1967. I didn’t make it to that one, though I did attend the Seattle World’s Fair in 1964 as a six-year-old.

A full geodesic ball, built by Temcor, later appeared as the centerpiece of Tomorrowland at Disney’s Epcot in Orlando. Nowadays we find geodesic domes from Dallas to Riyadh, serving as restaurants and mosques, as oil tank and radar covers, as family homes.

The JT is more abstract than the dome and yet is related, and likewise symbolizes our increased fluency and facility with spatial designs, thanks to the digital computer.

With computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-generated imagery (CGI), we’re better able to model not only our everyday experiences, but events in the micro and macro, the infra and ultra realms, well beyond the horizon of our primitive senses.

In the play and monologue by D.W. Jacobs, R. Buckminster Fuller: The History and Mystery of Universe, the actor playing Bucky actually steps inside a so-called “vector equilibrium” and operates it from within. The wire-frame of 24 hinged rods twist-contracts, from a cuboctahedral conformation to an icosahedral one, then re-expands, in an oscillating pumping motion.

The canonical cuboctahedron is given a volume of 20 in our thinking, with the icosahedron weighing in at close to 18.51. These numbers are ratioed against a unit volume defined by four unit-radius spheres, closest packed, and the six diameter-lengthed edges so formed, ball center to ball center, a tetrahedron.

We’re already used to “spinning logo” animations on television, so a JT on RT should hardly come as a surprise. Look for it.

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