Monday, January 14, 2013

Kvetch About Limits

A calculation I make, one I think everybody does, is "That looks important, meaningful, or interesting, but I can't afford the time and attention it'll take to understand it." You can't know everything, and I'll never open my calculus books again.

And I'll never absorb Buckminster Fuller's proposed replacement for calculus, his Synergetics. Something tells me he was right when he said "I have found the models of synergetics, my system of geometry, quite capable of illustrating such basic principles as quantum mechanics, fourth-dimensional forms, and complex motions and phase transformations.

"From 1938 to 1940 I was on Fortune's staff as the science and engineering consultant. In late 1939 I prepared an article on the Sperry Gyroscope company which appeared in May 1940. Although told by the president of Sperry that precession, the heart of the story, could be explained only in terms of mathematics of quantum mechanics, I presented a two-page explanation of precession in terms of human senses rather than mathematically abstruse formulae, as I have done from the lecture podium many times since."

I e-mailed an earlier post about Fuller's claiming Mayan pyramids' foundations' are tangent to the Earth's spherical surface to an old friend, who disappointed me by saying that she wasn't a mathematician or engineer, and didn't understand. I re-read the post, and didn't see anything that far over the head of a sixty-something college grad.

I think the sticking point had to be the word "tangent." There's stuff I'm not going to study, but there are dictionaries and search engines that can at least let me know how something fits into human culture.

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