Friday 31 October 2014

Men of Yore: Richard Buckminster Fuller

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity.

Richard Buckminster Fuller standing infront of one of his geodesic domes - the Montreal Biosphere.

Richard Buckminster Fuller, 1895 - 1983.
Born in Milton, Massachusetts, on July 12, 1895, Richard Buckminster Fuller belonged to a family noted for producing strong individualists inclined toward activism and public service. "Bucky," as he came to be called, developed an early understanding of nature during family excursions to Bear Island, Maine, where he also became familiar with the principles of boat maintenance and construction.

Fuller entered Harvard University in 1913, but he was expelled after excessively socializing and missing his midterm exams. Following his expulsion, he worked at a mill in Canada, where he took a strong interest in machinery and learned to modify and improve the manufacturing equipment. Fuller returned to Harvard in the autumn of 1915 but was again dismissed.

From 1917 until 1919, Fuller served in the U.S. Navy, where he demonstrated his aptitude for engineering by inventing a winch for rescue boats that could remove downed airplanes from the water in time to save the lives of pilots.

As a result of the invention, Fuller was nominated to receive officer training at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he further developed his ability to study problems comprehensively. In 1926, when Fuller's father-in-law, James Monroe Hewlett, developed a new method of producing reinforced concrete buildings, he and Fuller patented the invention, earning Fuller the first of his 25 patents.
In 1927, after the construction company failed, Fuller was unemployed and contemplated suicide, but he had a remarkable realization. Deciding that he had no right to end his own life, he concluded that he had a responsibility to use his experiences and intellect in the service of others. As a consequence, he spent nearly two years as a recluse, deep in contemplation about the universe and how he could best contribute to humanity.

One of Fuller's lifelong interests was using technology to revolutionize construction and improve human housing. In 1927, after inventing an easily built, air-delivered, modular apartment building, he designed the Dymaxion™ House, an inexpensive, mass-produced home that could be airlifted to its location. Originally called the 4D House, it was later renamed by a department store that displayed a model of the house. The word "dymaxion" was coined by store advertisers and trademarked in Fuller's name. Based on the words "dynamic," "maximum," and "ion," it became a part of the name of many of Fuller's subsequent inventions. The word became synonymous with his design philosophy of "doing more with less," a phrase he later coined to reflect his growing recognition of the accelerating global trend toward the development of more efficient technology.

These inventions included the Dymaxion Car, a streamlined, three-wheeled automobile that could make extraordinarily sharp turns; a compact, prefabricated, easily installed Dymaxion Bathroom; and Dymaxion Deployment Units (DDUs), mass-produced houses based on circular grain bins. While DDUs never became popular for civilian housing, they were used during World War II to shelter radar crews in remote locations with severe climates, and they led to additional round housing designs by Fuller.

After 1947, one invention dominated Fuller's life and career: the geodesic dome. Lightweight, cost-effective, and easy to assemble, geodesic domes enclose more space without intrusive supporting columns than any other structure; they efficiently distribute stress; and they can withstand extremely harsh conditions. Based on Fuller's "synergetic geometry," his lifelong exploration of nature's principles of design, the geodesic dome was the result of his revolutionary discoveries about balancing compression and tension forces in building.

Fuller applied for a patent for the geodesic dome in 1951 and received it in 1954. In 1953 he designed his first commercial dome for the Ford Motor Company headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. The U.S. military became one of his biggest clients, using lightweight domes to cover radar stations at installations around the Arctic Circle. According to the Buckminster Fuller Institute, today there are more than 300,000 geodesic domes around the world, ranging from shelters in California and Africa to radar stations in remote locations, as well as geodesic structures on countless chidren's playgrounds.

Fuller was a pioneering global thinker. In 1927, at the beginning of his career, he made a now-prophetic sketch of the total earth which depicted his concept for transporting cargo by air "over the pole" to Europe. He entitled the sketch "a one-town world." In 1946, Fuller received a patent for another breakthrough invention: the Dymaxion Map, which depicted the entire planet on a single flat map without visible distortion of the relative shapes and sizes of the continents. The map, which can be reconfigured to put different regions at the center, was intended to help humanity better address the world's problems by prompting people to think comprehensively about the planet. In the early 1950's he coined the now familiar phrase "spaceship earth" to describe the integral nature of Earth's "living system." Beginning In the late 1960s, Fuller was especially involved in creating World Game®, a large-scale simulation and series of workshops he designed that used a large-scale Dymaxion Map to help humanity better understand, benefit from, and more efficiently utilize the world's resources.

Throughout his life, Fuller found numerous outlets for his innovative ideas. During the early 1930s he published Shelter magazine, and from 1938 until 1940 he was science and technology consultant for Fortune magazine. During the 1940s he began to teach and lecture at universities, including Harvard and MIT, and in the late 1950s he became a professor at Southern Illinois University (SIU), where he and his wife lived in a geodesic dome when he was in residence. In 1972 he was named World Fellow in Residence to a consortium of universities in Philadelphia, including the University of Pennsylvania. He retained his connection with both SIU and the University of Pennsylvania until his death. He was the author of nearly 30 books, and he spent much of his life traveling the world lecturing and discussing his ideas with thousands of audiences. Some of Fuller's many honors highlight his eclectic reputation: For example, because he sometimes expressed complex ideas in verse to make them more understandable, in 1961 he received a one-year appointment to the prestigious Charles Eliot Norton Professorship of Poetry at Harvard. After being spurned early in his career by the architecture and construction establishments, Fuller was later recognized with many major architectural, scientific, industrial, and design awards, both in the United States and abroad, and he received 47 honorary doctorate degrees. In 1983, shortly before his death, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, with a citation acknowledging that his "contributions as a geometrician, educator, and architect-designer are benchmarks of accomplishment in their fields."

After Fullers death, when chemists discovered that the atoms of a recently discovered carbon molecule were arrayed in a structure similar to a geodesic dome, they named the molecule "buckminsterfullerene."

R. Buckminster Fuller died in Los Angeles on July 1, 1983.


A man who was expelled from top-dog university Harvard, twice!  Whoever says that universities are the sole source and judge of genius are sorely mistaken, because Harvard clearly made a mistake when they expelled Fuller.

It's also interesting to note that he worked in stereotypical working-class jobs during his twenties, despite his high intellect (he was educated at Harvard, and from 1979-1983 was the president of MENSA).

Lastly he wasn't averse to making his views well known to the public.  This is always a good quality and attitude to have when trying to introduce something new (be it a tangible product or an intangible idea) to the world.  After all it's no good finding the cure to cancer only to write about it in some obscure language in some obscure academic journal that very few people will ever read.  If you've got a good idea, and you know that it's a good idea, then proclaim it!


Friday 24 October 2014

Men of Yore: Nikolai Benardos

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity.

Nikolai Benardos
Benardos, Nikolai Nikolaevich

Born June 26 (July 8), 1842, in the village of Benardosovka, Kherson Province; died Sept. 8 (21), 1905, in Fastov, Kiev Province. Russian inventor, originator of electric arc welding.

Benardos studied at the University of Kiev and at the Petrov Agricultural and Forestry Academy in Moscow. Beginning in 1865 he made and, in part, patented in Russia and abroad more than 100 inventions in the most varied areas (agriculture, transportation, and others). In 1882 he proposed a procedure for “connecting and disconnecting metals by the direct action of an electric current” (which he named “elektrogefest”). In 1885 he patented his invention in Germany, France, Russia, Italy, England, the USA, Belgium, and other countries. The characteristic feature of this method was the utilization of the electric arc arising between a carbon electrode or one of another conductive substance and the articles processed. “Elektrogefest” was immediately used in Russia as well as abroad (in railroad workshops and in machine-building and metallurgical plants). Benardos built a special type of electrical storage battery to supply the continuous high current necessary for welding.

Benardos was also the first to invent welding with an indirect arc, welding in a gas stream, arc cutting both in ordinary conditions and under water, and the electrolytic method of coating large metal surfaces with copper. Among Benardos’ other inventions was a thermal method for electrical soldering. He created carbon electrodes of the most varied forms and electrodes made of a combination of carbon and metal. He offered one of the first designs for an alternating current hydroelectric power plant on the Neva River (1892). At the Fourth Electrical Exhibit in St. Petersburg in 1892, Benardos was awarded the highest award of the Russian Technical Society, the gold medal, for the successful utilization of the arc in his electrical welding invention. In 1899 the Electrical Engineering Institute in St. Petersburg awarded him the title of honorary electrical engineer.

Amongst 100 or more other inventions, Nikolai Bernados is credited with developing is arc-welding; a relatively un-exciting process whereby two pieces of metal are joined together.  But when you think of all the structures that you come into physical contact with on a day-to-day basis (cars, bridges, sky-scrapers etc) that have been arc-welded together then it's importance becomes much more apparent.  Even more so when you take a mental step-back and think of all the ships, rail locomotives, lorries, buildings, machinery and innumerable other devices that sustain civilisation (and the people that live in it) that have been welded together.

Making discoveries like this isn't gonna make you popular with the 'in crowd' or hipsters or girls or the chattering classes, they aren't interested in either the science & technology (unless it's trendy to be a techie) or the possibilities that it could bring (like increased productivity and freedom and human self-expression/creativity).  They are only concerned with the fruits of yours, or someone elses, labour, and they often see these fruits as impersonal 'things'/'objects' rather than as personal discoveries/creations, which causes them to have little respect for the fruit or the inventor/person who created it.  But these people aren't important.  What is important is that you're enjoying what you do, like the inventors did, like Nikolai did; that you're enjoying your work, you're work that you've engrossed yourself in (whatever it may be).  That's all that matters.  That's what inventors and innovators and other such men of science and industry do: they do what they enjoy doing and we can see what great things they resulted because of that love.


Wednesday 22 October 2014

Alternative Lyrics to Well Known Songs 31 - Ebola

(Based on the song 'Blockbuster' by The Sweet).

This 'alternative lyrics' post is a parody of the scaremongering about Ebola that is going on in the SM (and some 'alternative news outlets' presently.

Fear-mongering is something that the MSM get up to every time a new virus hits the global scene.  Think back a few years to Swine Flue, then Bird/Avian Flu, and so on.  All of these scare-mongering stories about 'imminent viral pandemics' that have popped up over the years have amounted to nothing.  Not the next Spanish flu, not the next Black Death, not anything major to get stressed/anxious about.  If anything it's shown that all that the MSM seem to care about is finding the latest, newest (trendiest ?!) virus and claiming that it might 'go global' and cause umpteen gazillion blood-curdlingy nasty deaths around the world; ergo, you should be afraid!  Fear which should drive you to keep watching their news!  It does nothing but cause more panic, unthoughtful panic, which is no good thing.  And frankly there's enough doomer-style global-scale fear-mongering going on around that is already unjustified: colony collapse disorder, killer bees, shoe bombs, and lord knows what else.  All that these stories do is cause you to be fearful and/or pessimistic that 'the end of the world is nigh'; and we, as men, don't really need any more of that.  We've got enough mental stress as it is! (Stress is one of the contributing factors to heart problems which men suffer from more than women.)  We don't need any more stress thank you very much.  Enough with the pessimism and the fear-mongering; especially those who are sensitive and easily effected by pessimistic stories.

So whenever you encounter one of these fear-mongering stories that emphasise 'terrible things that MIGHT happen', just roll your eyes and shake your head at them and the people who peddle them, because they're not worth your attention.

Oh, and finally, the lyrics in this song themselves are written from the perspective of the newsreader.  Just imagine a familiar newsreader reading them out in an absurd comedic fear-mongering way and it should have the desired effect.  The comedy element also ties in with the light-hearted comedic music - which is 1970's glam-rock!  Check out that eye-liner and psychadelic colours!  Yikes!

Play the music video above and sing along using the alternative lyrics given below.

# Ebola #You'd better beware, you'd better take care.
You'd better avoid people from Lib-e-ria!
Don't use your mind, obey government line.
You'd better not fly on any airlines!

Listen to our noise, for we are wise,
even if it contradicts what you-see with your eyes.
Only we know, where Ebola goes,
it could strike any neighbourhood including your own!

We spoke to an expert today, here's what he did say:
"We just haven't got a clue what to do!"
Anyone should be scared, are you dear viewer scared?
Of Ebola!

Reporters are out, their squaking about
The global-wide pandemic that is imminent:
"It's gotta be caught, or it's gonna be fraught.
'Cause it's gonna kill more people than all world wars have wrought."

We spoke to an expert today, here's what he did say:
"We just haven't got a...  Ah-h!"
Anyone should be scared, are you dear viewer scared?
Of Ebola!

We spoke to an expert today, here's what he did say:
"We just haven't got a clue what to do!"
Anyone should be scared, are you dear viewer scared?
Of Ebola!

Bola, bola, Ebola.
Bola, bola, Ebola.
Bola, bola, Ebola.


Saturday 11 October 2014

Men of Yore: Joseph Aspdin

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity.

Joseph Aspdin

Aspdin, Joseph (bap. 1778, d. 1855), cement maker, was baptized on 25 December 1778 in Hunslet, Leeds, the eldest in the family of five sons and one daughter of Thomas Aspdin, bricklayer of Hunslet, and his wife, Mary. Aspdin followed his father's trade of bricklayer and builder at Briggate, Leeds. On 21 May 1811 he married Mary Fotherby at Hunslet. They had two sons and five daughters, two of whom died in infancy.

Aspdin's experiments with cement making led him to apply for a patent, which was granted in June 1824, for ‘An improvement in the modes of producing an artificial stone’—the first patent to be granted which used the term ‘portland cement’.

Cement is the term in common use for a powder which hardens when mixed with water and is used to bind together aggregates of gravel and stone to produce concrete. In the second half of the nineteenth century portland became the most popular type of cement and it has been used in vast quantities for building and construction in all parts of the world. In Aspdin's day cement manufacture was undergoing relatively rapid development and many experimenters were working in the field. Aspdin took the name for his patent material from portland stone, which had a high reputation and provided a standard with which artificial products would naturally be compared. To produce the high strengths associated with modern portland cement it was necessary to burn at high temperatures finely pulverized lime with clay in certain proportions, and grind the product. It is uncertain when Aspdin made this breakthrough. He may have used a glasshouse kiln, which would be more likely to reach the high temperatures required for successful burning of portland cement than the lime-burning kiln used by his competitors. There was a glassworks at Hunslet at this time and a glassworks and foundries at Wakefield.

Aspdin set up a partnership in 1824 with a neighbour, William Beverley, as ‘patent portland cement manufacturers’, operating from Leeds and Wakefield, to where Aspdin moved, and later expanded to an agency at Liverpool. The partnership ended in 1837, and Aspdin recommenced manufacture with his two sons, James and William, at a nearby site in Kirkgate, Wakefield, and took James into partnership three years later. When Aspdin retired in 1844, James continued the business.

William Aspdin moved to London in 1841, forming a succession of partnerships to make portland cement at Rotherhithe, Northfleet, and Gateshead upon Tyne in England, and Hamburg in Germany. It appears that his father deliberately excluded him from the family business, but despite this William was an enthusiastic advocate, often with exaggeration, of the superior qualities of portland cement.

Aspdin died at his home in Hansons Terrace, Wakefield, on 20 March 1855 and was buried in St John's churchyard, Wakefield. A tablet to his memory was unveiled in Leeds town hall in 1924. 

Concrete is often derided as a building material because of the poorly designed and un-aesthetic buildings that have been built out of from the 1950s onwards (both in the tower blocks of the Communist East and the shopping centres of the Capitalist West).  However that is not the fault of concrete, or the men who conceived it, but rather the architects who made poor use of it.  It is an outstanding and versatile building material as we can see practically everywhere, both indoors and outdoors.  It can be manufactured easily (Aspdin made the first Portland cement in his kitchen), shaped easily to suit many many purposes easily, and easily recyclable when it's lifecycle has ended.  You can't ask for much more than that from a building material!

It should also be noted that while Aspdin is credited with being the inventor of Portland Cement he is one link in a long chain of men who made their own unique innovations (as personal, individual discoveries) and thus contributions to the development of cement, men who lived before Aspdin and came after him as well, one link in an important chain that stretches on to this day and potentially in to the future.


Saturday 4 October 2014

Men of Yore: Peter Henlein

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity.

Peter Henlein (A Franz Meiss Statue in Nuremburg)

Peter Henlein (also spelled Henle or Hele)[1] (1485 - August 1542), a locksmith and clockmaker of Nuremberg, Germany, is often considered the inventor of the watch.[2][3] He was one of the first craftsmen to make small ornamental taschenuhr, portable clocks which were often worn as pendants or attached to clothing,[4] regarded as the first watches. Many sources also erroneously credit him as the inventor of the mainspring.[1][5][6][7]

Little is known about Henlein's life. He apparently apprenticed in his youth as a locksmith. At the time, locksmiths were among the few craftsmen with the skills and tools to enter the new field of clockmaking,[8] and Henlein also became a clockmaker. On September 7, 1504, he was involved in a brawl in which a fellow locksmith, George Glaser, was killed. He sought asylum at a local Franciscan monastery, where he stayed for four years, until 1508. In 1509 he became a master in the city's locksmith guild.[2] He became known as a maker of small portable ornamental spring-powered brass clocks, very rare and expensive,[2] which were fashionable among the nobility of the time. These were sometimes worn as pendants or attached to clothing,[9] and so may be considered the first watches, although at over 3 inches long[4] they were bigger than the first true pocketwatches which appeared about a century later, and were not able to fit in pockets. He is mentioned in the city's records as the supplier of small spring-driven clocks, which were given as gifts to important people.[2] He was supposedly the first craftsman to build clockworks into "Bisamkopfe", small containers fashioned from precious metals for fragrances or disinfectants.[2] For example a Nuremberg paper records that in 1524 he was paid 15 florins for a gilt musk-ball watch.[10] He also built a tower clock for Lichtenau castle in 1541, and was known as a maker of scientific instruments.[2]
Henlein's fame is mostly due to a passage by Johann Cochläus in the 1511 Cosmographia by Pomponius Mela:[1][2]
Peter Hele, still a young man, fashions works which even the most learned mathematicians admire. He shapes many-wheeled clocks out of small bits of iron, which run and chime the hours without weights for forty hours, whether carried at the breast or in a handbag
His reputation as the inventor of the watch came after his rise to popular consciousness in the 19th century, through a novel by Karl Spindler, Der Nürnberger Sophokles.[2] This was made into a 1939 film, and his likeness appeared on a 1942 German stamp.[2] However, although he was a notable and talented clockmaker, there were other clockmakers making small clocks at the time,[3][8][10] and no contemporary source from his time credits him with inventing anything.[2] The mainspring which made portable clocks possible, often attributed to him,[1][5][6][7] actually appeared in the early 1400s, almost a century before his work.[11][12] Perhaps the most that was said of him by his peers comes from Johann Neudorfer in 1547 shortly after his death:[2]
This . . . Henlein was very nearly the first of those who invented how to put small clocks into little boxes.

Being able to accurately know the time is something we take for granted in modern life.  After all clocks and timepieces are everywhere: wrist watches, wall clocks, i-pods, radios, clock-towers, parking machines, bus stops, railway stations, etc etc.  But someone had to first conceive of a mechanical device that could tell the time, Peter Henlein was one of those men.  He may not have been the first clock maker nor made any great innovations in clock-making but he did design and make small clocks that could be easily carried around, thereby making the clock a more practical device; a device that could be used in a number of geographical locations rather than being fixed to one particular spot.  Which is useful in the same way that many things are more useful when they are mobile rather than stationary (e.g. engines/motors, communication devices, computers etc).