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Amy C. Edmondson
A Fuller Explanation
Chapter 11, Jitterbug
pages 170 through 172

Complex of Jitterbugs

In an isotropic vector matrix, adjacent vector equilibria create octahedral cavities; to fill space the two polyhedra must occur in equal numbers. Contemplating this alternating array in light of the VE's jitterbug behavior, Fuller suspected that a complex of jitterbugs could be synchronized to twist and contract, while their octahedral counterparts simultaneously expand, twisting open into VEs. It is an extraordinarily difficult vision to conjure up in the mind's eye: an array of synchronized twisting triangles—transforming from order to chaotic inscrutability and then back into order—but with all the places switched. VEs become octahedra; octahedra become VEs.

      The ease of confirming the jitterbugging of one VE does little toward answering the question of whether a number of interconnected jitterbugs can coordinate to create this dynamic labyrinth. Would additional VEs packed around a single one serve to lock it in place? The question is difficult to answer without actually putting it to the test with the aid of a model—an awesome task. Thanks to an ingeniously designed four-valent universal joint (3) to accommodate the intricate twisting of adjacent triangular plates, a magnificent sculpture has emerged after considerable speculation. A movable complex of stainless steel and aluminum triangles hinged together effectively demonstrates that the convoluted transformation is possible (Photo. 11-1). This translation from abstract mathematical concept to physical manifestation of the motion is both an engineering and an aesthetic feat.

Two photographs of movable metal jitterbug sculpture, one as vector equilibrium and the other when the sculpture is as icosahedron
Photo. 11-1. Complex of jitterbugs: An array of alternating octahedra and vector equilibria is shown on the left; on the right, the display is undergoing the simultaneous transformation of all cells, such that octahedra are opening up to become VEs while the VEs are contracting into octahedra. The action is frozen in mid transformation, making it possible to see the icosahedral phase. Photo courtesy of Carl Solway Gallery, Cinncinnati, Ohio.
Click on thumbnail for larger image.

      Fuller proposes that this complex of pulsing jitterbugs demonstrates the effects of a force propagating through space—a tangible display of otherwise invisible energy events:

      1032.20 Energy Wave Propagation: ... You introduce just one energy action—push or pull—into the field, and its inertia provides the reaction to your push or pull; the resultant propagates the... omni-intertransformations whose comprehensive synergetic effect in turn propagates an omnidirectional wave. (1032.20)

In other words, the unique symmetry of the VE combines with this newfound jitterbug property to produce a model of omnisymmetrical motion, a radiating wave of activity. Just as the IVM is a static conceptual framework—describing the symmetry of space—this model illustrates the concept of dynamic, "eternally pulsating" energy events in space. It causes the IVM to come to life.

      A model can elucidate a concept without being an exact duplicate of the phenomenon in question. In fact, considering the oddly mystical language that creeps into modern physicists' description of atomic and subatomic behavior, we can conclude that invisible reality does not readily submit to large-scale reenactment with "solid" materials. The intention of Fuller's models therefore is to provide a consistent analogy—a tangible display that parallels and thereby explains invisible behavior:

      Dropping a stone in the water discloses a planar pattern of precessional wave regeneration. The local unit-energy force articulates an omnidirectional, spherically expanding, four-dimensional counterpart of the planar water waves' circular expansion. (1032.20)

      The expanding concentric waves made by a stone dropped in a lake are directly visible on the water's surface. It is therefore easy to picture the image of a wave propagating across a plane. It is more difficult to visualize a corresponding situation in space, which is precisely the territory Fuller set out to conquer. He strove to clarify invisible aspects of reality through models that can be seen and felt. The complex of jitterbugs makes the concept of an expanding spherical wave of energy visible.

      Whatever the analogous events in Universe, the model is intricate and phenomenal. Fuller's argument is that nature depends upon such dynamic orderly coordination. The complex of jitterbugs demonstrates a complicated but organized operation, and if nature permits this transformation of her omnisymmetrical framework, she might use the same trick elsewhere. At the moment, jitterbugs therefore merely hint at possibilities. It is worth reflecting on the extraordinary intuition required to have discovered this subtle and magnificent geometric phenomenon.

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