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Amy C. Edmondson
A Fuller Explanation
Chapter 14, Cosmic Railroad Tracks: Great Circles
pages 226 through 228

Energy Paths

Here's the basic premise: First, the concept of a sphere provides a model of the generalized system, and on the surface of a sphere the shortest route is a geodesic path. Secondly, Universe breaks down into discrete systems, which consist exclusively of energy events and their relationships. And finally, energy is always in motion, perpetually transferred between finite local systems along most direct routes, and therefore, energy must be traveling through Universe via great-circle paths.

Gas Molecules

We consider a specific example:

      A vast number of molecules of gas interacting in great circles inside of a sphere will produce a number of great-circle triangles. The velocity of their accomplishment of this structural system of total intertriangulation averaging will seem to be instantaneous to the human observer. (703.14)

Fuller's hypothetical molecules are bouncing around so fast that the overall pattern of their activity seems instantaneous. But in reality, he reminds us, there is no "instant Universe"; time is always a factor. Molecules collide and bounce back; equal angles created by the symmetry of their collisions create the illusion of full great circles interweaving, but their trajectories are really local loops:

      The triangles, being dynamically resilient, mutably intertransform one another, imposing an averaging of the random-force vectors of the entire system, resulting in angular self-interstabilizing as a pattern of omnispherical symmetry. (703.14)

To Fuller the ability to fold individual paper circles and automatically generate an entire symmetrical pattern gives great-circle models important physical relevance. They demonstrate his statement that no two lines can go through the same point at the same time and illustrate the concept of "interference patterns." The model, says Fuller, is consistent with physical behavior.

      Although physical systems are always imperfect, the result of a vast number of interactions is approximate symmetry. With enough data or time, all possible paths can be tried, and the properties of space come into play. What does a maximally symmetrical distribution on a spherical surface look like?

      The aggregate of all the inter-great-circlings resolve themselves typically into a regular pattern of 12 pentagons and 20 triangies, or sometimes more complexedly, into 12 pentagons, 30 hexagons, and 80 triangles described by 240 great-circle chords. (703.14)

The pattern is always icosahedral, some version of the maximally symmetrical shell. (Refer to Chapter 11 for a comparison of space-filling versus shell symmetries.) Icosahedral symmetry fits the most great circles on a closed system. One notable characteristic of this pattern, no matter how high the frequency of subdivision, (4) is the presence of exactly twelve pentagons eveniy distributed around the system—one at the location of each five-valent icosahedral vertex: ".... . the 12 pentagons, and only 12, will persist as constants; also the number of triangles will occur in multiples of 20" (703.15). This constant number of pentagons, together with "twelve spheres around one" and "twelve degrees of freedom," suggests a fundamental twelveness inherent in space. We shall return to this pattern in the next chapter, looking at geodesic structures.

      Fuller uses molecules bouncing around in a spherical system as a model, because molecules are energy events occurring in large enough numbers to describe the symmetrical patterns developed as polyhedral abstractions. In conclusion, energetic behavior is subject to symmetrical constraints, and in order to adhere to logic or theory, probability calls for very large numbers.

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