Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Kindred Spirit

In geometry, Buckminster Fuller "avoided the use of pi, a number that [he] found deeply distasteful" (Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, June 9 & 16, 2008, p. 67).

4 comments:

Kirby Olson said...

Interesting link, interesting that his domes leaked.

Kirby Olson said...

In light of the fact that his dome leaked (metaphor for head) he should have eaten humble pi.

Thomas Basbøll said...

I think it is distasteful to treat pi as a "number". I'm not sure that means my metaphorical dome is leaky, or that my real domes might leak. But I do think that an orthodoxy of sorts in the philosophy of mathematics expects us to humble ourselves before pi and other exotic constructs. One problem will eccentrics like BF is that their ideas are rarely developed by others. Lots of buildings leak, but it is only in the case of innovative designs that we blame the architect.

Kirby Olson said...

Pi is an irrational number, but it is still a number.

The diagonal of a square is also an irrational number.

There is also a new area of mathematics called Surreal Numbers (there are several books on this, and some websites, but I don't understand them yet -- I think that I'm going to get to them some time this summer).

I saw a history of Pi the other day at a Barnes and Noble. My understanding is that it isn't exotic (in terms of coming from somewhere else) but that it is a basic staple of the western tradition stemming form ancient Greece.

In order to build and be developed, my understanding is that there has to be a school of design that teaches the work, but the work also has to have clients for the pipeline to remain. Leaky buildings. Who needs them? The structural damage caused by water would tend to get around via reputation, and that particular style of building would be an unwanted structure. Unwanted structures don't get built, and their architects therefore don't get paid.

And so they have no students.

This is also why Marxism will remain an eccentric blasphemy -- a blip in world politics. It leads almost invariably to disasters.

Lutheranism, on the other hand, builds societies that are durable.

We are the yeast in the lumpenproletariat.