Vimeo / Quoted Studios
Vimeo / Quoted Studios

Video Premiere: Buckminster Fuller on The Geodesic Life

Vimeo / Quoted Studios
Vimeo / Quoted Studios

Today we have a treat for you: The world premiere of a short film about Buckminster Fuller: inventor, father, author, and thinker. The video, produced by Quoted Studios, is below—but first, I want to give you a few words about the man in case you're not familiar with him.

Fuller was a fantastic man, in both senses of the word. He popularized (and patented) the geodesic dome—which, for those of you who haven't heard of the man or his dome, is perhaps best known as that big silver chunky-sphere at EPCOT. He designed all sorts of structures, many related to home, daily life, and conservation. Much of this was because he lost his daughter Alexandra to polio and spinal meningitis. He felt that the environment in which she lived was not up to snuff, so he strove to build something better.

Anne and Buckminster Fuller in their Dome Home. Photo courtesy of RBF Dome NFP.

Fuller's designs tend to have a retro-futuristic look to them, like the sort of buildings you might imagine living in on the moon or Mars. But his geodesic dome house in Carbondale, Illinois was a comfortable home for him and his wife. (A project is underway to restore and preserve it.)

Buckminster Fuller in his study at the Dome Home. Photo courtesy of RBF Dome NFP.

"Bucky" Fuller is one of the legendary figures of the twentieth century. His inventions were numerous, beautiful, and often a bit weird: Dymaxion house, Dymaxion car, Dymaxion map, Montreal Biosphère. There is a beauty in these constructions, plus a touch of the mystical. The theme of the inventions is "doing more with less" (a common phrase Fuller used), for the betterment of all humankind.

In this six-minute video, Fuller is interviewed by Studs Terkel, the great oral historian. It's truly a treat. Enjoy:

Buckminster Fuller on The Geodesic Life | The Experimenters | Quoted Studios from Quoted Studios on Vimeo.

This is the first video in a series called The Experimenters. We'll premiere the next two videos in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

TRANSCRIPT

Studs Terkel: One of the most original spirits of our time. Buckminster Fuller sings of man's potency. Everyone aware of his work agrees that Buckminster Fuller's one of the original minds of our time.

Buckminster Fuller: I was born in the era of the specialist. I set about to be purposely comprehensive, just the opposite. And I made up my mind that you don't just find out something to entertain yourself, you must find out things in order to be able to turn everything, not just in a philosophical statement, but into actually tools. I must reorganize the environment of man by which then greater numbers of men can prosper. That's been my main undertaking.

Studs Terkel: We can turn this tape, there's no problem. There's so many questions to ask you, Mr. Fuller.

Buckminster Fuller: You can call me Bucky.

Studs Terkel: Bucky …

Buckminster Fuller: I was married in World War I. Our first child was born and she caught this spinal meningitis and infantile paralysis and it was an awful struggle. This child lived to just before her fourth birthday and she died in November 1922 and so for 5 years I was feeling really horribly sad about this kid. I felt that if the kind of technology that went into making a battleship and an airplane and guns had gone into… I was sure this child had caught these things out of the environment and I was sure that there was something wrong about our environment. In the Navy I had learned how to navigate, I've used mathematics very powerfully. I learned how to calculate. I was sure things were just not being done in logical ways.

Buckminster Fuller: By 1927 our second child was born and at that time and I had suddenly a new child after 5 years of going without the girl we loved so much. I said I got a chance now to look out for this new life and I'm going to have to really re-think everything I have. I had absolutely no money and suddenly this new child and everybody tells you you got to earn a living. I said I think this is absolutely a blinding thing. I'm either going to say you go out to make money or you're going to make sense.

Buckminster Fuller: I recall in Chicago wheeling my little child in her baby carriage in Lincoln Park. I was amazed, because a little biplane went over Lincoln Park. Airplanes were not very common in those days. I said, "Isn't it amazing. Here's my child looking up at that airplane and that airplane in the sky is as natural to her as a bird.” Because when I was born, the airplane did not exist. It was really the start of the beginning of impossible things happening.

Buckminster Fuller: I began to feel for what really needs to be done in a very biggest way. Well I found that I couldn’t improve an airplane very much, I'm not going to improve electronics very much. There were a great many people preoccupied with that, but where man was living, he was really very ignorant. It's where people live that needs attention and I saw that the way in which we built was very, very ignorant. When you build a boat it's got to float. So you learn to do a whole lot with little. It's got to be strong enough not to sink. It's got to to carry a cargo. The world of building on the land was very different from the sea and the sky. I said, “Why was it different?” Because man used to build fortresses and the heavier and higher and thicker the walls the more secure it felt—

Studs Terkel: Some people think of a house as a fortress rather than a place to live. [crosstalk]

Buckminster Fuller: Yes. So I'm going to see what happens if I will take the kind of technology that's going with the sea and the sky and apply it over to the land.

Studs Terkel: So many things to ask you, Bucky, that you have foreseen. Thinking of your geodesic dome, do you see actually roofed cities ever?

Buckminster Fuller: We're continually doing more with less, and my geodesic domes do a very great deal with very little but I think they're only symptomatic, Studs, and I wouldn't be surprised if we find ways to control that environment over the city without even seeing the roof there, there would be an electrical field control so forth. We could make the water go and dump over here, and pipe it there, and so forth, whatever it may be.

Studs Terkel: It seems that Buckminster Fuller speaks outrageously and, yet, you've come up with so many outrageous explanations that turn out to be right, and accurate, and true, and practical...

Buckminster Fuller: Time and again, I am asked, "Who else do you know who thinks the way you do, or does what you do?" I find it very strange to have to answer, "I don't know anybody else." It's not because I think of myself as unique, but simply because I did choose a very different grand strategy, and not because I think that I have capabilities that other human beings don't have.

Buckminster Fuller [NOT ANIMATED]: My daughter, who I was wheeling the baby carriage, who had an airplane as normal in her sky, now has her daughter and that daughter was born in New York. They were right in the flight path for flights out of LaGuardia and Idlewild.  This little child then, in her crib, would hear this roar of those airplanes, and she saw many thousands of airplanes before she ever saw a bird. I saw the children's books that were sent to her, which were the traditional, what a children's book would be. They're the same children's books that were sent to me when I was a child. They were farm yard. There was a barn and all the nice natural things. The child would see the horse, and the pig, and the cow, and the goat, sheep, rooster. My granddaughter, in New York City, looked out the window and saw the airplanes, and she saw the automobiles going by by the minute, but when they gave her this farm book, she didn't had never seen a sheep or a cow. It was as if you gave her these imaginary pictures of dragons and things. She was very accommodating. She laughed about it, it was very amusing. They weren't natural to her. 

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Afternoon Map
From Snoopy to Shark Bait: The Top Slang Word in Each State
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There’s a minute, and then there’s a hot minute. Defined as “a longish amount of time,” this unit of time is familiar to Alabamians but may stir up confusion beyond the state’s borders.

It’s Louisianans, though, who feel the “most misunderstood,” according to the results of a survey regarding regional slang by PlayNJ. Of the Louisiana residents surveyed, 72 percent said their fellow Americans from other states—even neighboring ones—have a hard time grasping their lingo. Some learned the hard way that ordering a burger “dressed” (with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo) isn’t universally understood, nor is the phrase “to pass a good time” (instead of “to have” a good time).

After surveying 2000 people (with proportional numbers from each state), PlayNJ created a map showing the top slang word in each state. Many are words that are unlikely to be understood beyond state lines, but others—like California’s bomb (something you really like) and New York’s deadass (to be completely serious)—have spread well beyond their respective borders thanks to memes and internet culture.

Hawaiians are also known for their distinctive slang words, with 71 percent reporting that words like shaka (hello) and poho (waste of time) are frequently misunderstood. Shark bait, one of the state’s more colorful terms, refers to tourists who are so pale that they attract sharks.

Check out the full list below and test your knowledge of regional slang words with PlayNJ’s online quiz.

A chart showing the top slang words in each state
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The Body
10 Facts About the Appendix
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Illustration by Mental Floss / Images: iStock

Despite some 500 years of study, the appendix might be one of the least understood structures in the human body. Here's what we know about this mysterious organ.

1. THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS CALLED IT THE "WORM" OF THE BOWEL.

The human appendix is small, tube-shaped, and squishy, giving ancient Egyptians, who encountered it when preparing bodies for funerary rites, the impression of a worm. Even today, some medical texts refer to the organ as vermiform—Latin for "worm-like."

2. THE APPENDIX SHOWS UP IN LEONARDO DA VINCI’S DRAWINGS.

The earliest description of a human appendix was written by the Renaissance physician-anatomist Jacopo Berengario da Carpi in 1521. But before that, Leonardo da Vinci is believed to drawn the first depiction of the organ in his anatomical drawings in 1492. Leonardo claimed to have dissected 30 human corpses in his effort to understand the way the body worked from mechanical and physiological perspectives.

3. IT'S ABOUT THE SIZE OF A PINKY FINGER.

The appendix is a small pouch connected to the cecum—the beginning of the large intestine in the lower right-hand corner of your abdomen. The cecum’s job is to receive undigested food from the small intestine, absorb fluids and salts that remain after food is digested, and mix them with mucus for easier elimination; according to Mohamad Abouzeid, M.D., assistant professor and attending surgeon at NYU Langone Medical Center, the cecum and appendix have similar tissue structures.

4. CHARLES DARWIN THOUGHT IT WAS A VESTIGIAL ORGAN …

The appendix has an ill-deserved reputation as a vestigial organ—meaning that it allegedly evolved without a detectable function—and we can blame Charles Darwin for that. In the mid-19th century, the appendix had been identified only in humans and great apes. Darwin thought that our earlier ancestors ate mostly plants, and thus needed a large cecum in which to break down the tough fibers. He hypothesized that over time, apes and humans evolved to eat a more varied and easier-to-digest diet, and the cecum shrank accordingly. The appendix itself, Darwin believed, emerged from the folds of the wizened cecum without its own special purpose.

5. … BUT THE APPENDIX PROBABLY EVOLVED TO HELP IMMUNE FUNCTION.

The proximity and tissue similarities between the cecum and appendix suggest that the latter plays a part in the digestive process. But there’s one noticeable difference in the appendix that you can see only under a microscope. “[The appendix] has a high concentration of the immune cells within its walls,” Abouzeid tells Mental Floss.

Recent research into the appendix's connection to the immune system has suggested a few theories. In a 2015 study in Nature Immunology, Australian researchers discovered that a type of immune cells called innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) proliferate in the appendix and seem to encourage the repopulation of symbiotic bacteria in the gut. This action may help the gut recover from infections, which tend to wipe out fluids, nutrients, and good bacteria.

For a 2013 study examining the evolutionary rationale for the appendix in mammal species, researchers at Midwestern University and Duke University Medical Center concluded that the organ evolved at least 32 times among different lineages, but not in response to dietary or environmental factors.

The same researchers analyzed 533 mammal species for a 2017 study and found that those with appendices had more lymphatic (immune) tissue in the cecum. That suggests that the nearby appendix could serve as "a secondary immune organ," the researchers said in a statement. "Lymphatic tissue can also stimulate growth of some types of beneficial gut bacteria, providing further evidence that the appendix may serve as a 'safe house' for helpful gut bacteria." This good bacteria may help to replenish healthy flora in the gut after infection or illness.

6. ABOUT 7 PERCENT OF AMERICANS WILL GET APPENDICITIS DURING THEIR LIFETIMES.

For such a tiny organ, the appendix gets infected easily. According to Abouzeid, appendicitis occurs when the appendix gets plugged by hardened feces (called a fecalith or appendicolith), too much mucus, or the buildup of immune cells after a viral or bacterial infection. In the United States, the lifetime risk of getting appendicitis is one in 15, and incidence in newly developed countries is rising. It's most common in young adults, and most dangerous in the elderly.

When infected, the appendix swells up as pus fills its interior cavity. It can grow several times larger than its average 3-inch size: One inflamed appendix removed from a British man in 2004 measured just over 8 inches, while another specimen, reported in 2007 in the Journal of Clinical Pathology, measured 8.6 inches. People with appendicitis might feel generalized pain around the bellybutton that localizes on the right side of the abdomen, and experience nausea or vomiting, fever, or body aches. Some people also get diarrhea.

7. APPENDECTOMIES ARE ALMOST 100 PERCENT EFFECTIVE FOR TREATING APPENDICITIS.

Treatment for appendicitis can go two ways: appendectomy, a.k.a. surgical removal of the appendix, or a first line of antibiotics to treat the underlying infection. Appendectomies are more than 99 percent effective against recurring infection, since the organ itself is removed. (There have been cases of "stump appendicitis," where an incompletely removed appendix becomes infected, which often require further surgery.)

Studies show that antibiotics produce about a 72 percent initial success rate. “However, if you follow these patients out for about a year, they often get recurrent appendicitis,” Abouzeid says. One 2017 study in the World Journal of Surgery followed 710 appendicitis patients for a year after antibiotic treatment and found a 26.5 percent recurrence rate for subsequent infections.

8. AN INFECTED APPENDIX DOESN’T ACTUALLY BURST.

You might imagine a ruptured appendix, known formally as a perforation, being akin to the "chestbuster" scene in Alien. Abouzeid says it's not quite that dramatic, though it can be dangerous. When the appendix gets clogged, pressure builds inside the cavity of the appendix, called the lumen. That chokes off blood supply to certain tissues. “The tissue dies off and falls apart, and you get perforation,” Abouzeid says. But rather than exploding, the organ leaks fluids that can infect other tissues.

A burst appendix is a medical emergency. Sometimes the body can contain the infection in an abscess, Abouzeid says, which may be identified through CT scans or X-rays and treated with IV antibiotics. But if the infection is left untreated, it can spread to other parts of the abdomen, a serious condition called peritonitis. At that point, the infection can become life-threatening.

9. SURGEONS CAN REMOVE AN APPENDIX THROUGH A TINY INCISION.

In 1894, Charles McBurney, a surgeon at New York's Roosevelt Hospital, popularized an open-cavity, muscle-splitting technique [PDF] to remove an infected appendix, which is now called an open appendectomy. Surgeons continued to use McBurney's method until the advent of laparoscopic surgery, a less invasive method in which the doctor makes small cuts in the patient's abdomen and threads a thin tube with a camera and surgical tools into the incisions. The appendix is removed through one of those incisions, which are usually less than an inch in length.

The first laparoscopic appendectomies were performed by German physician Kurt Semm in the early 1980s. Since then, laparoscopic appendectomies have become the standard treatment for uncomplicated appendicitis. For more serious infections, open appendectomies are still performed.

10. AN APPENDIX ONCE POSTPONED A ROYAL CORONATION.

When the future King Edward VII of Great Britain came down with appendicitis (or "perityphlitis," as it was called back then) in June 1902, mortality rates for the disease were as high as 26 percent. It was about two weeks before his scheduled coronation on June 26, 1902, and Edward resisted having an appendectomy, which was then a relatively new procedure. But surgeon and appendicitis expert Frederick Treves made clear that Edward would probably die without it. Treves drained Edward's infected abscess, without removing the organ, at Buckingham Palace; Edward recovered and was crowned on August 9, 1902.

11. THE WORLD'S LONGEST APPENDIX MEASURED MORE THAN 10 INCHES.

On August 26, 2006, during an autopsy at a Zagreb, Croatia hospital, surgeons obtained a 10.24-inch appendix from 72-year-old Safranco August. The deceased currently holds the Guinness World Record for "largest appendix removed."

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