Matt Gilbert

Buckminster Fuller Print

This print contains a quote from Buckminster Fuller where he wonders how nature creates the bubbles in the wake of his boat. He considers the tedious method of charting out circles using pi that he learned in school, against the ease at which the bubbles in his wake are created and destroyed.

Similarly, the print is letterpress and silkscreen, combining the tedious method of typesetting a passage of text and a mass of ornaments (the dots), with the swift method of silkscreening, used on the larger bubbles on the bottom. The geometry of how bubbles attach to each other is very interesting, and a program made in Processing automatically generates the bubbles and repositions them to their most stable positions.

The print is 10" by 22.25" on Reeves BFK and is typeset with the following Buckminster Fuller quote:

Looking back at the wake of my ship one day in 1917, I became interested in its beautiful white path. I said to myself, "That path is white because of the different refractions of light by the bubbles of water-H20 (not Hpi0). The bubbles are beautiful little spheres. I wonder how many bubbles I am looking at stretching miles astern." I began to make calculations of how many bubbles there were per cubic foot of water. I began to dfind that in calculating the ship's white wake I was dealing in quintilions to the fourth power times quintilions to the fourth power or some such fantastically absurd number of bubbles. And nature was making those bubbles in sublimely swift ease! Any time one looks carefully at a bubble, one is impressed with the beauty of its structure, its beautiful sphericity glinting with the colors of the spectrum. It is ephemeral-elegantly conceived, beautifully manufactured and readily broken.

Inasmuch as the kind of mathematics I had learned of in school required the use of the XYZ coordinate system and the necessity of employing pi in calculating the spheres, I wondered, "to how many decimal places does nature carry out pi before she decides the computation can't be concluded? Next I wondered, "to how many arbitrary decimal places does nature carry out the trancendental irrational before she decides to say it's a bad job and call it off? If nature uses pi she has to do what we call fudging of her design which means improvising, compromisingly. I thought sympathetically of nature's having to make all those myriad frustrating decisions each time she made a bubble. I didn't see how she managed to formulate the wake of every ship while managing the rest of the universe if she had to make all those decisions. So I said to myself, "I don't think nature uses pi. I think she has some other mathematical way of coordinating her undertakings."

Buckminster Fuller

I still have a few of these left. If you're interested, contact me: matt at mattgilbert dot net.

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