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Combining a number of vector equilibriums creates a complex of alternating squares and triangles. Dividing the squares once again, he found he had a symmetrical, twenty-sided globe-shaped skin which could be constructed out of tetrahedronsthe triangle-sided pyramid shape that provides the greatest strength for the least volume (or weight). In a sphere made of such interlocked tetrahedrons, the weight load applied to any point was transmitted widely throughout the structure, producing a phenomenal strength-to-weight ratio. Bucky produced his dome by cutting a hollow sphere in half.
Unlike classic domes, Fuller's depends on no heavy vaults or flying buttresses to support it. It is self-sufficient as a butterfly's wing, and as strong as an eggshell. Fuller calls it a geodesic dome because the vertexes of the curved squares and tetrahedrons that form its structure mark the arcs of great circles that are known in geometry as "geodesies."
Stresses & Strains. The geodesic dome, then, is really a kind of benchmark of the universe, what 17th century Mystic Jakob Böhme might call "a signature of God." It crops up all over in naturein viruses, testicles, the cornea of the eye. And for the time being at least, Bucky Fuller has this signature of God sewed up tight in U.S. patent No. 2,682,235, issued in June 1954. It is almost like having a patent on Archimedes' principle.
And it is making Bucky rich. In the last ten years he has grossed about $1,000,000, and his income is continually rising; this year it will be about $200,000. But the only way Easy Street seems to have changed him is to have eliminated the need for the defiant extravagances that used to burden his family and amuse his friends in the days when the only things that crackled in his pocket were overdue bills. Unquestionably, Bucky could have made much more by incorporating himself or going into organized production. But Bucky is not interested. Says he: "Whatever I do, once done, I leave it alone. Society comes along in due course and needs what I have done. By then, I'd better be on to something else. It is absolutely fundamental for me to work and design myself out of business."
In 1959, he accepted a $12,000 appointment as a research professor at Southern Illinois University, at Carbondale. Bucky's duties are vague and undemanding: he sees students only when he feels like it, and he is in residence no more than a couple of months a year in the medium-sized, blue-and-white plywood dome where he and Anne live in Carbondale. It looks like an overgrown pincushion without pins. But Bucky does not mind, and does not see why anyone else should. As he once wrote in a light moment, to be sung to the tune of Home on the Range:
Let architects sing of esthetics that bring
Rich clients in hordes to their knees;
Just give me a home, in a great circle dome,
Where stresses and strains are at ease.