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Round Feet
I’m not formally educated at all, really. My dogs all have diplomas, but I always thought that schools were wasting my time with a bunch of fluff. This made the field of engineering something that I would have to work harder in which to find my place. One method I have used successfully is to build something unique and unlikely every few years as yet another ‘master’s thesis’. The result is usually good publicity, getting the attention of folks that need my skills.
This is about one of those. It started when I was five years old. I lived at 4302 Patterson Avenue in Richmond, Va. It was a two story house with a flat roof that slightly sloped to the rear of the building. The house is still there. Perhaps I should take a picture.
I walked to school a short distance away. On the way to school I would wander into a couple of buildings under construction and marvel at the progress the workers made every day. Nobody ever knew I was doing that. Mary Mumford Elementary School was a happy place to be a kid. I remember getting in trouble for tying up another kid to a tree on the playground. I had seen Houdini on TV and thought it was good fun. Anyway, the teacher put a stop to that before I got my turn.
I’m getting off topic……….back to being scarred for life. One morning the teacher instructed us to draw a picture of our houses. I drew mine as accurately as I could, right down to the asbestos shingles on the sides of the outside walls. The teacher came around and complimented my effort then said “Now Ryland, put a roof on that house.” I protested, advising her that the roof was flat, just like I had drawn it. She insisted that I was wrong and made me draw the typical pointy roof like all the other kids.
I wasn’t like all the other kids, and this annoyed me to great length. You might say it ‘stuck in my craw’.
Forty some years later, I found myself designing my own home and laboratory, and I, for damn sure, was not going to build a square house with a pointy roof. It was finally my turn and it would be my way.
I had seen geodesic domes in Mother Earth News and marveled at how they were sturdy, aesthetically pleasing, and were NOT SQUARE! I researched the mathematics and found that with a simple calculator and five minutes of crunching the numbers, any size dome could be designed easily.
I had to test the math. I had been led astray by authors before when I first started making whiskey. I used some guy’s fanciful notion as a recipe, which was published, and made a big mess. The Pamunkey Indians came to the rescue and got my process ironed out.
Anyway, I did not blindly trust what was published about geodesics. So I built a very small one first, hoping to make all of the mistakes on a small scale first. I cut electrical conduit to the correct lengths, flattened and drilled the ends, then assembled it with screws. It worked! The structure was remarkable strong and got my ‘wheels turning’. I still have it here today, being used as a dog house.
The next step was to build a larger one that would be a permanent part of the complex. I chose to build a three-frequency icosahedron, vertex zenith. This one is eighteen feet in diameter. I went on to build two more larger ones, thirty foot diameter, but this time they were four frequency, which made them more smoothly spherical but as the frequency increases, the complexity does, too.
I chose to alter the geometry ever so slightly by averaging the dihedral angles. That’s the angle between the flat faces of adjacent triangles. In a four frequency structure, there are five different dihedrals, but they are all within a degree or two of each other, so why bother? I averaged the, uniformly distributing the error, and the result was increased rigidity when the screws were tightened. This is another application of my ‘Uniform Defect’ theory.
One of the structures is a total sphere, not a dome with a flat bottom. I just had to do that. It is a three story structure with a bowl shaped basement.
All kinds of magic happened in the process of building this cluster of geodesics. When the frames were complete, we played ‘Thunder Dome’, swinging from ropes attached at the top. “Two men enter, one man leaves”.
All kinds of friends came to help. Some were hired, some just came to be a part of this. I also started a mission to determine how many beers it takes to build a home. Collecting the bottles and cans for a count at completion, it got embarrassing pretty quick. This idea was abandoned and we took them to the dump.
One fellow, Wade, (You may have seen his picture on the cover of ******* Magazine), provided no end of amusement with the stories he would tell and excuses made for being late. We started to record them to write a country song. “I had to fix my ex-wife’s boyfriend’s pickup truck”. Get the idea?
I was in contact with the local building inspector, Charlie Ross, who was an absolute encyclopedia and a willing resource. He must have been amused, because I never got a building permit. This was not an issue until that nice reporter from the Times-Dispatch came out and took pictures, writing a story and published it.
That’s when the Building Officials insisted on a visit. Now, I’m here to tell you, I have the building code book and used it. Hell, even my speaker wires are in conduit! But some of the rules just don’t apply to this project. The Official guy wanted to walk through. I had a trump card to play if he got out of hand, (both of which did occur) but wanted to humor him.
He asked how many square feet there were in the structures. Sorry, sir, they are all round feet. I couldn’t help myself and wanted this to be fun.
First he advised that I needed to get a permit so they could inspect. Funny how he was confusing my needs with his……..but I held my tongue. He pointed out that my balcony rails were five inches apart and should be spaced at four, in compliance with the new regulations. When I built it, my spacing complied, He insisted that I would have to cut them out and re-do them anyway.
Then he walked down my reversing spiral stairs into the bowl shaped basement. I was advised that there was another violation of the Code because where you step off of the stairs, the floor is not quite level.
OK, enough is enough! I came out swinging. First, I advised him that he was walking on my wall, otherwise it would be flat. Further I challenged him to show me in the regulations where my wall had to be flat enough to walk upon. You show me…….where does the wall stop and the floor start? I insisted that it is all wall, there is no floor.
I further advised that gravity is oriented in such a way that he could walk on my wall. And that if we ever run out of gravity, this world would be vastly different anyway. I told him that I am a charter member of The Americans for the Preservation of Gravity. He took the bait.
How can we preserve gravity anyway? I was so glad he asked!
First, never fill up your car with a full tank of gas, that’s a waste of gravity. Put heavier items on lower shelves in your home or business. Do not bowl, that’s a flagrant consumer of gravity and DO NOT COLLECT ROCKS!
I could tell this meeting was about over, but I wasn’t finished. When he was about to leave he advised again that I ‘need’ to get a building permit. I then advised him that I would do that unless we were going to have an adversarial relationship…………in which case I would invoke the Statute of Limitations. He said, “What’s that?” I read him the law. In the State of Virginia, prosecution of a building code violation must commence within two years of discovery of the offense or occupation of the dwelling.
He said,” We will see about that”. We never did, that was eleven years ago.
It took several years to complete, but I did it without a mortgage so when it was finished, it was really over.
In retrospect, I can tell you now that I found out why most structures are not round. It’s clearly not the shortest path.
Ryland
 

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So, what is "The Shortest Path"? And can we get there by water? :thinker:

Carry On
Gary
><><:thinker:
 
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