Structure in Terms of Compression & Tension

@ Mi.org c. 2001

I expect my analogy between tension and compression in physical engineering and tension and compression in informational structure to grow and grow.

Subsequent pieces add examples and categories to the one involving Captain Renault’s hypocrisy (all hypocrisy is a source of macroinformation). Before going a step further I wish to look at my base case (and all possibilities of macroinformation) from a different angle: one related to my perhaps surprising use of terms such as “transcendent”note in work intended to be received as (and to further stimulate) science. R. Buckminster Fuller abstracted the physical world into two complementary principles of construction: that of compression and that of tension. Bricks sitting on top of each other are an example of compression. Each brick is a compressive member of the whole. Compression is what holds them together. “Ninety-nine percent” of man’s physical engineering throughout history has been compressional. Post and lintel architecture is an example. Both the posts and the lintels are compressive members of the structure.


Engineering with
compression alone

Atomic theory and string theory have challenged our traditional understanding of the physical but I shall pursue the opening statement of my points with the simplistic view traditional to our view of the macro-universe. With the same simplicity I invite you to see language and language studies as analogous with compression. Words and sentences are compressive members built of compressive units. In this analogy, the data is “physical” (just as in Fuller’s imagery, the stones or bricks, posts or lintels, are “physical”).

pyramids at Giza

Pyramids stack compressive members.
Compression in compression with compression.
The only tension is nature’s, holding the pile on the

In contrast to human physical engineering, the universe itself balances compression with tension. The universe exhibits a harmony of both.

The compressive units of Pleroma are masses that have collapsed under gravity.

Jupiter & Io

Io revolving about Jupiter

En suite, gravity structures those units by gravitational tension
balanced (vectored) by other tensions such as momentum.

Newton wondered why the moon neither fell to earth nor flew off into space. His theory of gravity held that all matter is attracted to all matter but that forces can balance, seem to cancel, other forces. Thus it happens that the earth moon relationship is one of dynamic stasis. Gravity cancelling with inertia is the tension that lassoes the moon to the earth. If gravitrons indeed possess mass, the amount is too neligible to have been noticed in the human macro-universe. Let us continue for present purposes to say that gravity is massless. Again using Fuller’s image, no birds, bees, planes, or rockets are yet known to have been bruised by contact with any wires holding the moon to the earth or the earth to the sun. The tension between bodies is itself without body.

Now consider Fuller’s own engineering. His goal was for man to balance compression with tension in imitation of nature. Where gravity isn’t balanced by inertia or some other force, high tensile strength wire may be used.

Structure with compression and tension in harmony

Ken Snelson needle tower

Ken Snelson sculpture employing tension as well as compression

Notice that the compressive members, the “needles,” do not touch each other! Notice that the lowest needles, three, touch the ground with only one end!

Ken Snelson invented “tensegrity” as sculpture. He has come to call such pieces “floating compression” or “discontinuous compression.”

I have now had the pleasure of telling Snelson: there’s no wire between Captain Renault’s words in Casablanca and his actions in taking his gambling winnings at the very moment that he’s closing Rick’s down for gambling. I wish it had occurred to me, when Fuller was explaining compression and tension to me so I could have told him those decades
note The macroinformation is tensional. There’s no wire at all. The words may be compressive; his actions and the actions of those around him may be compressive; but the irony is tensional: as is the humor. The relationship between the sets of disparate ingredients is maintained by tension. The information (macroinformation, that is) is closer kin to a force (the position, indeed, the velocity, of which, is a product of vectors) than to a “thing.”

The concept of macroinformation is both deeper and broader than irony, or anomaly, drama, comedy, or even art itself. The concept information is broader still but only if it includes macroinformation.

Language and grammar as sub-sets of information I will discuss subsequent to my development of macroinformation.

Easy K

This piece cantileveres dramatically to the horizontal. I could argue that examples of information that cantilever are already at hand. What I’ll do however to to add a new example in a moment.

Does any one else share my feeling that information theory, at least as it’s reached the public to date, is too much akin to brick-building and too little akin to cybernetics? (Note the affinity between tensegrity and cybernetics: structure is “steered” by alternate states, by contrast.) (Note also that there is information, high voltage information, in the difference between the earth and the moon on one hand and gravity and momentum on the other.)

earth rise from moon

I’ll be reposting some relevant correspondance with Ken Snelson on my idea of Cantilevered Information that censored by the fed along with everything else of mine. 2005 07 10 I’ll be doing more with informational tension now, starting with a post at Macroinformation blog.


The earliest thoughts of macroinformation had already been perking in my head for several years by 1969, but in terms of Shakespeare’s “salad days” and Shakespeare’s “fair love” vs. “dark lady,” not in terms of tension and compression.


The Gestalt Transcends the Data

I suppose I put myself on thin ice when I use a word like “transcend,” but since no more than two or three people at a time have ever understood a word I’ve said, I may not know any other kind of ice to be on. I had first written “Macroinformation is transcendent to data,” but that’s over the edge.

How does one keep the sensible implications of spirituality without admitting the credulity, the superstition, the muddleheadedness of religious thought? Is it possible to save the baby while disposing of the bath water? Perhaps not in this age.

But when I use non traditional words, nothing comes back to me resembling understanding.

Macroinformation is “immaterial,” without physical body. Macroinformation is in the solid majority of our mental experience. The mind and the brain are not the same thing. The brain is the processor; the mind is the processing. The mind has no extension in space. Perhaps the idea of cyberspace will make this idea more digestible in the future. It has not in my past. We’ve been too busy deceiving ourselves that we’re materialists.

The word I favor, to my apparent cost (and yours), is “intension”: spelled with an “s.” Intension is the antonym of extension. “Things” intensional extend in time. Things extensional extend in space as well as time. See Extension / Intention. I’ll be updating material from older files like (link to be reestablished after move) Abstraction forthwith.

The reader is not likely to get much from the Macroinformation Project without following this point carefully.


Held on the Ground

Note that the pyramids are shaped as tetrahedra; they are not structured as tetrahedra! If you turned them upside down, the individual bricks would fall in a jumble. If you put them into orbit, they’d scatter: each finding it’s own momentum, its own orbit. Turn an octet truss or a tensegrity sphere any which way, and they retain their structural integrity. For them, gravity is negligible and can be ignored.


Thinking Tools Information, Macroinformation Menu Mi Views

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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