Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Quote of the Moment
Richard Buckminster Fuller
When I'm working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.
I came across this quote in high school when I had become obsessed with fullerenes and buckyballs. [A little bit of history first because I can’t help myself: Fullerenes were discovered at Rice University in 1985/1986 (can’t remember which) and were named after Richard Buckminster Fuller – a renowned architect known for his dome structures. Anyway, fullerenes are molecules composed entirely of carbon and the buckyball is a type of fullerene that resembles a hollow soccer ball (also called C60). I won’t go into the story of the discovery here but it’s a very exciting one – one that I’ll be telling the kids at bedtime (not anytime soon though!). The team that discovered this new form of carbon received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1996 or 1997 - again I can’t remember which – I’m really bad with remembering dates. ]
Now back to what I was saying…
I came across the quote when I was reading about Fuller and wrote it down because it sounded nice but I couldn’t quite connect the problem solving and the beauty part. I’d read it again here and there hoping something would leap out and hit me in the head because the words were simple enough – why didn’t I understand what they were saying? It wasn’t until college when I fell hard for Organic Chemistry (we’re talking holding-up-a-boom-box-outside-a-window kind of hard) that the pieces clicked – I understood without a doubt what Fuller was saying.
And since then it’s been one of my favorites. Esoteric but when you get it – you know you’ve earned it and it kind of becomes yours. I can find beauty in an aldehyde reaction just as easily as I can find it in a Dior 5-colour Eyeshadow compact (once I figure out how to use all 5 colors!).