You are a “trim tab!”

You are a “trim tab!”

One of the stories from R. Buckminster Fuller: THE HISTORY (and Mystery) OF THE UNIVERSE I liked was Bucky talking about being a “trim tab,” the trailing edge of a control surface (e.g. on a boat or plane rudder), used to “trim” the controls, and how this small surface on the end of a plane or a boat can change the direction of the entire craft. Bucky likened this to how a single individual can have a disproportional effect on society by “doing dynamic things mentally.” I came home to do some more research on him and found out that “Call Me Trimtab” is on his headstone. The Buckminster Fuller Institute newsletter is also called Trimtab.

R. Buckminster Fuller: THE HISTORY (and Mystery) OF THE UNIVERSE

8 thoughts on “You are a “trim tab!”

  1. incoherent says:

    If you’re not very familiar with aircraft, you might miss the subtlety here. Take, for instance the rudder on an airplane: If it is moved to the right, the airstream is deflected right, causing a force to the left. Since this force is applied on the tail, it causes the aircraft to rotate about the center of gravity to the right (this is called yaw). The trim tab is like a mini rudder for the rudder. To add right trim, the trim tab is moved to the left. This forces the rudder slightly to the right which, as described earlier, causes the plane to yaw right.

    The point is a very small force when applied in just the right way, can move very big things!

    1. Gareth Branwyn says:

      Yes, thanks for that clarification, “incoherent”

      >The point is a very small force when applied in just
      >the right way, can move very big things!

      It also reminded me (tangentially) of the Aikido concept, which I’ve always really liked, of using the momentum of your opponent as a force to your advantage.

  2. waynevans says:

    ..I just wish it had been in a different context. The first time was in 1979 (I was 12) at the (uggghh…) EST training I was going / suffering through. (for the uninitiated, EST stood for the “Erhard Seminars Training”, a slightly cultish self help modality for the “Me Generation” of which I am a reluctant spawn…)

    Bucky Fuller was a “friend” *cough*,recipient of large donations, *cough*, of Werner Erhard (look him up).

    As far as I could tell at the time, or upon reflection, what they had most in common was a desire to reduce the english language to a subset that could be manipulated in specific ways. Bucky’s goals (and the subsequent subset of english he spoke) for this reduction were, thankfully, very different from Werner Erhard’s.

    Bucky used words, instead of symbolic math, to describe his view of the world (the “Spaceship earth”) as he saw it. It was sublime, astonishing and very difficult (nonetheless rewarding) to parse. Check out his book, “Synergetics” to see what I mean.

    Bucky was an incredible human being, of the best we have ever managed to produce

    1. Gareth Branwyn says:

      Yeah, I would count that as one of the more unfortunate chapters in Bucky’s life, too. One of the things I always liked about him was his ability to admit that he was wrong. He saw his life, after all, as an experiment, and when you experiment, you’re going to have failures. Don’t know if he ever said anything about his EST associations, but I too wince whenever I see him in that context. I had some EST experiences myself (not as a participant) and it smelled very culty, at least to my way of thinking. And let’s face it, Bucky could be pretty out there.

      We’ve been talking about him on my FB page, and I was saying that a lot of his inventions were problematic (including the dome), but it’s his re-invention of himself, his “50 year experiment” as Guinea Pig B (Bucky) that was the most amazing success. Everything we know about him was undertaken after 37, when he decided to “start over.” To me, he’s another model of what one human being can accomplish in (only the second half of) a lifetime.

Comments are closed.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn