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The Big Plan: Archistructure (Part 2)

July 6, 2010

Give me a place to stand and a lever long enough and I will move the world.

– Archimedes, 220 BC

I’ve never much enjoyed amusement rides.  Roller-coasters, Gravitrons, Ferris wheels, etc.  They all seem to simultaneously stimulate my flight and fight impulses.  The times I’ve tried to realize the joys that so many others do, I find myself fixated on the imagery of ending the ride covered in my own vomit, feces, and/ or urine.  Or worse, someone else’s.

So the thrill seekers feeling I’ve never known.  But I’ve recently found what I can only assume is similar to the adrenaline-spiked, endorphin rich stimulation felt by skydivers, bungee jumpers, and competitive eaters. I found my primordial pleasure in the application of simple machines to move logs.  Recently, in a move of such complexity that it can only be explained with a series of diagrams, I employed all six of the classic simple machines (wedge, lever, inclined plane, pulley, screw, and wheel-and-axle) to move a log from point A to point B.  I conducted this symphony of primitive discoveries to single-handedly transform a problem state to a solution state with great economy. It was big, heavy, dirty, noisy poetry.

I considered the feeling. Was it some strange yet specific vibration picked up by an ancient tuner within me? Or did the mechanical advantage I engineered multiply itself upon me, amplifying and exciting the same parts of men that are energized during times of great discovery and realization?

I spent the rest of the day exploring each of the simple machines, thinking about leverage;  fulcrums and angles;  strength, stress, and strain;  rigging for advantage and disadvantage.  I remembered just hours earlier rotating an 800-pound log with my index finger as the near weightless, 20-foot tree pivoted at its center on a rock.  It was both artful and true:  the intervention in one location to bring about a result in another.

I was hungry.  I started thinking about steak.  If I looked at the steak I was going to grill up and wanted to remove a little fat, the solution is localized to the problem – cut the unwanted fat off with a knife.  Now consider I look at myself and want to get rid of a little excess.  To observe a change in the amount of flesh I can grip between my fingers, I have to intervene in areas other than that specific location of my body.  I trimmed some fat off my steak while the grill heated up.  I thought about my next moves.

I would need a tripod.  Three equally-spaced rigid poles lashed at the top and chained at the base.  The poles of my tripod would be constructed sequentially but each would be of equal importance.  Individually they were limited in their usefulness.  Together, they formed an efficient and sturdy assemblage to make easier the heavy work that must be done.

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