Kirby Urner
Aug 17, 2018 · 6 min read

For those diving into this corpus, a network of writings, not only by me, I should provide a few words by way of orientation. My ethnicity has a minority flavor in that we look for ways to stay upbeat about the future, and by extension, back to our present time, we look for what is prophetic of the good.

That I’d use the word “prophetic” and emphasize “the good” makes this start to sound Christian, right? All that “Good News” jazz one hears from that corner. I’ll confess I’m a Quaker, however I’d be quick to keep the focus more catholic, in the sense of universalist (ecumenical).

home scholar

Let’s consider the Sufis for a moment. At the time of this writing, NATO is tearing itself apart over whether Sufis are terrorists or not. Some Turkish political leaders are demanding the District of Columbia hand over an elderly Sufi in Pennsylvania. Fethullah Gulen is deemed an enemy of the Turkish state by a specific clique with a lot of influence. Said clique is holding a Christian pastor as a bargaining chip, with the White House fighting back by changing the price of metals.

National Security Advisor to be, at the time, General Flynn, was actually in on a meeting to maybe kidnap said Sufi, according to former CIA director Woolsey, who was invited to the same meeting at the Essex House, a hotel in New York City. Woolsey contacted Vice President Joe Biden about it. He didn’t say whether Flynn was supportive, only that such talk occurred. The new White House team was still getting its feet wet, sticking its toe more in world affairs.

High schools with debating teams are always on the lookout for new topics to practice with. Sounding credible, in the face of skeptics, and scoring points in the judgement of judges, is what this sport is all about. A sense of what’s a well-based argument percolates through the ranks, thanks to coaching. A lot of the real learning in high school comes from the extra-curricular debating societies.

Some teams will be taking up the issue of whether the Hizmet movement, catalyzed by Sufism, is actually a terrorist organization. A lot of academics have already weighed in on this question. As a Quaker, I’ve been urging the AFSC to join me in studying this whole situation, as Hizmet means Service.

A Sufi-inspired service movement would be of natural interest to a Quaker-inspired service movement (American Friends Service Committee), one would think, as both have a history of supporting democracy and non-violence in accordance with their religious convictions.

Another thinker and inventor who worked to stay upbeat about the future, without seeming too naively pollyanna about it, was R. Buckminster Fuller. “Accentuate the positive” was his motto, borrowing from a popular ditty. He surveyed the scene looking for how present trends might anticipate future trends we could actually be happy about.

at Henry Ford museum

Positive brands of futurism distinguish themselves from more despairing schools of thought, which traffic mainly in doom and gloom. My ethnic minority draws inspiration from Fuller’s commitment to remaining cheerful, echoing some of what George Fox would teach his Friends (“Quakers”) back in the early days of our Society.

Might the Gulen schools share some of our same optimism, likewise drawing from Bucky’s brand of New England transcendentalism? I always look to mosques with geodesic domes as heralding such a synergy. Google notifies me when any news article contains “mosque” and “geodesic dome” in the same article.

near Toledo

I stopped off on my drive from Detroit to Richmond, Indiana to visit such a mosque near Toledo. I’d been aware of it for years, but rarely have an excuse to drive that section of road. My mother and daughter and I were joining the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom for one of their summits, at Wayne State. My daughter and I made a side trip to the Henry Ford Museum in nearby Dearborn, and got to visit Dr. Fuller’s Dymaxion House, there on display.

Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn MI

A curriculum that includes dome design and geometric patterns more generally, could well be Islamic in flavor. I could see Quakers and Sufis getting together over using Divided Spheres by Edward Popko as a primer. I have the ebook version. Popko uses Adrian Rossiter’s Antiprism software to generate some of the book’s figures.

Learning to program computers to do spatial geometry of the kind Fuller favored, would make plenty of sense in this curriculum context.

I could see Earlham College, in Richmond, reaching out to various sister campuses, not just in North America, regarding the design of future STEM programs. Earlham already has ties to Turkey and Japan.

I’ve recently downloaded Antiprism to a Windows 10 tablet, an Asus, along with POV-Ray and the Anaconda distribution of Python software. Previously, I’d compiled Antiprism on a Raspberry Pi running Linux. As a teacher of computer science topics, and mathematics topics, I need to test the hardware and software we expect to use in production.

generated by Antiprism

The “makerspace” community is already enamored of the Raspberry Pi. On the tablet, I currently work in Rhino, a 3D CAD program we sometimes script with Python, to model C6XTY and Flextegrity more generally. I also use POV-Ray and Antiprism.

This summer, Reed College tried to install Rhino 3D on all the student machines but ran out of trial licenses. That was not an issue, as we had plenty to learn with the Anaconda stuff, including Jupyter Notebooks.

I had these middle to high schoolers clone my Martian Math Github repo, and lectured every day about the memes my ethnicity treasures e.g. tensegrity, Kenneth Snelson, and the micro-architecture of the virus. War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells was one of our entry points.

at Reed College

What finally halted the Martian invasion, in this famous narrative (made infamous by Orson Welles), was not the military might of the humans (negligible) but the planet’s billion year old immune system. The Martians succumbed to diseases.

However the science fiction I’m featuring portrays the Martians as peaceful and eager to collaborate with Earthlings on hydro-electric projects. What they and we need to work out are ways to bridge our respective approaches to measuring volume. The Martians’ math is more focused on the tetrahedron than the cube, as a measuring unit. Good thing we have Synergetics then. That’s Bucky Fuller’s magnum opus (in two volumes, with E. J. Applewhite).

At this juncture, you may be wondering what the microarchitecture of the virus has to do with geodesic domes and spheres, and that’s exactly what this curriculum aims to share.

I encourage home scholars to mine Youtube and other sources for more information on these connections. As you do so, think about how you might help us change the shape of STEM education to make sure this information and skill set gets included. Also, feel free to check out Sufism and Quakerism. They have some similarities.

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