Why Things Don't Fall Down, How Tensegrities Work

Workshop on Topology: Identifying Order in Complex Systems
Topic:Why Things Don't Fall Down, How Tensegrities Work
Speaker:Robert Connelly
Affiliation:Cornell University
Date:Wednesday, December 7
Time/Room:2:00pm - 3:00pm/Princeton Univ., Jadwin Hall, Prin. Center for Theoretical Sciences

How do things hold up? What are the geometric ideas that are involved? One of the principles can be seen with simple models, where sticks are suspended in mid-air with inextendable cables. These were called tensegrities by Buckminster Fuller, because they had tensional integrity. The sticks, called struts, are in compression, and the cables are in tension. The rigidity of these structures can be understood in terms of three concepts, local rigidity, global rigidity, and universal rigidity, which will be explained. Several hands-on models will be available, and the audience will be encouraged to build their own tensegrities.