Geodesic Sphere

A geodesic sphere made from just 2½” strips, nuts and bolts. This is in the pattern of a series of 12 pentagons linked by hexagons, familiar to most people as the arrangement of panels on a modern football, and is one where a series of 60 linked nodes (i.e. joints at the ends of straight members) forms a perfect sphere. The geodesic dome (i.e. part of a sphere) was invented by an American architect, Buckminster Fuller. This design was used in a dome at Expo ‘67 in Montreal, which had hundreds of nodes.

A few years ago, the scientist Sir Harry Kroto was on the radio programme Desert Island Discs, and mentioned how, as a boy, he had loved playing with his Meccano outfit, which he considered had played a great part in encouraging him into a scientific career, because of the practical and 3-dimensional skills it had helped develop. He spoke at some length about Meccano and was fulsome in his praise for the system. He recounted how, in 1985 he was experimenting at Sussex University using a laser on graphite and discovered the existence of a very stable carbon molecule with 60 carbon atoms C60. For some while, he tried to figure out the form of this molecule, which appeared to be spherical in shape, and thus rather unique and complex in nature. He recalled seeing the Montreal Dome and decided to try to construct a model of C60 in Meccano to see how it could possibly exist, and came up with a 60 node geodesic sphere. This is the only shape that can represent the C60 molecule, so he christened the material “Buckminster Fullerene”, known as “Bucky Balls” for short. Kroto’s work won him a Nobel Prize in 1996, so this model is an example a Nobel Prize winning model! What’s next DNA perhaps?


Dear Francis, I have been invited to construct a large Meccano sculpture for the Goodwood Vintage Festival, I am planning to construct a small pavilion using multiple ‘Bucky Balls’ of a range of sizes, seeing your Bucky Ball has given me confidence that this is possible, it looks as though all the struts in your ball are the same size, did that make it difficult to bring the structure together? I thought that it would require two different strut lengths, as in a geodesic dome. Would you anticipate any problems constructing a larger sphere using longer struts? Thanks for the valuable site. Best regards, Will.

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