How Many People Does It Take To Make A Buckyball?

Although early reports would have you believe the answer is five (Nature 1985, 318, 162)*, these videos could muddy the waters somewhat. They appear (along with several other videos) on a website from New York City's Whitney Museum, which just this weekend opened a new exhibit on R. Buckminster Fuller, the geometric visionary/architect who is C60's namesake. Watch closely: Is the video of museum employees putting together a geodesic dome a stop-motion video (like claymation) or is it merely sped up? Also, that origami buckyball looks mind-bogglingly hard to fold. (It took me days to master paper-crane folding in second grade.) If there are any detailed instructions for how to fold it, though, we'd love to hear about it! *What I love most about this classic paper is the elegant simplicity of Figure 1.

Author: Carmen Drahl

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  1. The first video is the same structure as C60?! I guess that is different.

    C60: Buckminsterfullerene
    * Kroto, H. W., Heath, J. R., O’Brien, S. C., Curl, R. F & Smalley, R. E.
    * Nature 318, 162–163 (14 November 1985)
    * doi:10.1038/318162a0

  2. When Kroto and colleagues were first trying to figure out what structure a molecule with just 60 carbon atoms might take, legend has it that it took a colleague in mathematics to point out that a truncated icosahedron had spherical symmetry and sixty vertices like a conventional hexagons and pentagons football (soccerball for US readers). Of course, Sir Harry himself likened the structure to one of the geodesic designs of Richard Buckminster Fuller and of course that name became fullerene/buckyball. It really ought to have been called [60]soccerane…just a thought.

    The BBC documentary even tried to have the team piecing together hexagons and pentagons in the same way that Watson and Crick pieced together DNA, but I presume that was merely artistic license as once they knew it was soccerball shaped piecing it together would have been trivial.

    Still a fantastic discovery that has given us chemistry writers metaphorical fodder for years now.


  3. @Luis-You’re right. a geodesic dome is more of an almost-sphere, though a geodesic sphere needn’t have 60 vertices. Just look at Spaceship Earth at Epcot Center in Disney World.
    If we really want to get down to particulars, my understanding is that the first dome that could be called “geodesic” wasn’t designed by Fuller.

    @David-I think [60]soccerane might have run into a bit of the football/futbol/soccer naming issues, personally….

  4. Hurray! Video comes to the Chemical and Engineering News blog.

  5. Oh definitely…in the same way that we have issues with turnips and swedes in the UK depending on whether one is in the north or the south. But, saying that although Brits call soccer football, we also call it soccer, so there would only be confusion if they’d been called footballanes, because those Stateside would assume it was a point ovoid rather than a sphere.

    Happy 4th July by the way!

  6. I can think of no greater affront to the ancient art of origami.~,:^0

  7. hello how do you make 60 pcs of triangle shape. Can you give me the measurement.


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