All tensegrity structures have stored energy; the energy is in the form of stored mechanical energy. Other terms used to describe this energy are “spring energy” or prestress. This little-known feature is essential to the function of tensegrity structures. These articles will give clear examples of that spring energy and why stored energy important to understand the behavior of these structures.

Artillery wheel
The bicycle wheel with spokes, invented around 150 years ago, is a tensegrity structure. Buckminster Fuller noted the “evolution” from thick wooden spokes to thin metal spokes; Amy Edmondson comments on that in A Fuller Explanation:

The wheel’s use of tension enables a far more efficient and lightweight structure than could be produced with compression spokes. Tension materials are inherently smaller and lighter than compression materials carrying equivalent loads.The wheel was originally an exclusively compression structure starting with the cave man’s stone cylinder and progressing to slightly more sophisticated designs like “the old artillery wheel” cited by Fuller in Synergetics.

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Recently, the Chanel Company launched a marketing campaign and website for their Ultra Correction Lift. Their homepage for the product says:

Taking the architectural concept of tenesegrity as a starting point, Chanel Research made a major discovery: the key role of a critical protein in the aging process — Tensin. To stimulate the production of Tensin, Chanel developed an exclusive ingredient, Elemi PFA, to naturally lift the skin from within.

If you click on “The Science” link on that flash site, you’ll find the question: What if the skin were a structure?

Since the skin is a structure, that’s an excellent question to ask! Few adults ever spend any time thinking about structure, let alone biological structures. Understanding tensegrity requires that we reexamine our fundamental assumptions about structure. Unfortunately, things go downhill from there. Clicking on that question reveals the following:

1940: Structure and Tensegrity
Tensegrity, derived from “tension” and “integrity”, is a basic architectural concept. So what is it? The integrity and resilience of any structure results from the balanced distribution of the forces of tension and compression within itself.

Tensegrity models were invented in the 1940s by the artist Kenneth Snelson while studying under Buckminster Fuller. He called them floating compression structures: the compression elements of a structure do not touch but instead have a floating relationship with each other. If that doesn’t make sense, I recommend looking at the images on Snelson’s website.
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The secondary title of “The Living Matrix” is “A Film on the New Science of Healing”. The intent of the filmmakers was to establish a connection between established scientific theories, our health, and healing. How well did they do? As I noted in my review, the filmmakers have failed to provide links to existing science. Neither the DVD nor the website currently provide any links to published scientific papers. In the absence of anything to back it up, the film’s claim that there’s a new “viable scientific theory” is not credible.


One particular claim from the movie came from Dietmar Cimbal, DVM, who the filmmakers label as a “biophysics researcher”. Dr. Cimbal talks about direction shifts of flocks of birds:

“Every one of us has watched a flock of birds in flight and how it changes direction. Instantly, all birds in the flock change direction. So, it seems as if a superior bird-brain controls all the birds simultaneously. That only works with the help of those fields, since the fields are able to transfer, with no information loss, and, above all, instantaneously with no time delay.”

A skeptic would have several questions at this point: Why does Dr. Cimbal presume the shifts are instantaneous? What observations did he make of flocks, and what instruments did he use to measure them? Where did he publish his results? If he was using someone else’s research, where is that research?

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VIS – co – e – LAS – tic

Viscoelastic” is a term used by physicists to describe materials that behave in two different ways: a fluid (viscous) and a solid (elastic). Viscous materials are fluids like water, motor oil, or honey. Viscous substances have a great capacity to absorb energy. Amusement parks use water to safely slow down rides after a drop. This video shows a 131-foot drop on “Pilgrim’s Plunge” a new water ride at Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana. Will Koch is the president of Holiday World; he gets to ride with The Big Guy.

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Welcome to the Floating Bones Journal! This blog/newsletter is about the relationship between floating compression models (also known as tensional integrity or tensegrity models) and our musculoskeletal anatomy.

We will also look at the link between floating compression and body/mind activities (e.g., Yoga, Pilates, Feldenkrais, T’ai Chi, Martial Arts, Alexander Technique, Massage, Structural Integration, etc.). We’ll explore new ways to think about body/mind disciplines, including a new definition of this vast field of exploration, development and play. This newsletter is designed for three different groups:

  • Body/mind instructors who desire to bring this kind of thinking/language to their practice. As a rule of thumb, experienced body/mind instructors already have a strong intuitive grasp of floating compression, although they don’t currently discuss these concepts with their clients.
  • Body/mind enthusiasts who wish to understand the common-sense math and physics behind these disciplines.
  • Scientists and engineers who are interested floating compression models: material-efficient structures that are highly resilient, flexible, and mobile.

Most weeks, there will be multiple new entries to the Journal at . In the next few days, we’ll have a sign-up form for an e-mail that summarizes the new entries that week.

If you know or work with the leaders or pioneers of particular body/mind disciplines who are interested participating in this discussion, please have them get in touch with the Journal.

Please ask questions! While I have a variety of topics to talk about, I’m far more interested in discussing what you want to learn.

I’ll end by telling you the first principle of Floating Bones:

The bones float—whether we believe it or not.