At first, language appears to us to be fixed and rigid. When we write, we seek the correct word to use. Over time, we realize that there are shades of gray: many words will work, but some have will add a particular color that we like.

One day, we realize that both the meaning and the emotional coloration of words are up for grabs. Language itself is fluid (or maybe viscous), and various individuals and tribes are constantly striving to alter both the meaning and connotation of words. Here are three of those skirmishes:

Tensegrity or Tensegrity™

Buckminster Fuller created the word “tensegrity”. Its definition is documented in his 1975 book Synergetics:

700.011 The word tensegrity is an invention: it is a contraction of tensional integrity. Tensegrity describes a structural-relationship principle in which structural shape is guaranteed by the finitely closed, comprehensively continuous, tensional behaviors of the system and not by the discontinuous and exclusively local compressional member behaviors. Tensegrity provides the ability to yield increasingly without ultimately breaking or coming asunder.

Words rarely come into existence with a more precise definition than this! All was good, or was it?

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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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Computer programming has changed tremendously over the last two decades, but some ideas have stood the test of time. In Object Oriented Analysis and Design, first published in 1990, software architect Grady Booch noted:

“Modularity is the property of a system that has been decomposed into a set of cohesive and loosely coupled modules.”

Today, Booch’s ideas of loosely coupled design are embraced by programmers world-wide. In well-designed computer programs, each module does a small number of things well. There are specific and well-defined ways that a module talks with other modules. Modules are functionally independent; changes to one module will not affect other modules.

Contrast this with a tightly coupled machine. Parts in a tightly coupled machine are designed to run “like clockwork”. All the parts move in lock-step with each other.

A 19th century orrery: a model of our solar system with all its parts moving “like clockwork”.

There are problems designing programs with a tightly coupled design:

• The modules are large or everything is in one huge module.

• Changes to one module can change the behavior of other modules in unpredictable and undesired ways.

• As the computer program grows, it becomes increasingly difficult or impossible to have it behave correctly.

Our musculoskeletal structure is loosely coupled. Our bones don’t touch; there are no levers or fulcrums. We’re designed to move in a smooth and flowing fashion; we don’t move like a clock or any other tightly coupled machine.

If we are loosely coupled, why don’t we consistently move that way? And what does this have to do with Feldenkrais?

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