Let us try our best to invent experimental confirmations or disproofs of Dr. Steve Levin's Tensegrity theory of the skeleton.
#1) In what specific ways do his explanations differ from what is now taught in the textbooks used to teach future Orthopedic Surgeons?
To help us in this effort, I just bought a copy of the third edition (2005) of "Basic Orthopaedic Biomechanics and Mechano-Biology" by Van Mow (Columbia University) and Rik Huiskes, and 28 other professors who co-wrote different chapters. Published by Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins. 720 pages
This textbook seems specifically intended for Future Hip Replacement Surgeons. It provides historical background, analogies from physics, analysis methods borrowed from engineering and computer simulations, and a not-quite correct etymology of the word orthopedic.
Chapter one of this book has many mentions of paradigms, and "The often titanic struggles that were involved in making a paradigm shift" (p 23) and "The inchoate results from the biomechanics unit at Imperial College, London." (page 17, despite praise for Maroudas' research there.)
Almost equally tantalizing is what is said on page 17 about "the engineering errors committed by Hirsch were propagated into Sokoloff's otherwise careful studies"... etc.
Chapter one mentions that the following paper (by the first author of the book) is the most frequently cited of any paper ever published in the J. of Biomechanical Engineering:
VC Mow, SC Kuei, WM Lai, CG Armstrong
Journal of Biomechanical Engineering, 1980
Cited by 1405
This book has a good index, which doesn't mention tensegrity, or Fuller, or Levin, or Ingber, or me. It does include D'Arcy Thompson, Galileo, Copernicus, Newton, Roux, Richard Skalak, Y. C. Yung, and Steve Cowin. (the last 3 of whom invited me to give guest lectures; and Roux was an important embryologist, but not liked by this book.
My impression of Biomechanics, so far, is analogous to the famous sarcasm of Chargaff, who defined Molecular Biology as "The practice of Biochemistry without a license."
What has happened is that engineers spent several centuries developing systems of concepts, vocabulary, somewhat over-simplified mathematical equations (That assume linear proportionalities, for examples), and computer simulation methods (many of which also assume linearity), among other assumptions.
The purpose was to predict strengths of brick, concrete, blocks of stone, steel trusses etc. built by people. Their concepts have been successfully extended to make predictions about ships, airplanes, and rockets.
Now, many people whose education was in engineering are trying to (i.e. claiming to) extend their knowledge to bones, cartilage tendons, ligaments, slipped disks, knee and hip replacements, et cetera. with incomplete success, to put it mildly.
Other people, whose education was in biology, are trying to dig a tunnel through this same thick mountain. We tend to think that too many over-simplifications were woven into the innermost assumptions of people trained in engineering.
A very strong program developed in the Duke Biology Department that focused on analyzing biological shapes in terms of physics. Steve Wainwright, Steve Vogel, Knut Schmidt-Nielson, John Currey, Bill Kier, Bruce Nicklas, etc.
Steve Levin, educated in medicine, had the (in my opinion) brilliant insight (epiphany) that Buckminster Fuller's unorthodox (but, I admit, trendy) concept(s) of tensegrity can provide a more complete and accurate system for making sense of the skeleton and other biological structures. Donald Ingber has been trying to apply Fuller's ideas to shaping of individual cells.
Mainstream biomechanics people have frozen Levin out, and tried to freeze out Ingber, too.
So it's time for another "titanic struggle to make a paradigm shift" (to paraphrase this big textbook)
cut to Rohirrim: Forth Eorlingas
back to index page