If you think I've claimed a bicycle wheel will 'work' with three-quarters of the spokes removed

I haven't

You need to read the semantics bit on the previous page:

In asking whether the hub hangs or stands on the spokes, I really mean to question where the structurally active spokes are.

That is, suppose you have some sort of table with four legs. Suppose it is standing on four weighing scales, one under each leg. You could put something on the table and see which scales changes most, i.e. which leg is contributing most to holding up the weight of that object. This would be the most structurally active leg. If I put a weight on the table-top, and one of the legs barely changed at all, I would not consider that that particular leg is holding up that weight (though it may be stabilising the table so other legs can support the weight).


This is an expansion on that analogy, a thought experiment:

Suppose you have an ordinary four-legged table. It has a flat top, and four legs supporting the top.

Somehow, this table can indicate the load in each leg. The table starts out with nothing on it, and each leg has the same load - one quarter of the weight of the table-top. There's a uniform load in every leg (say, 5kg each), and the table is standing on all four legs.

So far, not contentious (I hope).

Now you put something heavy on the table, but you put it directly over one leg (or maybe the table top overhangs the legs, and it's outside the position of the leg). Suppose you add 80kg to the table-top.

Now suppose that when you examine the load in each leg, you discover that three of them are still exactly the same as they were before adding the load. Three of the legs have a load of 5kg in each of them. The fourth leg, however, now has a load of 85kg in it. Adding the 80kg has no effect at all on three legs - they don't change, don't 'know about', the added load. All the load 'goes into' the one leg.

In this scenario, would it be reaonable to say the load is resisted by the one leg?
Would it be reaonable to say the load is carried by the one leg?
Would it be reaonable to say the load is standing on the one leg?
I say yes.

It doesn't mean the table would 'work' if you removed the other three legs. It would probably fall over - after all, those legs have some force in them, and that force is necesary for the table to stand up. It means only that the load, when applied to the table, is not carried by them.

So now, what if it wasn't a table. What if it was just an arbitrary structure with four supports and and arbitrary applied load? If applying the load affects only one of the four supports, I say it's reasonable to say the load is carried by that one support. In casual language - if the support is under the load, the load is standing on that one support.

So, what if the arbitrary structure had 36 possible supports, and what if when applying an external load it only affects four of them? If the externmal load only affects four of the supports, I'd say the external load is carried by those four supports. It doesn't follow that the other 32 can be removed, but it is a reasonable thing to say that the load is carried by four of the supports. If the four supports in question are below tegh laod, it would be reaosnable to say tehload is standing on those four supports.

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