The Moon is a Harsh Mistress - Cell Structure

Skip to first unread message


Nov 17, 2008, 11:52:39 PM11/17/08
I'm curious to know if anyone has ever tried to do a graphical
representation of the cell structure that Prof, Mannie, Wyoh and Mike work
out in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress?

I, for one, would be very interested in seeing the workings of that
structure illustrated in, say, a PowerPoint presentation. I've never
completed followed the description that Heinlein gives and would benefit
from some pictures.

Has anyone here done that or know where I could find some sort of visual
representation of that cell structure?


Julian Treadwell

Nov 18, 2008, 1:07:59 AM11/18/08
Ssssh! We don't want the Department of Homeland Security declaring this
book terrorist material.

Seriously, it's hard to represent it graphically using just text, as
it's three-dimensional.

A 'traditional' revolutionary cell has three members, i.e.

/ \
/ \

Multiple cells look like this:

/ \
/ \
/ \ / \
/ \ / \
D----E F----G

Prof's (Heinlein's) idea was to add a fourth member to each cell, making
the triangle into a four-sided pyramid. This sped up growth of the
organisation as each member recruits 3 subordinates instead of two.

The other difference is that instead of reporting to the next highest
cell member, all revolutionaries only report to a central computer
(Mike, of course) which tightened security.

That's my understanding, anyway.

Hope your mail client doesn't screw with my diagrams too much.



Nov 18, 2008, 1:38:38 AM11/18/08

If that is sufficient, do not read the rest of what I wrote. I'd hate
for you to understand it, then read what I wrote below, and get lost
all over again. :)

Below, a further explanation, using the pictures as an aid.

Look at the first tetrahedron stack on the left. The top corner of the
top tetrahedron is Adam Selene. We will call this the "B" level
tetrahedron, since the three "B" members make up the cell, with the
"A" as leader (theoretically, in the case of Adam Selene). The bottom
three corners are Mannie, Prof, and Wyoh, each with a secret code name
starting with "B". They then command the tetrahedron they are at the
tip of (the "C" level tetrahedrons), with three lower-tier members
below, each with a secret code name starting with "C". Preferably, the
"B" level members identities are not known to the three "C" level
members of the "C" level cell, and they do not inform the "A" level
member, or the other "B" level members, of the real identities of
their own cell members. Ideally, each cell has three members, with one
secret leader who knows the identities of his or her three
subordinates, and the three members knowing only their own cell
member's names (minus the leader) and the names of the members of the
cell they run.

Most communication between "C-level" cells is passed from the "C"
members up to the "B" members, who will, if need be, then pass it to
another "B" member, who can pass it down to their own "C" member(s) on
a need to know basis. However, there is a secondary backup channel.
The members whose code names start with "C" can each pass on messages
through secret channels to one other "C" member not in their own cell,
whose identity is ideally a secret to them. This allows for
communications in the event that the "B" member of a cell is

Count the three tetrahedrons on the bottom as you can see them from
the left as 1, 2, and 3. At the place where the two purple
tetrahedrons (1 and 2) touch on the bottom of this stack would be a
secret message channel, and the point where the two yellow faces touch
(2 and 3) on the bottom would also be a secret channel. In addition,
the corner that touches behind 2 (1 and 3) would also be a secret
channel. Lastly, the three outer corners could themselves be connected
through secret channels of some sort, though this adds complexity, as
each has two other corners to choose from. This is much more of a
problem at the higher levels than lower levels, as only three members
on each level have no connecting corner.

The next stack on the right then shows how the cell that Mannie, Wyoh,
and Prof's underlings control their own cells as the top of their own
tetrahedrons, who then control others, who control others, etc., on
down the line. As the structure gets bigger, you can see how it keeps
expanding indefinitely. By the time you get to the "G" level, you
theoretically have 1, 093 members, with only 15 "outer corner" people
who don't show as having a connection on the diagram, not counting the
four people at the top who have no other cell to talk to at their
level. If the structure is followed exactly (which in practice will
never happen), or even roughly, you would never approach the "Z"

The usefulness of this method is considerable, especially when the
system breaks. Suppose we start with a section out of the middle. We
will use the top tier names (A, B, and C) because I started using them
before I thought about it, and it was enough work to come up with the
names I have without starting over. We have "Adam" at the top (of this
particular group), and "Bob" (tetrahedron 1), "Bill" (2), and
"Beth" (3) as "Adam"'s subordinates. Below "Bob" is "Cindy",
"Chuck", "Chubby", below Bill is "Carlos", "Candice", and "Charo", and
below Beth are "Carly", "Callie", and "Cassandra" (going left to right
across the purple and yellow faces as you see them here, then
continuing around the back). Chuck and Carlos are where the two purple
corners meet, and thus Chuck and Carlos, who do not know each other by
name, can exchange secret messages. The same goes for Charo and Carly
(the yellow corners), and Cassandra and Chubby (the hidden corners).
We will skip the outer corners to simplify things.

Now, suppose Bob is captured, and under horrible torture, reveals the
names of his two cell mates, and the three people in the cell below
him. (Adam successfully kept secret his identity.) Of the top three,
Bill is captured immediately, Beth escapes.

Beth informs Adam. She also informs Cassandra, who warns Chubby, who
tells his cell to run for it. Next, she informs Carly, who warns
Carlos, Candice and Charo that Bill was captured, and that they might
be revealed, too, if Bill breaks.

In addition, by passing information up and down the chain, then
sideways, the underlings of Cindy, Chuck, Chubby, Carlos, Candice, and
Charo can be warned, even if the individual in question is caught,
doesn't get the chance to pass on the message, and is themselves
tortured until they also crack. This allows for warning of almost any
group at almost any level through multiple channels, with minimal
exposure. Keep in mind that almost all cells have at least four
possible channels of communication.

In fact, if, for example, Bill, Beth, or Adam had found out about Bob
getting grabbed quickly enough in the first place, everybody Bob could
reveal could easily be warned well before Bob cracked, making the
damage such a break could do much smaller.

Hope that helps! I also hope that you and/or your ISP don't block
Google Groups posts, like many people do these days. :)

AKA David Nasset, Sr.
Geek Prophet to the Technologically Declined

On Nov 17, 8:52 pm, "rhino" <>


Nov 18, 2008, 1:41:28 AM11/18/08
On Nov 17, 10:38 pm, Filksinger <> wrote:
> Try

Sorry, small mistake. The first tetrahedron is perfect. The others are
missing central tetrahedrons in their structure, thus losing cells and
connections. However, if they were there, it would be even harder to


AKA David Nasset, Sr.

Geek Prophet to the Technologically Impaired


Nov 18, 2008, 3:42:03 AM11/18/08
On Nov 18, 2:38 pm, Filksinger <> wrote:
> Try

> If that is sufficient, do not read the rest of what I wrote. I'd hate
> for you to understand it, then read what I wrote below, and get lost
> all over again. :)
> Below, a further explanation, using the pictures as an aid.

> Filksinger
> AKA David Nasset, Sr.
> Geek Prophet to the Technologically Declined
One sees where yr title comes from.



Nov 19, 2008, 8:50:31 AM11/19/08

"rhino" <> wrote in message

Thank you all for your efforts in explaining the cell system a bit better. I
need a few days to think on it and try to knock a diagram together. I'll be
back to post a result or ask followup questions, depending on how I do.


Bill Patterson

Nov 20, 2008, 1:42:42 PM11/20/08
On Nov 17, 8:52�pm, "rhino" <>

It's just an ordinary tree structure in n dimensions -- similar to
illustrations in computer database texts,

Reply all
Reply to author
0 new messages