Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Design in Nature

I recently came across a reference to the forthcoming book by Adrian Bejan and J. Peder Zane Design in Nature: How the Constructal Law Governs Evolution in Biology, Physics, Technology, and Social Organization. Here is the publisher's blurb:
In this groundbreaking book, Adrian Bejan takes the recurring patterns in nature—trees, tributaries, air passages, neural networks, and lightning bolts—and reveals how a single principle of physics, the Constructal Law, accounts for the evolution of these and all other designs in our world.

Everything—from biological life to inanimate systems—generates shape and structure and evolves in a sequence of ever-improving designs in order to facilitate flow. River basins, cardiovascular systems, and bolts of lightning are very efficient flow systems to move a current—of water, blood, or electricity. Likewise, the more complex architecture of animals evolve to cover greater distance per unit of useful energy, or increase their flow across the land. Such designs also appear in human organizations, like the hierarchical "flowcharts" or reporting structures in corporations and political bodies.

All are governed by the same principle, known as the Constructal Law, and configure and reconfigure themselves over time to flow more efficiently. Written in an easy style that achieves clarity without sacrificing complexity, Design in Nature is a paradigm-shifting book that will fundamentally transform our understanding of the world around us.
There are lots of similarities between Bejan's ideas and Geoffrey West's work on scaling laws. At its heart, as argued here, Bejan wants to replace explanations of form based on processes of growth with an explanation that emphasizes flow.His website has an interesting set of resources and his TedX talk is below.

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