Constructal Law

This was in an article that my mom sent to me via snail mail (I assume it’s a clip from the Charlotte Observer):


Book by Duke professor calls adaptation a flow of mass found in nature and not limited to living things.

By Sam Boykin

If you remember nothing else from biology class, you probably recall  the “survival of the fittest” theory, which generally refers to how organisms adapt and change with their environment in order to reproduce and survie.

It’s one of history’s most enduring scientific theories, and continues to permeate our culture more than 150 years after it was first suggested. While that’s all well and good, Adrian Beja, J.A. Jones professor of mechanical engineering at Duke University, says that he’s come up with an evolutionary theory that goes far beyond survival of the fittest, and encompasses not just living organisms, but every animate and inanimate object on the planet.

"My theory is similar to the survival of the fittest, but it’s so much more than that," he says. 

It’s called Constructal Law, which Bejan details, along with co-author J. Peder Zane, in “Design In Nature” published last month.

Bejan says the theory challenges many bedrock beliefs held by his scientific colleagues. In fact it was an instinctual and oppositional gut reaction to another scientist’s theory that prompted the Constructal Law light bulb to go off in his head.

It [Constructal Law] states that everything that moves - animate or inanimate - generates shapes and structures that facilitate movement. Moreover, the same principles that govern biological creatures also guide the inanimate world, such as winds and rivers, as well as the engineered world, like airplanes, ships and automobiles.

"Constructal Law is about the movement of everything and anything," Bejan says.

And this evolutionary drive to facilitate movement is closely linked to the treelike structures and designs that reappear throughout the natural world: a flash of lightning creates a blinding structure of roots and limbs to discharge electricity; river basins branch into smaller tree-shaped streams to help water flow into a main channel; the cardiovascular system branches out into arteries and capillaries in order to pump blood throughout the body. 

"The body is a jungle of trees - the circulatory system, the respiratory system, the urinary system," Bejan says. "Look at a sample of human tissue under the microscope and you’ll see what looks like a world map of river basins."

The law even extends to our culture’s basic infrastructure, such as traffic patterns on highways and urban design, both of which resemble the human circulatory system, which in turn resembles how lava flows down a volcano, which in turn resembles hierarchal corporate flow-charts, and so on and so on. 

"This phenomenon exists because it works. What doesn’t work is replaced," he says.

Bejan says they [other scientists] were wrong in thinking that there wasn’t a signle universal law of physics - the Constructal Law - that acts as an all-encompassing governing force designed for better flow.

"The whole purpose is to increase the flow of mass across the landscape," he says. "From the river basin, which carries water, to animal migration, which carries animal mass, to highways, which carry vehicles. Everything is designed to move, to facilitate flow. They are all manifestations of the Constructal Law."

I am excited at the thought that a theory like this could gain ground and support from natural evidence. It seems like a very intriguing, all-encompassing theory. I love it. It also carries a vibe that I’m sure pantheists would appreciate, and scientists tend to approve and search for simplistic yet powerful theories to describe nature, so I think this would score points with many people.

Anyone have a thought they’d care to share?

  1. sosungjackskellington answered: uh. kinda. the gyres is where it lost me
  2. pandeism reblogged this from reasons-greetings
  3. w3djyt reblogged this from skepticalavenger
  4. skepticalavenger reblogged this from reasons-greetings and added:
    I like this a lot. I’m anxious to see if this thought gains any momentum. ~ Steve
  5. thenewenlightenmentage answered: I read it on Discovery earlier. I would like to see it gather some steam. :) It’s a good theory.
  6. divineirony reblogged this from reasons-greetings and added:
    Very interesting theory. Recently, when I’ve seen amazing photos of both the human blood vessel system and arial photos...
  7. reasons-greetings posted this
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