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Design in Nature
Cover of Design in Nature
Design in Nature
How the Constructal Law Governs Evolution in Biology, Physics, Technology, and Social Organization
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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...
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...
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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One

    Discovering a unifying law of design in nature was not on my to-do list when I traveled to Nancy, France, in late September 1995. I was a forty-seven-year-old professor of mechanical engi- neering at Duke University who had come to deliver a lecture at an international conference on thermodynamics. Giving you a sense of how steeped my career was in mechanical engineering, I remember that I had brought flyers announcing the publication of my seventh book, Entropy Generation Minimization.

    My work took a fateful turn during the prebanquet speech delivered by the Belgian Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine. Echo- ing the scientific community’s conventional wisdom, this famous man  asserted  that  the  tree-shaped  structures  that  abound  in nature—including river basins and deltas, the air passages in our lungs,  and lightning bolts—were  aléatoires  (the result  of throw- ing the dice). That is, there is nothing underlying their similar design. It’s just a cosmic coincidence.

    When he made that statement, something clicked, the penny dropped. I knew that Prigogine, and everyone else, was wrong. They weren’t  blind; the similarities among these  treelike struc- tures are clear to the naked eye. What they couldn’t see was the scientific principle that governs the design of these diverse phe- nomena. In a flash, I realized that the world was not formed by random accidents, chance, and fate but that behind the dizzying diversity is a seamless stream of predictable patterns.

    As these thoughts began to flow, I started down a long, uncharted, and wondrously exciting path that would allow me to see the world in a new, and better, light. In the sixteen years since, I have shown how a single law of physics shapes the design of all around us. This insight would lead me to challenge many articles of faith held by my scientific  colleagues,  including the bedrock beliefs  that biological creatures  like you and me are governed by different principles  from  the inanimate world of winds  and rivers  and the engineered world of airplanes,  ships,
    and automobiles. Over time, I would develop a new understand- ing of evolutionary phenomena and the oneness of nature that would reveal how design emerges without an intelligent designer. I would also offer a new theory for the history of Earth and what it means to be alive.

    In addition, I and a growing number of scientists around the world would begin finding new ways to make life easier: better ways to design roads and transport systems; to predict the evolution of civilization and science, of cities, universities, sports, and the global use of energy. We would unravel the mysteries of Egypt’s Pyramids and the genius of the Eiffel Tower while demonstrating how governments  are designed  like river basins and how busi- nesses are as interdependent as the trees on the forest floor.

    All that lay in the future when I boarded the plane for the trip home. High over the Atlantic, I opened my notebook (the old- fashioned kind, with paper) and wrote down the constructal law:
     
    For a finite-size  flow system  to persist in time (to live), its configuration must evolve in such a way that provides easier access to the currents that flow through it.
     
    I was writing in the language of science, but the fundamental idea is this:  Everything that moves,  whether animate or inani- mate, is a flow system. All flow systems generate shape and struc- ture in time in order to facilitate this...

About the Author-
  • ADRIAN BEJAN is Duke University's J. A. Jones Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

    J. PEDER ZANE is an award-winning columnist who has worked for the New York Times and the Raleigh News.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 7, 2011
    The constructal law, as articulated by Duke engineering professor Bejan is relatively simple: systems change over time to maximize the rate of flow through the system. And this high level of efficiency is achieved in similar ways in any dynamic system, whether water flowing through an ecosystem or blood through a body’s circulatory system. Bejan makes the controversial claim that the constructal law explains everything in the world, from the evolution of life to the development of human culture, and can predict how things will evolve—toward the ability to move more freely on Earth. But this tediously repetitious book fails to live up to its predictive promise. Nor can Bejan’s application of his theory to biology be taken seriously when he says, for instance, that biologists claim that evolution cannot be tested or when he conflates “evolving” and “morphing.” Bejan’s reductionism achieves a level of grandiosity when he asserts that constructal theory explains all of human history as a movement toward human freedom and the free flow of ideas. His conclusion is strangely Panglossian: “we can witness many entities morphing—becoming better and better” in this best-designed of all possible worlds. Illus.

  • Kirkus

    November 1, 2011
    Thermodynamics expert Bejan (Engineering/Duke Univ.; Porous and Complex Flow Structures in Modern Technologies, 2011 etc.) claims to have discovered a new scientific principle called the "constructal law." With the assistance of columnist Zane, Bejan takes the evolution of "finite-size flow system[s]" as a model to exemplify his unifying principle that allegedly explains the design of all natural systems—both inanimate and animate, biological or social. The author conflates life and motion, writing that "anything that flows… is 'alive' because it evolves"—whether it be a river or a human being—and that the "hydrosphere, atmosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere are a tapestry of engines attached to brakes." Bejan compares himself favorably to Newton and Darwin, and he suggests that a law similar to the constructal law applies to the way that tributaries flow into rivers, increasing the speed of the flowing water; to highway systems and athletic competitions, in which athletes achieve record-breaking performances; and to the military, which channels soldiers, supplies, vehicles, strategies, etc. Lest the title suggest that he is a supporter of theories of Intelligent Design, the author explicitly rejects the existence of a designer. He also opts for hierarchical social systems and the concentration of power and wealth. Bejan provides clear explanations of basic design principles as they apply to fluid flow, the design of computer chips and the function of animal circulatory systems, but his broader claim to have discovered an umbrella theory about the universe is unconvincing.

    (COPYRIGHT (2011) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from February 15, 2012

    Bejan (J.A. Jones Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Duke Univ.), with the editorial assistance of Zane (journalism, St. Augustine's Coll., Raleigh), has written a book that should be in every academic library. In 1995, Bejan first outlined the concept of constructal law, a theory of organization that studies the thermodynamics, shape, structure, and patterns of flow systems. This emergent body of knowledge has quickly developed into a new extension of physics, with applications in fields including evolution, predictability, engineering, biology, and intelligent design. Constructal first principles are a new way of investigating the world to better predict patterns and structures in systems small (e.g., the flow of water, blood, and electricity) and large (e.g., river patterns, social organizations). VERDICT Bejan's writing is brilliant. He effectively illustrates complex ideas for a general audience, provides real-world examples, and includes scholarly notes and references. A landmark publication.--Ian D. Gordon, Brock Univ. Lib., St. Catharines, Ont.

    Copyright 2012 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    December 15, 2011
    When lightning flashes in the sky, showing off its characteristic pattern of zigzagging veins, it's not hard to see its resemblance to branching trees or waterway tributaries. It's also easy to assume those similarities are purely visual because these patterns occur in such different realms of nature. Yet according to veteran mechanical engineer and Duke University professor Bejan, these recurring shapes and structures obey a fundamental principle of physics known as the constructal law. Put simply, this law asserts that all things that live or move, from ants and animal herds to rivers and electric currents, persist and evolve according to their ability to facilitate flow. In this lucidly written overview of the constructal law, Bejan, with journalist Zane, describes all the circumstances and ways this law operates in the world, including blood vessels and man-made cooling systems. The authors' language is never too abstract for the lay reader to easily grasp, and the insights offered here present a revolutionary, unifying vision of nature that could impact all branches of science.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2011, American Library Association.)

  • Nature "Fascinating...By reframing things as flow systems, they reveal how function determines form in everything from corporate hierarchies to Canada geese."
  • Library Journal "Brilliant. He effectively illustrates complex ideas for a general audience, provides real-world examples, and includes scholarly notes and references. A landmark publication."
  • David Eagleman, The New York Times bestselling author of INCOGNITO and SUM, and Director of the Laboratory for Perception and Action at the Baylor College of Medicine "Why do riverbeds, blood vessels, and lightning bolts all look alike? It's not a coincidence. This extraordinary book proposes a law of nature whose power is matched only by its simplicity. Everything you lay your eyes on will blow your mind with fresh interpretation."
  • John Hagel, co-author of The Power of Pull, and Co-Chairman of the Deloitte Center for the Edge "After reading this deeply inspiring and liberating book, you will never look at the world--the whole world--the same again. It not only helps us to better understand the natural environment, but it has profound implications for how we all need to act if we want to sustain success. This perspective is not just for scientists--it helps to reframe agendas for entrepreneurs, business executives, educators, and policy makers. Go with the flow!"
  • Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, author of What Darwin Got Wrong, and Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Arizona "Bejan masterfully unifies--under a deep common law--physics, chemistry, biology, and even part of the social sciences. His treatment of natural design, flow systems, and complex order as spontaneously arising from flow optimization is novel, powerful, and highly plausible."
  • Steven Vogel, author of Cats' Paws and Catapults, and James B. Duke Professor of Biology at Duke University "Thought provoking! Thermodynamics may determine where you're going; here's a rule that tells how you get there. And so simple--the more efficient the pathway, the more likely is its persistence, whatever the mechanism behind that persistence. This is science at its biggest and boldest."
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Design in Nature
Design in Nature
How the Constructal Law Governs Evolution in Biology, Physics, Technology, and Social Organization
Adrian Bejan
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