- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (January 8, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307744345
- ISBN-13: 978-0307744340
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Design in Nature: How the Constructal Law Governs Evolution in Biology, Physics, Technology, and Social Organizations Reprint Edition
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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. --Carl Hays --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“Fascinating. . . . By reframing things as flow systems, they reveal how function determines form in everything from corporate hierarchies to Canada geese.” —Nature
“Interesting. . . . Brings a useful new perspective to ubiquitous natural phenomena.” —New Scientist
“[I] found myself immediately sucked in. . . . The Constructal Law is important because it not only describes the patterns of change in the world within and around us, but it allows us to predict how the configuration of those patterns will evolve over time.” —Forbes
“Provocative, witty, well written . . . makes a strong case.” —Charlotte Observer
“Brilliant. He effectively illustrates complex ideas for a general audience, provides real-world examples, and includes scholarly notes and references. A landmark publication.” —Library Journal
“Lucidly written. . . . A revolutionary, unifying vision of nature that could impact all branches of science.” —Booklist
“Filled with fascinating observations and brainteasers. . . . Gracefully written.”—Macleans
“Presents complex ideas in an understandable context. . . . Source of food for thought. . . . . Interesting. . . . Excellent reflection on the history of science.” —Winnipeg Free Press
“Design in Nature is an elegant exposition of a unifying principle so simple that it demystifies our comprehension of the ‘low’ of the universe. An absorbing and thoughtful account of why nature is designed that way it is; Bejan engages the reader from the very first sentence to last word.” —Donald Johanson, Founding Director of the Institute of Human Origins and noted discoverer of “Lucy”
“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.” —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
“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!” —John Hagel, co-author of The Power of Pull, and Co-Chairman of the Deloitte Center for the Edge
“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.” —Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, author of What Darwin Got Wrong, and Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Arizona
“The most amazing thing about life is that it exists at all. The second most amazing thing about life is that living things seem to be so very good at it. In his bold new book Bejan asks why, and his answer cuts to the very core of what life is—organized flows of heat, electricity, matter, and energy. From this deceptively simple idea, Bejan takes us on an incredible expedition through life’s vast scope, from tiniest cell to organism to societies to ecosystems to the entire planet. It is a bracing journey.” —J. Scott Turner, author of The Tinkerer’s Accomplice, and Professor of Biology at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse
“With wide-ranging examples and the iconic pictures to go with them, Bejan illustrates that nature is inherently an outstanding designer of flow configurations, which raises philosophic issues beyond the remit of thermodynamics. Is the distinction between animate and inanimate blurred by their common constructal design? These and many more issues are raised by Bejan’s distinguished and original work, fittingly presented in Design in Nature.” —Jeffery Lewins, Deputy Praelector at Magdalene College at Cambridge University
“A most stimulating thought principle, framed in a nice and lively personal story. What I really find most exciting is the exceptionally broad perspective that Bejan adopts for developing his concepts. Design in Nature is a fascinating read.” —Ewald Weibel, Professor Emeritus of Anatomy at the University of Berne
“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.” —Steven Vogel, author of Cats’ Paws and Catapults, and James B. Duke Professor of Biology at Duke University
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Top customer reviews
I love it when ideas from disparate fields come together; it is the source of the thoughtful "Aha" moment. Bejan's thesis is the patterns we see in nature are the result of a constructal law that favors efficiency of flow. He posits the 3rd law of thermodynamics.
"Where the second law describes the universal tendency to flow from high to low, the constructal law describes the universal tendency to generate evolving configurations that facilitate flow. … Together they capture nature much more firmly than the second law alone."
While Bejan disavows any spiritual or atheistic intent the only reasonable conclusion is that there is an interconnectedness to all of life, what we view as animate, as well as what appears inanimate that is very ‘Buddhist' in nature. That particular strand of thought is found in The Quantum and the Lotus.
I have enjoyed the work of Gerald Diamond, in particular, Guns, Germs and Steel, which takes a more geographical approach to our historical narrative. This lead me to Manual De Landa, who is somewhat more difficult to access (it needs to seep in) whose 1000 years of Non-Linear History describe "the self-directed processes of matter and energy interacting with the whim and will of human history itself to form a panoramic vision of the West … the source of all concrete forms in the West's history are shown to derive from internal morphogenetic capabilities that lie within the flow of matter-energy itself. Bejan's constructal law is a first principle description of both Diamond's and De Landa's work. And I found the Bejan's explanation was more simplified and easier to digest.
I found Design in nature to be an energizing book and in a fractal or scaling way an excellent example of the constructal law Bejan describes and promotes. It is readily understandable to a lay audience, most of the math is stripped away, and it provides a view that well may be the early tremor of a paradigm shift in scientific thought.
The first problem is an introduction that runs on for 26 pages positing constructal law as a universal all-unifying theory, while indulging in generous helpings of self praise and describing past scientists as having stumbled around blindly in preconstructal ignorance.
Dr.Bejan has leveraged his considerable knowledge of mechanical engineering and thermodynamics into regions of science that are not so familiar to him. His descriptions of a tree's function being nothing more than a facilitator of water flow, and the leg length of an athlete being the sole determinate of sprinting performance are both highly simplistic and ill informed.
And that's just the beginning, as constructal law is then forced into strange relationships with all manner of things, sometimes with illustrations that seem to contradict the descriptions. Repetition is rampant in the manner of a high pressure sales job.
I award Dr. Bejan two stars for having caused me to weigh his arguments carefully. His constructal law does seem to have some legitimate applications, but I remain highly skeptical of the universality he so strongly argues for in this book.
A few pages into this work it becomes clear that something is very wrong. Bejan is attempting to take credit for the ideas of others. The examples he gives of dissipative structures have long been a topic of study in non-equilibruim thermodynamics - and they are well explained by the principle that they exist in order to feed off free energy and maximize the rate of dissipation.
Any reasonable history of this idea would trace it through the work of Lotke in the 1920s, through Odum and Jaynes, in the 1960s and 1970s, Schneider and Swenson in the 1980s and through to modern workers, such as Dewar.
Bejan gives his own fake history of the idea - in which it was discovered in 1995, and he is its inventor. The book is full of the revelations Bejan has acquired from his principle. However the efforts of other workers in the field are not mentioned anywhere. The whole thing is shameless self-promotion - to the point of deceiving the reader about the history of the science involved. The book is a testament to what can happen to a scientist if they fail to read or understand what other workers in their field are doing. Bejan does mention other scientists - Prigogine, Dawkins and Darwin. However he doesn't to so to build on their work - but rather to illuminate the missteps they made in the preconstructal dark ages. Overall, the self-serving treatment reduces the subject matter to the level of a farce.
Does the author's own formulation add anything? Bejan talks about increase by trial and error which occurs "given freedom". Other scientists talk about maximization subject to constraints. It's different words for the same thing. Bejan talks about "access to flows" - rather than the more conventional "power", "energy" or "entropy". However, flow and entropy generation are intimately related. The main thing the "access to flows" terminology brings with it is vagueness and ambiguity. Elsewhere, the author claims his idea encompasses various other optimization principles that have been proposed in physics. This claim is vacuous.
Another significant issue that I had with the book is its treatment of universal selection and universal Darwinism. There isn't any. Evolution gets discussed, but only fleetingly. Biology clearly isn't the author's speciality, so perhaps we are best off being spared his thoughts on the topic. However you can't credibly write a book on adaptation without treating Darwinism in more detail.
Darwinian evolutionary theory suggests that what is maximized is a quantity related to fitness - and the fitness can be somewhat arbitrarily imposed on a system. In other words, it is possibly to optimize locally for all kinds of things - maximum entropy production, minimum entropy production and all manner of other things. Taking a Darwinian perspective illuminates low level optimization principles by showing where they don't apply locally. For example, a tree does one thing with water flows - and a cactus does something very different. Darwinism is illuminating when it comes to the difference.
Overall, the book's misrepresentation of the science involved destroys most of the value in the book. If the author is so immersed in his own fantasy of being an important scientist, that he doesn't know or understand what other scientists think in his own field, something has gone badly wrong.
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Undoubtedly, “Design in Nature” by Adrian Bejan and J.Read more