Why is the internal structure of Bacteria so different from the architecture of a nucleated cell? Why do some kinds of organisms stay small, whereas others grow to enormous size? What evolutionary challenges drove life’s major transitions into more and more complex varieties…and what does studying these areas reveal about the changing landscape of our global economy?
New research into the science of scale — how physics operates on systems of different sizes — reveals universal speed limits imposed on biology by the energy required to make or repair component parts. It explains the varying evolutionary pressures on organisms to reallocate resources and change their body plans as they grow. It helps to resolve fierce old debates about just how much contingent history limits a creature’s future evolutionary options. And it illuminates how tradeoffs in resiliency and efficiency constrain the strategies of animals and human institutions alike, favoring self-reliance in some contexts and cooperation in others. Scale helps us prune the tree of possibilities and understand what are and are not likely futures for this planet.
We have a lot to learn from germs and insects…
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