Go with the Flow: Where Natural Science and Socal Science Collide


Have you ever noticed the similarity between the structure of a leaf, and the streets of Rome (pictured above)? No? How about diagrams of the internet and a subway system? Do you get out much?

At any rate scientists call these networks, or optimal flow systems, but whatever you call them everyone is in agreement that something interesting is going on with the shapes formed by these seemingly complex relationships. Constructal theory has emerged as a powerful tool to view our world, and even help develop sustainable solutions. But where it really gets exciting and pushes the boundaries of thought (for those who get excited about this sort of thing) is the fact that these patterns occur throughout the natural sciences, social sciences, and information sciences... combining fields of study that usually just make fun of each other. Thus, the new book, Constructal Theory of Social Dynamics, shows how we can view our world regardless of our fields of expertise, and see the evolved patterns of flow systems around us.The book was released last month, and at current prices (~$140 when I last checked), it might be worth hauling yourself to the library to have a peak (or get 20% discount here through July 2007). I have heard many of the authors speak at the Second International Conference of Constructal Theory of Social Dynamics (Full Disclosure- I was a speaker at the conference as well), and was impressed with the wide range of topics covered under constructal theory. If you are one of those people who are interested in patterns, and have a mild tolerance of mathematics (although not required), I recommend checking it out. (Full Disclosure again- I have read many but not all of the essays - Probably too busy ogling leaves and maps to get to them all.)

"Society, with all its layers and features of organization, is a flow system," say co-editors Adrian Bejan and Gilbert Merkx of Duke University. Consequently, these repeating patterns are no accident. "Coincidences that occur in the billions are loud hints that a universal phenomenon is in play."

For more information on constructal theory, feel free to see my previous posts on the topic. The romance with patterns lies in their simple rules, and beautiful results- in all fields of study.

"What is new with constructal theory is that it unites geometry with dynamics in such a way that geometry is not assumed in advance but is the end result of a tendency in time," writes A. Hector Reis of Universidade de Évora in Portugal in his chapter on "flows of people."

::Duke News :: Constructal Web Portal