Scaling Laws: Thermodynamics and Evolution 

This podcast (Waking Up #86 From Cells to Cities) relates to the thermodynamics of evolution, and Jeremy England’s work.

Geoffrey is discussing scaling. And how Energy consumption decreases the more complex an organism. If a cell requires x amount of energy, then a larger biological system, in proportion, requires 75% of the amount of energy to function.

This lends itself to biological systems as being efficient energy diffusers. And explains (in my mind) the driving force of evolution.

There are these power laws that occur when you scale things, like biological organisms and companies and cities. These power laws revolve around the power of 4: for every order of magnitude increase (or double in size), 3/4 or 75% of the energy is needed.

Some things are linear, like heartbeats, the length of aorta, circulatory system, etc.
Metabolism is one of these things that follows a scaling law i.e. Energy consumption.

“Network systems” is what they are referred to when applying the power laws of scaling.

Increased complexity allows for more efficient energy capture and diffusion of organisms.

Evolution is driven in this way. Biological systems evolve in ways that make them more energy efficient.

He examines not only biological systems, but all network systems, such as sociological systems like small businesses vs large corporations, etc.

These scaling laws hold true.

The larger the organism, the slower the metabolism, and the longer it will live, is one of the conclusions.

The evidence indicates that biological systems evolve to become more energy efficient and that evolution is dictated by this demand.

The organisms that don’t follow these scaling laws, for instance, when the environment becomes unstable, die out, as per natural selection. But the ones that continue surviving, and adapting and evolving, do so in a way that captures energy and diffuses it most efficiently.

Obviously when the environment changes, and energy demands shift, and adaptations can’t occur fast enough, the organism dies and the larger the organism, the less adaptable, from a genetic evolution perspective but the smaller the organism, the faster it can adapt to those changes just like small vs large organizations when market forces shift and change.

Larger organisms typically cannot evolve and adapt fast enough to keep up with changing demands, whereas smaller companies are more flexible and adaptable But, larger systems are much more efficient, when there is stability If you look at the genetic timeline, organisms always trend toward more complexity, not less Evolution tends toward more complexity.

That’s what the evidence indicates.

So there is a “driving force”, because it would be such a obvious tendency, the evidence wouldn’t be so conclusive and Geoffrey’s research looks into complexity, and what happens when things are scaled. From the physics perspective, this complexity always leads to more energy efficiency.

You can listen to the podcast and hear his discuss the research when looking at mice and elephants, or bacteria and larger organisms. And the mechanistic evolution is linear, but the metabolism is not. The larger the organism, the less energy it is needed, proportionally, to fuel it. The metabolism is slower.

This further illustrates, to me, that the driver behind all evolution is thermodynamics, i.e. energy driven.

Life is the only “material matter” than increases in complexity, rather than decreases due to entropy, over time.

How is this explained? Energy/ thermodynamics is the primary driver.

That’s the only way this phenomena makes sense. There is no obvious “cosmic” purpose. It only necessitates evolution, as a natural law.

Fractals play an important role.

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