Colloquium: Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute

A physicist’s search for the universal laws of life, growth, death and sustainability from organisms to cities and societies

Abstract:  Why do we stop growing, live for 100 years and sleep 8 hours a day? Why do all companies and people die whereas cities keep growing and the pace of life continues to accelerate. And how are these related to innovation, wealth creation social networks, urbanization and the long-term sustainability of the planet? These are among the questions that will be addressed in this lecture. Although life is probably the most complex and diverse phenomenon in the Universe, many of its fundamental characteristics scale with size in a surprisingly simple, universal fashion: metabolic rate, for example, scales systematically from cells to whales, while time-scales from lifespans to growth-rates, and sizes from genome lengths to tree heights, do likewise. Remarkably, cities, companies and universities exhibit similar systematic scaling: wages, profits, patents, crime, disease, and roads all scale approximately universally. The origin of these laws will be explained and a conceptual framework based on generic principles of the underlying networks that sustain life from circulatory systems to social networks will be presented. Their dynamics, which transcend history, geography and culture, have dramatic implications for growth and long-term global sustainability and collapse.

Start date
Thursday, March 17, 2022, 3:35 p.m.
End date
Thursday, March 17, 2022, 4:35 p.m.

via zoom