Get the key ideas from

Scale

The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies and Companies

By Geoffrey West
16-minute read
Audio available
Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies and Companies by Geoffrey West

Scale (2017) is a glimpse into the hidden and fascinating world of the mathematical relationships that tie the world together. The blinks describe how such laws connect everything from microscopic organisms to international metropolises, and what they can tell us about the behavior of complex systems.

This is a Blinkist staff pick

“These blinks were somewhat of an unexpected delight. Scale covers the often surprising laws that govern how various phenomena relate as they scale, and their consequences; from why transatlantic steamships were initially considered a silly idea to why you don’t have to fear meeting Godzilla in the streets anytime soon. A really interesting read!”

– Erik, English Production Manager at Blinkist

  • Physicists, biologists, mathematicians and economists
  • City planners, company owners and innovators
  • Environmentalists and anyone interested in sustainable development

Geoffrey West is a theoretical physicist whose interests range from the fundamental questions of physics to biology and global sustainability. He is a distinguished professor at the Santa Fe Institute and a visiting professor at Oxford University, Imperial College and Nanyang Technical University in Singapore. He was listed on Time magazine’s 2006 list of the “100 Most Influential People In the World.”

Go Premium and get the best of Blinkist

Upgrade to Premium now and get unlimited access to the Blinkist library. Read or listen to key insights from the world’s best nonfiction.

Upgrade to Premium

What is Blinkist?

The Blinkist app gives you the key ideas from a bestselling nonfiction book in just 15 minutes. Available in bitesize text and audio, the app makes it easier than ever to find time to read.

Discover
3,000+ top
nonfiction titles

Get unlimited access to the most important ideas in business, investing, marketing, psychology, politics, and more. Stay ahead of the curve with recommended reading lists curated by experts.

Join Blinkist to get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from

Scale

The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies and Companies

By Geoffrey West
  • Read in 16 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 10 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies and Companies by Geoffrey West
Synopsis

Scale (2017) is a glimpse into the hidden and fascinating world of the mathematical relationships that tie the world together. The blinks describe how such laws connect everything from microscopic organisms to international metropolises, and what they can tell us about the behavior of complex systems.

This is a Blinkist staff pick

“These blinks were somewhat of an unexpected delight. Scale covers the often surprising laws that govern how various phenomena relate as they scale, and their consequences; from why transatlantic steamships were initially considered a silly idea to why you don’t have to fear meeting Godzilla in the streets anytime soon. A really interesting read!”

– Erik, English Production Manager at Blinkist

Key idea 1 of 10

A hidden pattern sustains all life and culture.

Earth is home to over 8 million different species, from microscopic bacteria to enormous blue whales, as well as an incredible diversity of social life, cultures, cities and traditions.

It can be quite overwhelming to think about. But the truth is that there are some surprising systematic patterns behind the complexity of biological and socioeconomic life. For instance, if you plot a graph of the metabolic rate of animals – that is, the amount of energy they spend per unit of time – against the body mass of those animals, you’ll see a perfectly straight line.

That’s right; the metabolic rate of any animal from a mouse to an elephant is perfectly fixed relative to its body mass. Not only that, but if in the same equation you substitute the metabolic rate for the total number of heartbeats in an animal’s life, you’ll get another straight line!

There is, however, one trick at play. To get this result, the scales need to be logarithmic, meaning the units on each axis need to increase by factors of ten, so from one to ten to 100, and so on.

Take an example from the world of economics: if you plot out the number of patents registered in a city against that city’s population, you’ll find that the number of patents will increase 15 percent faster than the population, also producing a straight line.

Are these incredible correlations mere coincidences?

Hardly. What you’re actually observing are called scaling relationships. The examples above are just a peek into the ways organisms and cities scale with size, and understanding this phenomenon can illuminate much about the world.

For instance, new drugs are often tested on mice to model the way they’ll impact the human body. However, mice are of course much smaller than people – so how can scientists draw conclusions about humans from tests on rodents? Well, scaling can explain the answer. In the following blinks, you’ll learn about other incredible ways scaling can explain organisms, cities and even companies.

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

Key ideas in this title

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

No time to
read?

Pssst. Sign up to your secret to success: key ideas from top nonfiction in just 15 minutes.
Created with Sketch.