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Unifying the animate and the inanimate designs of nature
Date:4/28/2009

DURHAM, N.C. -- Living beings and inanimate phenomena may have more in common than previously thought.

At least that is the view of Duke University engineer Adrian Bejan and Penn State biologist James Marden.

What they believe connects the two worlds is a theory that flow systems from animal locomotion to the formation of river deltas -- evolve in time to balance and minimize imperfections. Flows evolve to reduce friction or other forms of resistance, so that they flow more easily with time. This view has been termed the constructal law, which Bejan first stated 13 years ago.

With the help of Marden, Bejan believes that he has now unified both the biological and geophysical principles of nature's design through the constructal law, which can also be viewed as the physics of evolution.

"This is an exciting development for physicists, but it should also resonate with biologists," Bejan said. "The idea that organic evolution is analogous to the way form evolves in inanimate flow systems is a novel concept that has the potential to unite perspectives and approaches across disparate disciplines. We suggest that the constructal law provides a powerful tool for examining and understanding variation in both the animate and inanimate compartments of nature."

The team's findings were published online in the journal Physics of Life Reviews. It was supported by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the National Science Foundation.

The story began with the two scientists trying to determine if the same laws applied to two very different forms of locomotion -- the swimming of fish and the running or flying of animals. The commonly held belief among biologists was that fish locomotion was different than other animal locomotion. Since they live in water, the conventional wisdom held, fish were different because they would not be subject to gravity.

The way Bejan saw it, birds and animals co
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Contact: Richard Merritt
richard.merritt@duke.edu
919-660-8414
Duke University
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2

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