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April 2015, vol 11 no 1

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Lew Watts

We are vessels filled by a 3-dimensional fractal of vesicles

That is Geoff West summarizing one conclusion from his mathematical paper* on why animals show a consistent scaling phenomenon. I nod uncertainly over my coffee, but decide to ask him for a simpler insight that I can share with some of my non-scientific friends.

"Tell them this," he says, "that sometimes you need a key, a way to unlock two seemingly unrelated observations. For example, large animals have slow heartbeats, yet small animals have fast heartbeats – why? Then again, small animals live for a short time whereas large animals can live for many years – why? When all is said and done, it's because our vascular systems age. You see, all animals live for around one billion heartbeats."

Tick tock . . .

final days . . .
driving through aspens dad asks
are we there yet

Note: * Geoffrey B. West, James H. Brown and Brian J. Enquist, "The Origin of Universal Scaling Laws in Biology," in Scaling in Biology, Oxford University Press, 2000.