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Mathematical Physics Seminar

On the future of the planet; universal laws of life, growth and death from organisms and cities to the anthroposphere

Geoffrey West -Santa Fe Institute

Location:  Zoom
Date & time: Wednesday, 22 March 2023 at 10:45AM - 11:45PM

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 all of these related to innovation, wealth creation and the long-term sustainability of the planet? Although life is probably the most complex and diverse phenomenon in the Universe, many of its characteristics scale with size in a surprisingly simple fashion: time-scales and rates from metabolism and growth to lifespans and evolution, and sizes from genome lengths and RNA densities to tree heights, systematically scale as power laws whose exponents are typically simple multiples of 1/4. Likewise, cities and companies also exhibit systematic scaling: wages, profits, patents, crime, disease, and roads all scale in an approximately “universal” fashion. The origin of these laws, which constrain much of the coarse-grained structure and dynamics of living systems, will be addressed and related to the underlying generic dynamical and geometric structure of the space-filling, fractal-like networks that sustain life from circulatory systems to social networks. In addition to capturing many essential features of diverse biological and social phenomena, such as the questions posed above, the theory exhibits singularity structure in its socio-economic sector indicative of phase transitions which have potentially dramatic implications for global sustainability and the future of the planet.