Science and Inquiry discussion

Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life, in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies
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Book Club 2017 > November 2017 - Scale

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message 1: by Betsy, co-mod (new)

Betsy | 1669 comments Mod
For November 2017, we will be reading Scale: The Universal Laws of Life and Death in Organisms, Cities and Companies by Geoffrey West.

Please use this thread to post questions, comments, and reviews, at any time.


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) | 260 comments The book is interesting. I never thought of ‘scale’ as being something which can be predicted before.


message 3: by Betsy, co-mod (new)

Betsy | 1669 comments Mod
This book looks really interesting, but the 500 page length is really daunting to me. I'm a slow reader. At my normal rate it would probably take me three or four months.

Can one of you let me know how much of the length is regular text as opposed to index, notes, acknowledgements, etc.? Thanks.


message 4: by aPriL does feral sometimes (last edited Nov 10, 2017 11:05PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) | 260 comments Betsy wrote: "This book looks really interesting, but the 500 page length is really daunting to me. I'm a slow reader. At my normal rate it would probably take me three or four months.

Can one of you let me kn..."


It is 456 pages. For me, it is a medium-hard dense read. I am a fast reader - normally a 300-page YA takes me one day - but I think this one will take me several weeks. I think it is worth the effort, but jhc.

I have the feeling I am getting 2/3rds of the ideas. Re-reads of pages are helping, but I am finding the fact cities and mammals have growth rates which are mathematically similar and such ideas amazing, like I felt in Statistics class. I think he is saying physics laws control all atoms, so nothing is an accident. Atoms behave according to scientific principles 100%, so life and a chair are exactly what physics laws allow.

That actually jives with a few Big Bang books I half understood. This universe is running by a particular set of mathematical laws, producing the physics every atom works with.

As a secretary, and an atheist, I think I am getting this. West is anti-Dawkins I think. But why can’t they both be right? Why are atoms working as they do within physical laws not be able to accidentally produce stuff? It happens all of the time on Doctor Who.

Forgive my level of scientific understanding, everybody. I am honestly more knowledgeable about science since I started this club for which I am grateful. But I still am more of a Lit/history nerd, and a B student at that. This math stuff is above my pay grade. Despite the fact West has limited the math because he wants to reach the general reader like myself, I can feel the math behind the ideas, so to speak. The concepts came from the math he is not describing in too much detail.


Steve Cavit (stc123) | 10 comments Tackling this book is an interesting challenge. It can be read swiftly for a quick overview, but little understanding. Or, it can be studied slowly to gain depth of understanding. I find myself slowing down and speeding up depending on how deeply I want to understand a specific point or methodology. It's like a drive through country towns linked by freeways. I'm enjoying the experience and learning new things. I think that it will be worth a second read in a few months.


message 6: by David (last edited Nov 24, 2017 06:26AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

David Rubenstein | 873 comments Mod
I have started reading this book. It is marvelous! In this book, Geoffrey West describes, step by step, a theory that explains a vast range of scaling phenomena, including animals, plants, cities and companies. Before starting the book, I thought that it would be ho-hum. But instead, I am just amazed by how all-encompassing his ideas are. I have not yet gotten to the point in the book where he explains his theory why all of the many biological scaling laws scale as multiples of 1/4. For me, this is an exciting book.


David Rubenstein | 873 comments Mod
Betsy wrote: "This book looks really interesting, but the 500 page length is really daunting to me. I'm a slow reader. At my normal rate it would probably take me three or four months.

Can one of you let me kn..."


Betsy, the book proper ends at page 426. Following this there is a 22-page Afterword, an 8-page Postscript and Acknowlegments, 8 pages of Notes, a 15-page Index, and finally a 1-page List of Illustrations.


David Rubenstein | 873 comments Mod
I just finished this book; it is fantastic! I highly recommend it to everyone. Here is my review.


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) | 260 comments I am a little over half-way into the book. I am so surprised how EVERYTHING related to growth - living bodies and cities - have an optimum value of efficient operation, and it has been discovered to conform to a specific math ratio which can be found to be common to many disparate forms.


message 10: by Katy (new) - added it

Katy (kathy_h) | 173 comments David wrote: "I just finished this book; it is fantastic! I highly recommend it to everyone. Here is my review."

I was a bit intimidated by this book. Thanks to your review I think I'm going to pick it up!


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