University System of Georgia On Being the Right Size Essay

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In the essay, On Being the Right Size by J.B.S. Haldane, the author considers the effects of scaling on the anatomy and physiology of animals: He, claims, “For every type of animal there is a most convenient size, and a large change in size inevitably carries with it a change of form.”

His argument is based on physics. If length is scaled by a factor of ten, then area scales by a factor of a hundred, and volume by a thousand. So, as a first approximation, if an animal is ten times bigger than another, it needs a thousand times more energy to stay alive.

For this discussion, read the essay and then explore a topic other than animal physiology for which size may have an effect on form or function. Examples could include: buildings and architecture, molecular structures, or star formation. Social institutions, like governments or economies, are also a possibility.




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