Does Anybody Out There Understand the Constructal Law?

It's a fish!

(Image from Kentucky Lake)

I received an email from BoF reader Terri. I tried to respond, but my email bounced. I’ve been having internet connection problems for the last day and a half, but I don’t know if that’s the cause.

Terri wrote:

Today, my local newspaper published a long article about Adrian Bejan’s Constructal Law. I’m not enough of a scientist to judge, but the way the article was written seems to be subtly supporting intelligent design. I would appreciate your opinion, or a reference to another blog or person that could help me; if I am correct, I intend to write the paper about misleading readers.

The article does seem to suggest intelligent design creationism, but that may not be the actual intent. Here’s what I wrote to Terri in my email that bounced:

I read the article. Physical sciences aren’t my expertise, but I don’t think the guy is implying intelligent design. Things are designed by their environment. Look at a fish. They all have similar shapes, because that shape is the most efficient way to travel through water. Through mutation, some fish will have a more efficient design, and some will have less. The more efficient design is selected for. You end up with a design without a designer.

Does anybody out there know more about this Constructal Law and if the guy behind it is promoting ID creationism?

8 Responses to “Does Anybody Out There Understand the Constructal Law?”

  1. Adrian Bejan Says:

    The constructal law is about physics, in this case, the physics phenomenon of generation of pattern in all of nature, the animate and the inanimate realms together.

    Please read the peer-reviewed physics and biology papers and books that appear on constructal theory, for example, those tracked at

    http://www.constructal.org

    See also

    American Scientist, July-August 2006, pages 342-349, the article “Constructing animal locomotion from new thermodynamics theory”, by A. Bejan and J.H. Marden

  2. Terri Says:

    Hi, it’s Terri!
    Thanks for the reply; I’m not sure why it bounced, either. One correction – I think the *article* may be written with a creationist slant, not that the theory itself is slanted. I found a couple of other explanations about the theory, and they seemed much more scientific, without the innuendo.

    For example, in the intro it says:
    “Bejan’s revolutionary idea challenges the age-old assumption that nature is without design.”

    I was not under the impression that science refuted “design”; the recurring patterns of crystalline structures, animal evolutions that most likely survived because their bodies are most efficient at moving through an environment (fish, penguins, etc.). There simply wasn’t an overall theory to explain the various patterns, which constructal seems to do. Have I misunderstood the previous ideas?

  3. Ron Britton Says:

    Terri:

    I think you get it, at least as well as I get it.

    I think you’re right that it was the newspaper article and not Bejan who was implying intelligent design creationism. Maybe you should write that letter to the paper.

    I think it’s pretty slick that the originator of Constructal Law answered my post, and barely more than an hour after I posted it! The internet continues to amaze me.

  4. Terri Says:

    Adrian, thanks for posting! What did you think of the article? Overall, I thought it was well written and explained your theory well. I’m always happy when the ol’ N&O does these kinds of articles; it’s one reason I still subscribe.

  5. Adrian Bejan Says:

    Terri and Ron, thank you.

    I think Peder Zane wrote an excellent article in the N&O. I do not see why he left the impression of creationism. I do not see that in his text, and it was not in our discussion. It is certainly not on our work table.

    We are interested in predicting better, i.e. in better science. For the human mind this has always been the urge, the drive, the direction : to know, to predict, to have the power (etc, to sleep better, and not be afraid in the night). From this, science (physics) flows, and it flows better because we keep our minds open.

    Look again at http://www.constructal.org : I recommend the long Applied Physics Reviews article published in :

    A. Bejan and S. Lorente, Constructal theory of generation of configuration in nature and engineering, Journal of Applied Physics, Vol.100, 2006, 041301.

    This article reviews the current progress, research groups, tests of the theory, and the 200 references that back it up.

  6. Ron Britton Says:

    Adrian:

    I think you’ve come up with an impressive insight. It seems to be holding up to scientific scrutiny. There will be some amazing applications of this principle, as it continues to be applied.

    We’re just a little jumpy about “intelligent design” over here. The creationists comb over all the sciences, looking to quote mine and selectively grab data that they can then spin to allege that either evolution isn’t real or that ID is. I’m surprised they haven’t glommed onto your work for just that reason.

  7. Adrian Bejan Says:

    Ron,

    I think you should bring the constructal law to the attention of Everybody, and let’s see how it does.

    I meant to comment on what you wrote in your first response to Terri:

    –yes, the fishes are “designed by their environment”, and, at the same time, they design their environment. The “swim” is a conga line of eddies, with the front one (the fish) as the motor, the locomotive of the train. They all go together, they are “designed” together. The whole conga line is the best that it can be. Even more clear is the V-shaped flock of birds, where the tip is the motor and the side birds (surfing) visualize the eddies that are not visible downstream of the fish (of course, there are plenty of invisible eddies behind the V as well). See section 9.6(Flying carpets and processions) in my book Shape and Structure from Engineering to Nature (Cambridge University Press, 2000).

    –yes again: “design without a designer”. Here, in place of “designer”, the mind uses “principle”, or “law”. It has always been this way in science. Look at gravitational fall: rats and rocks fall, faster and faster, always. That is design, pattern. Science is not the search for the designer–it is the search for the laws. Galilei saw with his mind the law that summarizes all the “falling” observations, past and future. Improvements for his law followed, e.g. Newton, and civilization now benefits.

    The constructal law is the principle that covers all observations of time-generation of design in nature (pattern, configuration, evolution, selection, shape, structure, complexity, efficient, adaptable, self-optimization, self-organization…these many terms tell us how loudly the phenomenon has been demanding a principle from us).

  8. Adrian Bejan Says:

    This new review paper is relevant to this entire discussion (comments 1-7 above). The paper title is:

    “The constructal unification of biological and geophysical design”, by A. Bejan and J.H. Marden.

    It will appear next week in the journal PHYSICS OF LIFE REVIEWS. Here is the PDF:

    http://www.constructal.org/en/art/PLREV_60.pdf

    Additional (new) developments with the constructal law of design generation in nature are posted at http://www.constructal.org

    Adrian Bejan
    Duke University