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Love a gradient


Posted December 4, 2012 by Dr. Henri Montandon

"Love a Gradiant"

A chorus of voices through millennia:

Heaven’s breath, moving rhythmically, puts life into things.

– Chinese (?)

The one, the few, and the many.

– Aristotle

Dwell as near as possible to the channel in which your life flows.

– Henry David Thoreau

The fundamental principle of human action…is that men seek to gratify their desires with the least exertion.

Henry George

…a peculiar harmony of structure and function in the devices organisms contrive to accomplish things.

– J. Scott Turner

Energy moving through a system tends to organize that system.

– Herbert  Morowtiz

Self-organizing systems, variational principles, self-organizing criticality, power laws, random graphs, homeodynamics, chaos, edge of chaos, non-equilibrium thermodynamics, dissipative systems, phase transitions, small world phenomena, entropy maximization, entropy minimization, autopoiesis are terms, concepts, theories, principles of the time and/or space evolution of gradients in a medium.

While listening to a talk by Ilya Prigogine in September, 1995, Adrian Bejan -Duke University Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering – had an epiphany. Prigogine had asserted that nature’s ubiquitous tree pattern was due to aléatoires – a crap shoot. Dr. Bejan recalls, In a flash,. I realized that the world was not formed by random accidents, chance, and fate but that behind the dizzying diversity is a seamless stream of predictable patterns.

His insight, which he terms the constructal law, is this:

For a finite-size flow system to persist in time (to live), its configuration must evolve in such a way that provides easier access to the currents that flow through it.

In the years following, this law has been used to predict both qualitatively and quantitatively patterned phenomena such as: natural generation-of-flow configurations like river drainage basins, bronchial trees, snowflake patterns, laminar versus turbulent flow, evolutionary change, hierarchical organization and many others.

From Wikipedia:

The constructal law represents three steps toward making “design in nature” a concept and law-based domain in science:

  1. Life is flow: all flow systems are live systems, the animate and the inanimate.
  2. Design generation and evolution is a phenomenon of physics.
  3. Designs have the universal tendency to evolve in a certain direction in time.

The constructal law is a first principle of physics that accounts for all design and evolution in nature. It holds that shape and structure arises to facilitate flow. The designs that arise spontaneously in nature reflect this tendency: they allow entities to flow more easily – to measurably move more current farther and faster for less unit of useful energy consumed. Rain drops, for example, coalesce and move together, generating rivulets, streams and the mighty river basins of the world because this design allows them to move more easily. The constructal law asks the question: Why does this design arise at all? Why can’t the water just seep through the ground? The constructal law provides this answer: Because the water flows better with design. The constructal law covers the tendency of nature to generate designs to facilitate flow.

The constructal law defines the time direction of all evolutionary design phenomena. It states that designs should evolve, acquiring better and better configurations to provide more access for the currents that flow through them. It defines in physics terms what it means to be “fittest”, to “survive”, and to be efficient. Not all changes are improvements, but those that stick measurably enhance flow. The constructal law states that design generation and evolution are macroscopic physics phenomena that arise naturally to provide better and better flow access to the currents that run through them. This occurs at every scale. Each component of an evolving flow system—each rivulet, each tree, each road—acquires evolving designs to facilitate flow access. As these elements coalesce into larger and larger structures (into evolving river basins, forests and transport networks), a hierarchy emerges such that the varying sized components work together so that everything flows more easily. This is seen in the shape and structure of the neural networks in the brain, of the alveoli in the lung, the size and distribution of vegetation in the forest and of human settlements on the map. (Emphasis added.)

http://www.constructal.org/ is the Constructal Theory Web Portal maintained by Dr. Bejan. A theory of such elegance and power begs to be included in the toolkit of everyone studying consciousness science.



Dr. Henri Montandon