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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Kleiber's Law - Applied to Cities?

Kleiber's law, named after Max Kleiber's biological work in the early 1930s, is the observation that, for the vast majority of animals, an animal's metabolic rate scales to the ¾ power of the animal's mass.

Essentially, the bigger you, the slower your metabolism.  Another way to say this is the larger the animal the slower the heart rate.  An interesting consequence of this is that all animals tend to have the same number of heartbeats over their lifetimes.  Bigger animals just take longer to use up the allotted amount.

Can you apply the same thinking to cities?  Cities certainly represent a type of living organism if you will.  According to Steven Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come From:  The Natural History of Innovation, 'theoretical physicist Geoffrey West decided to investigate whether Kleiber's law applied to one of life's largest creations:  the super organism of human-built cities'.

From an energy perspective, 'a city was just a scaled up elephant'.  Less energy is used when a city become denser.  

The most curious thing is what happens to the people of a city as the population grows.  Apparently, the opposite of Kleiber's Law occurs in terms of the creativity of its inhabitants.  In terms of size, when a city was bigger, the inhabitants were metabolically more active in terms of innovation.  "A city that was ten times larger than its neighbor wasn't ten times more innovative; it was SEVENTEEN times more innovative.  A metropolis fifty times bigger than a town was 130 times more innovative'.  


As Nashville grows, we need better ways to get its people around.  In every way possible, please support and encourage sidewalk production.  And, what I mean by this, is really well designed sidewalks that are beautiful, unique and interesting to walk on.

Please consider making a donation to The Sidewalk Foundation.

Let's turn Nashville into a Pedestrian Paradise!

Walk Nashville Month
October 2014

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Where Good Ideas Come From:  The Natural History of Innovation 
Steven Johnson, 2010's_law

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