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The Scale of the Tree of Life from Molecules and Cells to Whales and Ecosystems

Life is the most complex physical system in the Universe. It is manifested in an extraordinary diversity of forms, functions and behaviors ranging over a remarkable billion trillion fold mass scale from the smallest microbes (mycoplasma) to the largest animals (whales) and plants (sequoias). In spite of this, many of life's most fundamental and seemingly most complex attributes scale with size in a surprisingly simple fashion. The basic idea is that, driven by natural selection, life at all scales is sustained by hierarchical fractal-like branching network systems whose universal characteristics determine many of the generic properties of living organisms. Examples include the macroscopic cardiovascular, respiratory and neural systems of mammals, the interconnectedness of an ecosystem, and the microscopic pathways within mitochondria. Functionally, biological systems are ultimately limited by the rates at which energy, materials and information can be supplied through these networks. This set of lectures explore and develop these ideas as a unified vision for viewing many phenomena where hierarchical structures have evolved.

Geoffrey West is President and Distinguished Professor, Santa Fe Institute.

NOTE: Please excuse the production quality of some of our older videos. They were transferred from our video tape archive.

The Scale of the Tree of Life Santa Fe Institute

    • Naturwissenschaften

The Scale of the Tree of Life from Molecules and Cells to Whales and Ecosystems

Life is the most complex physical system in the Universe. It is manifested in an extraordinary diversity of forms, functions and behaviors ranging over a remarkable billion trillion fold mass scale from the smallest microbes (mycoplasma) to the largest animals (whales) and plants (sequoias). In spite of this, many of life's most fundamental and seemingly most complex attributes scale with size in a surprisingly simple fashion. The basic idea is that, driven by natural selection, life at all scales is sustained by hierarchical fractal-like branching network systems whose universal characteristics determine many of the generic properties of living organisms. Examples include the macroscopic cardiovascular, respiratory and neural systems of mammals, the interconnectedness of an ecosystem, and the microscopic pathways within mitochondria. Functionally, biological systems are ultimately limited by the rates at which energy, materials and information can be supplied through these networks. This set of lectures explore and develop these ideas as a unified vision for viewing many phenomena where hierarchical structures have evolved.

Geoffrey West is President and Distinguished Professor, Santa Fe Institute.

NOTE: Please excuse the production quality of some of our older videos. They were transferred from our video tape archive.

    • video
    Lecture I: The Scale of the Tree of Life

    Lecture I: The Scale of the Tree of Life

    Life is the most complex physical system in the Universe.

    • 1 Std. 38 Min.
    • video
    Lecture II: The Scale of the Tree of Life

    Lecture II: The Scale of the Tree of Life

    Life is the most complex physical system in the Universe.

    • 1 Std. 34 Min.
    • video
    Lecture III: The Scale of the Tree of Life

    Lecture III: The Scale of the Tree of Life

    Life is the most complex physical system in the Universe.

    • 1 Std. 49 Min.

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