MedTech I.Q.

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Systems Biology: Scaling Laws In Biology And Other Complex Systems

In this Google TechTalk, Dr Geoffrey West, President and Distinguished Professor, Santa Fe Institute describes mathematical scaling laws as they relate to systems biology. Life is very likely the most complex phenomenon in the Universe manifesting an extraordinary diversity of form and function over an enormous range. Yet, many of its most fundamental and complex attributes scale with size in a surprisingly simple fashion. For example, metabolic rate (the power required to sustain the system) scales as approximately the 3/4-power of mass over 27 orders of magnitude from molecular levels up to the largest multicellular organisms. Similarly, time-scales, such as lifespans and growth-rates, increase with exponents which are typically simple powers of 1/4.

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