I recently received a copy of Design in Nature: How the Constructal Law Governs Evolution in Biology, Physics, Technology, and Social Organization, a fascinating book by Dr. Adrian Bejan and Professor J. Peder Zane.
The title is kind of a mouthful, but the basic premise of Constructal Law is easy to grasp: In order for a system to survive, it must grow in a way that best facilitates flow. Therefore, design in nature – design anywhere – follows certain physical laws: Lightning forks the way it does in the sky because that’s the best way to carry energy. Your circulatory system works the way it does because that’s the best way to carry blood. This principle even applies to other sorts of systems: schools of fish, governments and man-made structures.
The idea is a sublime one. All of us, everything around us, all that was, and is, and ever will be: parts of a beautiful iteration of infinite order. It’s also a familiar one, at least to me – and maybe to you.
In 1977 George Lucas introduced me to a way of thinking that I’ve never entirely abandoned: The Force. The Force and Constructal Law seem, at least on paper, to share a number of things in common: both describe an underlying principle that gives order to the universe, flows through all of us and is all around us. While the Constructal Law doesn’t create Force Lightning, it does describe the flow of real lightning. We don’t construct temples to study Constructal Law, but Constructal Law does underlie the construction of our temples.
I’m not trying to say that there’s anything mystical about Constructal Law, but sometimes myth and mysticism offer us new ways of looking at the universe. Maybe old Ben Kenobi and Yoda were on to something, and so were the Taoists who inspired them. Perhaps The Force, the powers of Constructal Law, and the Taoists’ Qi are similar ways of answering the eternal question: “Why?”