Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reinventing the Wheel Using Contructal Law

Speaking of reinventing the wheel (the omni-wheel), I was recently reading an article by Adrian Bejan, a Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Duke University.  In the article he surmises that common wisdom is wrong and nature did indeed invent the wheel, not humans.  As a matter of fact, most early humans failed to recognize the properties of the wheel that were happening with bi-pedal motion.  But, there were a few shining stars, as evidenced by Da Vinci's Vitruvia (or the Homer version shown), who recognized the cyclical motion of legs.  (Based on his article, Adrian insists that the wheel was not copied from nature and is in no way a form of biomimicry.  Instead, it is an artifact "of our own evolutionary design for moving our mass on the landscape.")

Although the article makes a great case regarding the evolutionary design of the wheel, I was more interested in his continued reference to constructal law.

The Constructal Theory

Prof. Bejan has a web Portal for Constructal Theory.  It's not much to look at (at the time of this writing) but buried within the hot pink boxes are loads of information regarding contructal law.

I would love to sum up constructal theory here, but I'm afraid that is just not possible.  The multitude of examples on his website where contructal law can be used is nothing short of astounding: making biology and economics like physics; sports; technology; social interactions; web (SEO) traffic; and many many others.  It is hard to tell if Adrian is an engineer or something else.  To be able to take a single unifying law and apply it to any number of areas of study is something I think theoretical physicists would like to have for the universe.

I urge you to open your mind a take a look at the constructal theory web portal.  As Adrian concludes in the article I read, the best way to describe constructal law is that it unites animate and inanimate design phenomena and therefore allows the study of evolution within our lifetimes, not the eons it takes in nature.  Fascinating.


  1. Excellent introduction to the constructal law.

    In addition to, please check the new book "Design in Nature", which will be launched by Doubleday in January 2012,

  2. Thanks for noticing.  Your work reminds me of one of my favorite college professors.  His favorite saying was "make the connection."  It has many deep meanings, but one of the more important ones is that things are more similar than they are different.  Learn how the lessons you learn in one field apply to another - by making the connection - and you can go far in this world.  It appears that you have found a way to "make the connection."