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The Fourth Dimension of Life: Fractal Geometry and Allometric Scaling of Organisms

Science  04 Jun 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5420, pp. 1677-1679
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5420.1677

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Abstract

Fractal-like networks effectively endow life with an additional fourth spatial dimension. This is the origin of quarter-power scaling that is so pervasive in biology. Organisms have evolved hierarchical branching networks that terminate in size-invariant units, such as capillaries, leaves, mitochondria, and oxidase molecules. Natural selection has tended to maximize both metabolic capacity, by maximizing the scaling of exchange surface areas, and internal efficiency, by minimizing the scaling of transport distances and times. These design principles are independent of detailed dynamics and explicit models and should apply to virtually all organisms.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: gbw{at}lanl.gov

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