Geoffrey West's research centres on a quest to find unifying principles and patterns connecting everything, from cells and ecosystems to cities, social networks and businesses.
Scale addresses big, urgent questions about global sustainability, population explosion, urbanization, ageing, cancer, human lifespans and the increasing pace of life, but also encourages us to question the world around us. Why can we live for 120 years but not for a thousand? Why does the pace of life continually increase? Why do mice live for just two or three years and elephants for up to 75? Why do companies behave like mice, and are they all destined to die? Do cities, companies and human beings have natural, pre-determined lifespans? Are we just a fascinating experiment in natural selection that is ultimately doomed to fail? And what is the origin of the magic number 4 that seems to determine much of physiology and life-history from birth to death?
Geoffrey West is a theoretical physicist whose primary interests have been in fundamental questions in physics, biology and global sustainability. West is a distinguished professor at the Santa Fe Institute, where he served as the president from 2005 to 2009. He also holds visiting positions at Oxford University, Imperial College and Nanyang Technical University in Singapore. West has been cited and admired in the works of many other writers and thinkers, and has given numerous presentations and popular online appearances on TED, Pop-Tech, World Economic Forum and Google Talks. In 2006, he was named to Time magazine's list of the '100 Most Influential People in the World'.
"The sort of big-ideas book that comes along only every few years [...] This is a book full of thrilling ideas"
– Sunday Times
"Magisterial [...] you reach the end of this profound, revealing book rewarded. West shows how scientific method helps to peel back the hidden reality of our world. The concepts of physics dominated the last century. It is the concepts of biology – of networks, evolution and feedback dynamics – that are going to dominate the next"
– Matthew Syed, The Times
"Quite dazzling [...] The book proceeds by introducing one mathematical concept in each chapter (power laws, fractals and so on), and explaining it vividly through numerous examples drawn from biology, history, urban planning, and many other fields [...] written with great joy and a disarming humility"
– Steven Poole, The Spectator
"An absolutely riveting read. Like the best detective story, West lays out the amazing challenge of understanding why animals, cities and companies all scale so uniformly and then skilfully lets us into the secrets that his detective work has uncovered. This book captures the spirit of science in the twenty-first century, revealing the deep connections not just across physics and biology but society and life. The book is a perfect balance between the big scientific story and West's own personal narrative. We accompany the author on his quest to face up to his own mortality while at the same time being exposed to the theoretical discoveries that West has pioneered in his groundbreaking work"
– Marcus du Sautoy, Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University and author of The Great Unknown
"This is an important and original book, of immense scope. Geoffrey West is a polymath, whose insights range over physics, biology and the social sciences. He shows that the sizes, shapes and lifetimes of living things – despite their amazing diversity – display surprising correlations and patterns, and that these follow from basic physical principles. He then discovers, more surprisingly, the emergence of similar 'scaling laws' in human societies – in our cities, companies and social networks. This fascinating book deserves a very wide readership"
– Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal
"Scaling is the most important yet most hidden and rarely discussed attribute – without understanding it one cannot possibly understand the world. This book will expand your thinking from three dimensions to four. Get two copies, just in case you lose one"
– Nassim Nicholas Taleb
"I can think of no more exciting thinker in the world today than Geoffrey West. By bringing a physicist's razor-sharp mind to wonderfully surprising questions – "Why Aren't There Mammals the Size of Tiny Ants?" or "Are Cities and Companies Just Very Large Organisms?" – West forces us to see everything anew, from our own bodies to the mega-cities our species increasingly chooses to inhabit. Scale is a firework display of popular science"
– Niall Ferguson
"Geoffrey West's Scale is a revelation. Based on his path-breaking theory and research on super-linear scaling, it provides powerful new insights into the basic scientific laws that power our modern society and economy, its start-up companies, large corporations and cities. The book is a must-read for CEOs, technologists, mayors, urban leaders and anyone who wants to understand the simple laws that shape the complex, self-organizing world in which we live"
– Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class and a senior editor at The Atlantic
"It's rare in the history of science that someone has a big, bold, beautiful, stunningly simple new idea that also turns out to be right. Geoffrey West had one. And Scale is its story"
– Steven Strogatz, Professor of Mathematics, Cornell University and author of The Joy of X
"Scale is filled with brilliant insights. West illuminates the laws of nature underlying everything from tiny organisms and humans to cities and companies, and provides a quantitative framework for decoding the deep complexity of our interconnected world. If you want to know why companies fail, how cities persist and what is needed to sustain our civilization in this era of rapid innovation, read this amazing book"
– Marc Benioff, founder and CEO of Salesforce
"If there were a Nobel Prize for transdisciplinary science Geoffrey West would have won it for the work covered in Scale. This is a book of great originality and deep importance, containing startling insights about topics as seemingly unrelated as aging and death, sleep, metabolism, cities, energy use, creativity, corporations, and even the sustainability of our existence. If you are curious about how the world really works, you must read this book"
– Bill Miller, LMM Investments
"When Geoffrey West, a brilliant theoretical physicist, turned his lens to the study of life spans, biological systems or cities he stumbled onto a game-changing universal insight about growth and sustainability. Scale is dazzling and provocative and West proves himself to be a compelling and entertaining writer – this is a book we will be talking about for a long time"
– Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone
"This spectacular book on how logarithmic scaling governs everything is packed with news – from the self-similar dynamics of cells and ecosystems to exactly why companies always die and cities don't. I dog-eared and marked up damn near every page"
– Stewart Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Catolog