Ep 3. Geoffrey West

By Jack Shannan

Our Guest

Geoffrey is a theoretical physicist whose primary interests have been in fundamental questions in physics, especially those concerning the elementary particles, their interactions and cosmological implications. West served as President for the Santa Fe Institute from 2005 through to 2009. Prior to joining the Santa Fe Institute he was the leader, and founder, of the high energy physics group at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

He is known for his work in describing the universal scaling laws that pervade biology from the molecular genomic scale up through mitochondria and cells to whole organisms and ecosystems.

This work outlined in his book 2017 ‘Scale’ provides a framework for quantitative understanding of problems ranging from fundamental issues in biology (such as cell size, growth, metabolic rate, DNA nucleotide substitution rates, and the structure and dynamics of ecosystems) to questions at the forefront of medical research (such as aging, sleep, and cancer).

I plan to discuss Geoffrey’s ideas in the light of an attempt understand the relationship of these scaling laws to the structure and dynamics of social organizations, such as cities and corporations, including the relationships between economies of scale, growth, innovation and wealth creation and their implications for long-term survivability and sustainability of companies and their surrounding societies.

You should know Geoffrey’s ideas are in the realm of the biggest of the big picture stuff - why do we shuffle off this mortal coil, how long will we live, and why do we die, why does everything die - or does it? Why do cities seem not to die even though their constituents mostly certainly do and what about organizations - are they like cities or biological creatures - if we know the cause of these calamities could we stop them, remedy them? These are the questions that we will be investigating.