Scaling in Biology: Why Size Matters
While biologists seek general principles that explain the common characteristics of all organisms, we too often ignore that most obvious of traits: an organism's size. We will explore how size determines the form, function, pace, and complexity of life. Our questions will span realms from the miniscule (can bacteria see?) to the gigantic (how many species are there on Earth?) to the fantastic (what would it cost to feed King Kong?) Living things span an amazing range of sizes, and by studying the importance of size in the living world, we will develop a quantitative framework for comparing not just apples and oranges, but bacteria and blue whales. Surreal perspectives on biology such as Swift's Gulliver's Travels, and Kafka's Metamorphosis, as well as films like A Fantastic Voyage and Destroy All Monsters, will further highlight the truly amazing nature of biological reality. This course has no prerequisites.