|Born||Goeffrey Brian West
1940 (age 76â€“77)
Taunton, Somerset, United Kingdom
|Institutions||Santa Fe Institute
Los Alamos National Laboratory
University of New Mexico
|Alma mater||University of Cambridge
|Thesis||I. Form Factors of the Three-Body Nuclei II. Coulomb Scattering and the Form Factor of the Pion (1966)|
|Known for||Metabolic theory of ecology|
|Notable awards||Mercer Award|
I've always wanted to find the rules that govern everything. It's amazing that such rules exist. It's even more amazing that we can find them.
When you look at a city, you know, it looks so unique. You feel this kind of uniqueness, you know, and especially if you go from a big city to a small city or if you go from one country to another. Cities look very different, often. They even feel very different. You know, and they are, of course. They certainly are.
Every fundamental law has exceptions. But you still need the law or else all you have is observations that don't make sense. And that's not science. That's just taking notes.
You could not have evolved a complex system like a city or an organism – with an enormous number of components – without the emergence of laws that constrain their behavior in order for them to be resilient.
Tell me the size of a mammal and I can tell you, to about 85 per cent level, pretty much everything about its physiology and life history, such as how long it is going to live, how many offspring it will have, the length of its aorta, how long it will take to mature, what is the pulse rate in the ninth branch of its circuitry.
Sometimes, I look out at nature and I think, 'Everything here is obeying my conjecture.' It's a wonderfully narcissistic feeling.
Your cells are not working as hard as your dog's but harder than your horse's. The bigger the animal, the less energy needed to sustain a gram of tissue.
I spent most of my career doing high-energy physics, quarks, dark matter, string theory and so on.
On average, an individual doesn't have a powerful connection with more than four to six people, and that's just as true here in the U.S. as it is in China.
The paradigm of physics – with its interplay of data, theory and prediction – is the most powerful in science.
When I first saw California, it was extraordinary. Because I came from old, black, dark England, still recovering from World War II. I grew up with bomb sites everywhere.
Cities are the origins of global warming, impact on the environment, health, pollution, disease, finance, economies, energy are all problems that are confronted by having cities. That's where they – all these problems come from.
Life is extraordinarily resilient. It's been around for over a billion years.
One of the remarkable things about slums is that they do develop their own social organization and economy and even culture that is, on some level, functional and in some cases, remarkably resilient. This is kind of amazing.
A human being at rest runs on 90 watts. That's how much power you need just to lie down. And if you're a hunter-gatherer and you live in the Amazon, you'll need about 250 watts. That's how much energy it takes to run about and find food.
Everything around us is scale dependent. It's woven into the fabric of the universe.
My provocative statement is that we desperately need a serious, scientific theory of cities and scientific theory means quantifiable, relying on underlying generic principles that can be made in a – put into a predictive framework. That's the quest.
We form cities in order to enhance interaction, to facilitate growth, wealth creation, ideas, innovation, but in so doing, we create, from a physicist's viewpoint, entropy.
Slums could be thought of as the development of a special organ, or they could be thought of as a tumor that's grown, and in some ways is unhealthy and could ultimately lead to the city's destruction. My own feeling is that slums are probably a bit of both.
Cities are just a physical manifestation of your interactions, our interactions, and the clustering and grouping of individuals.
If you ask people why they move to the city, they always give the same reasons. They've come to get a job or follow their friends or to be at the center of a scene. That's why we pay the high rent. Cities are all about the people, not the infrastructure.
Once we started to urbanize, we put ourselves on this treadmill. We traded away stability for growth. And growth requires change.
Cities are obvious metaphors for life. We call roads 'arteries' and so forth.