Response From Dr. Adrian Bejan on Design of Nature

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Response From Dr. Adrian Bejan on Design of Nature

I was honored to receive the following comment from Dr. Adrian Bejan at Duke about my post on his book yesterday.  Since many of you may not follow the comments, I will re-post here. I am also asking Dr. Bejan to perhaps weigh in one more time with a clarification that can help us understand or predict some evolution in these massive knowledge connections as they pertain to the development of global K-12 learning.

Dr. Bejan wrote:

Thank you for this very interesting essay and discussion. The current grass-roots contributions to K-12 education are in accord with the constructal law, not against it.

They are the early design of a new flow system, like the new rain falling on the smooth plain, and like the Internet in its early stages. In time, the better ideas contributed to this global K-12 flow tissue will attract more users, and will become bigger nodes, trunks and big branches…and on this way to the “few large and many small” design of all flow systems that are old enough to have perfected their flowing (like the textbook publishers, river basins, and most popular web sites).

The natural emergence of hierarchy (i.e., tree shaped flow structures) is already happening in this new way of distributing knowledge on the globe. It has been this way with every new technique of spreading ideas. More examples are in the articles and videos posted at

My follow-on question:

I understand the evolution and geometry of the system, and in particular the example of a stream system (I am a geologist from back in the day).  And I understand how good ideas with more impact will tend to create larger channels of flow which will drive the design of an interconnected knowledge system, what I am calling the cognitosphere.  At the same time those channels are growing larger, is there not a counter-mechanism that is increasing the distribution of nodes and connections as more students, teachers, schools, and other knowledge centers connect in an increasing way?  Is the geography of these possible connections the same as the geography of a plain on which rain falls?  The plain has a limited number of surface gradients down which water can flow before those flows coalesce.  It seems that the number of connection pathways available to the global terrain of K-12 students is much larger: billions of students and teachers, and millions of other sources of idea creation and sharing.  As these increasingly connect point-to-point, bypassing larger channels in the hierarchy, how will that impact the design being driven by the constructal law?  Is it just a matter of scale? Whereas a stream or vascular system may have N number of component sizes, should be predict a much higher number for N in the system of global knowledge connectivity?  Flow on the Internet has been channeled through some very large for-profit mechanisms that are certainly present in the sphere of K-12 learning, but K-12 learning has a degree of freedom that we can imagine is not slave to those same profit forces.

I don’t think this is just an interesting coffee table discussion for K-12 schools.  We are in the process of re-imagining what learning looks like, and working with first principles and laws of physics makes a heck of a lot more sense than working against them!

Thanks again to Dr. Bejan for helping us understand the nature of the constructal law as we apply it to the radical pace of K-12 education innovation.

By | 2013-01-25T17:04:49+00:00 January 25th, 2013|Governance and leadership, Innovation in Education|7 Comments

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