The Winter issue of strategy+business includes a very interesting article on theoretical physicist Geoffrey West, - The Fortune 500 Teller. Dr. West is Distinguished Professor and Past President of the Santa Fe Institute (SFI), a non-profit research institute dedicated to the study of complex systems. Prior to joining the SFI in 2003, he was the leader and founder of the high energy physics group at Los Alamos National Lab.
About 20 years ago, West got interested in whether some of the techniques and principles from the world of physics could be applied to complex biological and social systems. In particular, he wondered if we could apply empirical, quantifiable and predictive scientific methods to help us better understand complex biological organisms and social organizations like cities and companies.
In the 1990s, his attention first turned to biology. There are enormous variations in the characteristics of living creatures, their live spans, pulse rates, metabolism, and so on. How do these characteristics change with body size? Why do human beings live roughly 80 to 100 years, while mice live only two to three years. Are there some common principles that apply to all living creatures regardless of size? Can we find empirical mathematical models that might allow scientists to ask big questions about life, aging and death?