Adrian Bejan, J.A. Jones Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Duke University, delivers a thought-provoking analysis of the mechanics of life, energy, and the science of our natural world.
Bejan is world renowned for his pioneering work in engineering and applied science. Specifically, his extensive research has delved deep into multiple areas of science—engineering and applied physics covering thermodynamics, heat transfer and convection, as well as design and evolution in the natural world. Bejan has been celebrated for his work, receiving 18 honorary doctorates from prestigious universities around the world, and he has authored 30 books and in excess of 650 articles on various subjects in his many areas of expertise. His recent book, The Physics of Life The Evolution of Everything, is considered a must-read for the scientific community and anyone who is interested in practical science and the origin of living things.
Professor Bejan delivers a robust overview of the areas of practical science that are misunderstood, and some that are simply incorrect. Bejan lists a few of the commonly held theories that are inaccurate: that nature is complicated, that we cannot predict nature, and that we are threatened by a population explosion. He cites specific examples that prove his theories about the aforementioned. He states that many of those who speak about science publicly are not actually trained in science. As such, ideas can float around in the public discourse that may not be based in hard science.
The engineering and science professor discusses thermodynamics, which is, as he describes, everything that has to do with movement—movement that comes from power, with the power coming from burning fuels, etc. Two things are certain: thermodynamics is about everything, and changes are occurring continually in science. The physics of evolution is constantly pushing all life and manufacturing to become a better version of itself. Changes occur, and science is the reason. Professor Bejan talks about the details of the physics of evolution, touching on the topic of power, as he states that nature is full of engines. He details the structure of the greatest engines of Earth. The earth, as an engine, drives our atmosphere and heating from the sun and cooling by the sky drive the earth engine. And this immense power delivery drives all the things on Earth.
Bejan explains energy within animals and life in general. He talks about the elements of life and predictable design in nature. He states that much in science is recognizable and easy to draw, and all too often we overcomplicate the basic elements and structures of life. Bejan talks about the meaning of the word evolution, and how it is used in every language in western civilization and was certainly not invented or coined by Darwin. Bejan speaks of evolution as a ‘moving forward’ that assures us that tomorrow will be different than today—the future will be different than the past.
Professor Bejan talks about the laws of physics as they relate to evolution, and how the laws of physics help us to see oneness in nature as opposed to blinding complexity. Further, Bejan discusses our organic preference for certain forms in nature, such as the golden ratio. As he explains, there is a globally accepted preference for forms due to the fact that certain shapes are the easiest to be perceived and scanned by the human eye. From business cards to flags to computer screens, we have shaped our world with the shapes that the physics of our humanity prefers.
Professor Bejan continues to explore his interests in thermodynamics and applied physics, as well as evolution in nature, and his work is pushing the scientific world forward, advancing the understanding of life itself.