Penn State

Sean N. Brennan - associate professor of mechanical engineering, Penn State University Park

Book Title: On Size and Life

Author: Thomas McMahon and John Bonner

Book Description:

I vividly remember the first time I found this gem by McMahon and Bonner sitting on a library shelf, and it stands as the book most often "permanently borrowed" from my office by my students. The technical content—about why animals, machines, and humans are sized as they are—is intentionally presented for the layperson unfamiliar with allometry, yet has benefited both my PhD thesis and my subsequent research in countless ways. But look deeper and the entire book is really a message of connectedness between all nature that is quantifiable, provable, and in many cases, not yet completely understood. On days that are best described as intellectually dreary, this is the book that I re-read to again feel that special spark of curiosity in how deeply bound we are to the laws of the universe: from the shape of our bones and bridges, to the beating of our hearts and pistons. It may not give the meaning of life, but this book is an exemplar of how mankind's intellect can illuminate marvelous structure hidden within the seemingly mundane and haphazard world that surrounds us.


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