Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Size Does Matter.

Rand Simberg points out that Godzilla would burn up because it would be just too darn big to release all the heat generated by its metabolism.

In an era in which popular thinking more and more presumes that one thing or another traditionally given weight just doesn't matter, it is important to have such a jarring reminder dropped on us of what should be the obvious fact that SIZE DOES MATTER. Put another way: No, you can't just scale everything up. It doesn't work with pastry recipes, and it doesn't work with warm-blooded animals.

Here's another reminder: You can't kill a mouse by dropping it out of an airplane.

As an animal gets smaller, the ratio of its the two-dimensional cross-section shrinks with the square of its height, but its volume and weight shrink with the cube of its height. You can't kill a mouse by dropping it because a mouse is so small it has becomes its own parachute. It's terminal velocity is less than the velocity that would kill it.

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