There is an apocryphal story about a graduate mathematics student at the University of Virginia studying the properties of certain mathematical objects. In his fifth year some killjoy bastard elsewhere published a paper proving that there are no such mathematical objects. He dropped out of the program, and I never did hear where he is today. He's probably making my cappuccino right now.
This week, a professor named Peter Sheridan Dodds published a new paper in Physical Review Letters further fleshing out a theory concerning why a 2/3 power law may apply for metabolic rate. The 2/3 law says that metabolic rate in animals rises as the 2/3 power of body mass. It was in a 2001 Journal of Theoretical Biology paper that he first argued that perhaps a 2/3 law applies, and that paper -- along with others such as the one that just appeared -- is what has put him in the Killjoy Hall of Fame. The University of Virginia's killjoy was a mere amateur.
The 2/3 scaling law, you see, is intuitively obvious (even if not intuitively obvious to truly defend in detail). The surface area of animals scales as the 2/3 power of their body mass, and so the rate of heat loss scales as the 2/3 power. If metabolic rate scaled as the 2/3 power, few theorists would probably have bothered taking the problem on.
But in the 1930s one Max Kleiber accumulated data that suggested to him that metabolic rate scales as the 3/4 power of body mass. It came to be known as Kleiber's Law. 3/4 is fun. ...to a theorist. 2/3, however, is boring. 3/4 is so fun that theorists had a field day trying to explain it, and there was an especially gigantic spike in the fun starting from 1997, especially from a series of papers by West, Brown and Enquist, and also by Banavar and Maritan.
And that's when buzzkill Dodds came along with his 2001 paper. He re-examined the data, and suggested that a 2/3 law could not be rejected. There may be no 3/4 law to explain after all. Nothing to see here, move along everyone. That paper further put salt in the wound by pointing out that one of the theories deriving the 3/4 law had an error.
Although Dodds is still at it with his current paper, to compensate for his party-downer laurels, he's accumulated some of the most interesting research out there, from rivers to bodies to disease to the happiness of songs over time. (Thanks, Peter, for being a good sport.)
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Gravitational Waves? Watch the LIGO press conference at 10:30 Eastern.
- LIGO, Gravitational Waves, And Laser Interferometry
- Giddings: The 750 GeV Diphoton Resonance Is A Graviton
- The Greenhouse Effect Fallacy
- New Government Guidelines Won't Impact Alcohol Drinking
- Starting Age Of Marijuana Use May Have Long-term Effects On Brain Development
- Internet Searches Reflect Increase In E-Cigarette Popularity
- "Since one direction will be less time in the air (assuming this model is even correct) due to an..."
- "Sadly, given the documented events of his admin., the rule by regulation and the flouting of the..."
- "You may not like my snark, but you haven’t argued with my logic...."
- "After promising 'transparency', Obama has gone down a road of (probably unconstitutional unilateralism)..."
- "Yes the details of the gravitational waves they detect will be very important. Will they..."
- Cotton Candy Cure for Future of Organ Transplants
- Walgreens Selling to Heroin Users? Yes, to Save Their Lives
- Age-specific Rates Of Dementia In Decline — But Not The Number Of New Patients
- Undoing 35 Years Of Progress? Resistance To AIDS Meds in Africa
- Science Acceptance: The Urban-Rural Divide
- Frying Foods in Olive Oil May Provide Health Benefits
- Adenovirus dampens host DNA damage response -- implications for control and cancer therapy
- CU scientists identify factor that may trigger type 1 diabetes
- Neanderthal DNA has subtle but significant impact on human traits
- Updates on the fight to save amphibians
- Land reservoirs helped offset sea level rise, study says