What do a tree and the Eiffel Tower have in common?
According to a Duke University engineer, both are optimized for 'flow.' In the case of trees, the flow is of water from the ground throughout the trunk, branches and leaves, and into the air. The Eiffel Tower's flow carries stresses throughout the structure without collapsing under its own weight or being downed by the wind.
For most engineers, the laws governing fluid and solid mechanics like these examples are like oil and water – they just don't mix.
A theory developed by Adrian Bejan, J.A. Jones Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering and colleague Sylvie Lorente, professor of civil engineering at the University of Toulouse, France, explains how these disparate forces can co-exist within the same theory.