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Scaling

There is a classic set of Soviet jokes about how different cultures scale. One Englishmen, it goes, makes a gentleman. Two make a…By Michael Segal

There is a classic set of Soviet jokes about how different cultures scale. One Englishmen, it goes, makes a gentleman. Two make a bet, and three a parliament. A single Frenchman, by comparison, makes a lady’s man, two make a duel, and three a Paris commune.

These jokes have a kernel of truth (regardless of what you think of the English and French): How things become bigger or smaller reveals a lot about them. How big can a city get and still be a city? What about a classroom? Is there some cosmic censorship preventing a car-sized object from being in two places at once, just like electrons and photons can be? Can a “theory of everything” describe our universe at all possible scales?

“How much,” we learn, is often just as important as “why” or “how.”

Welcome to “Scaling.”

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