From Molecules to Megacities: How Life Scales
Esther Dyson

Just returned the book to the library because someone else had reserved it. Took it out because someone recommended its remarks about cities and those were the chapters I read. It certainly had stuff in it that I didn’t know but then again my interest in the theory of cities only started this month. The problem with the book is the quality of the writing — a semi-decent editor would produced a great book about half as thick. If I never see the word ‘vibrant’ again it will not be too soon.

The argument about fuel stations and the 85% figure was enlightening and it was easy to agree with the author that the same concept would apply to other infrastructure. The idea that crime increases was interesting (I don’t remember a specific figure of 115%) and intuitive but at least in NZ I have my doubts — we have serious crime in small towns and villages several hours from the city — it is assuming a homogeneous society. The author says crime increases by the same factor whether in Japan or the USA but skates over the the fact that Japan has less crime than the USA.

My conclusion is Mr West had a good idea and developed it well but has stretched it too far. Elephants and mice are born, have sex and die and have many similarities. Cities are different.

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