Scaling Fallacy

October 24, 2019    mental-models

Much is made of the relative strength of small insects as compared to that of humans. For example, a leafcutter ant can carry about 50 times its weight; whereas an average human can only carry about half its weight. The standard reasoning goes that an ant scaled to the size of a human would retain this strength-weight advantage, giving a 200-pound ant the ability to lift 10,000 pounds. In actuality, however, an ant scaled to this size would only be able to lift about 50 pounds, assuming it could move at all. The effect of gravity at small scales is miniscule, but the effect increases exponentially with the mass of an object. This underscores the basic lesson of the scaling fallacy—systems act differently at different scales.

  • Via Anshul Khare from the book - Universal Principles of Design.