Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

Shrinking Humans


  • Please log in to reply
3 replies to this topic

#1 SaxonViolence

SaxonViolence

    Understanding

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 315 posts

Posted 17 May 2013 - 12:52 PM

Friends this is an Old Chestnut, but lets examine it a moment.

Lets say that the Average Adult Human Male is six foot tall and weighs 240 pounds.

If we could genetically (or magically) cut that in Half...

If the Average Adult Human was about three foot tall and weighed 120 pounds...

{Actually, if he was proportional, wouldn't he weigh a bit less?}

Anyway—Supposedly that would have the effect of Making the Earth Twice as Large.

A "Story" in a Building could be 5' instead of 10'. Ceilings could be 4' instead of 8'.

Half-Sized Lincoln Continentals or Humvees would be just as roomy and luxurious for the new Half-Sized Humans...

Well, you can't halve the size of the head—so our Pygmies would be a bit big-headed.

Half-Sized Humans would almost certainly require more than 50% the rations of a full-sized human...

You know, Square-Cubed, Surface Area, Efficiency...

A host of other things wouldn't scale down well.

So just what would be accomplished, Conservation Wise by Shrinking Humans to half?

Just Curious.



Saxon Violence

#2 CraigD

CraigD

    Creating

  • Administrators
  • 8034 posts

Posted 18 May 2013 - 05:26 PM

Friends this is an Old Chestnut, but lets examine it a moment.

Lets say that the Average Adult Human Male is six foot tall and weighs 240 pounds.

This is an oldie but goodie, if not in science literature, at least in science fiction, though most of the “scaled down humans” stories scale them down by a much greater factor than 2.

If we could genetically (or magically) cut that in Half...

If the Average Adult Human was about three foot tall and weighed 120 pounds...

{Actually, if he was proportional, wouldn't he weigh a bit less?}

I don’t think it would be hard to do this genetically, or even with drug therapy, because it occurs naturally in a small fraction of the human population. For example (a famous one) [wiki]Charles Sherwood Stratton[wiki], a proportional dwarf better known as Tom Thumb, was about half average height for his early adult life, before resuming growth and reaching a height of 102 cm (3’4”) by the time of his death at age 45. Like most proportional dwarfs, his condition was believe to be due to growth hormone deficiency of genetic origin.

If exactly proportional, a human of half height would be [imath]\frac1{2^3} = \frac18[/imath] volume and mass, so a 6’, 240# person would scale to 3’ 30#. Even famously well-proportioned dwarfs like Tom Thumb tend to mass more than to scale: he, for example, was reported to have reached a maximum of 3’4” (1.02 m), 71# (32 kg), which would scale to 6’, 414#.

Well, you can't halve the size of the head—so our Pygmies would be a bit big-headed.

There’s actually only a weak correlation between brain size and intelligence, so proportional dwarfs aren’t necessarily of low intelligence. I expect artificially created dwarfs wouldn’t need oversize heads to have normal intelligence, either.

It’s interesting to note that, from archeological evidence, we know that human cranial capacity has been decreasing, while human intelligence has been increasing, or at least not decreasing significantly. So, to factor much less than 2, evolutional pressure has been scaling humans down without artificial intervention.

Half-Sized Humans would almost certainly require more than 50% the rations of a full-sized human...

You know, Square-Cubed, Surface Area, Efficiency...

As a practical rule, a human’s dietary energy (calorie) requirements are proportional to their, but yeah, I expect the rule breaks down for very small humans. A proportional 1/2 height, 1/8 mass dwarf would, ignoring all factors but mass, need only 1/8 normal calories (less than 300 kCal/day), but I believe actual proportional dwarfs eat much more than this. It would be interesting to find a proportional dwarf who keeps an accurate food diary, or one published on the internet, but I couldn’t find one after a good bit of work web searching.

So just what would be accomplished, Conservation Wise by Shrinking Humans to half?

Not much, I think, as we humans can increase our population pretty quickly, so even if we could engineer a 300 kCal/day average person, absent effective population control, we’d just increase the population 8 times, and be up against the same population size vs. food constraint.

I can also think of a lot of reasons that people wouldn’t want to be small, pretty much the same ones we have today: larger people tend to be faster, stronger, and more sexually attractive.

There’s a wonderful (and IMHO undeservedly obscure) SF novel, Sheri Tepper’s 1996 Gibbon's Decline and Fall, that ends with a “chose how to save humankind” conservation thought experimental, in which all of the choices (except one, the “do nothing” choice) affects human reproduction in some fundamental way.

I think Tepper, like many others, is correct in thinking that population size control – which is closely tied to reproduction control - is the central key to “Conservation with a capitol ‘C’”. Without it, population sizes inevitable increase quickly to exceed the environment’s capacity, crash, then repeat the cycle.

However, semi-magic solutions like the one in Tepper’s novel don’t exist at present, and humans are as instinctively motivated to reproduce at greater than survival rate as they are to like being bigger than smaller, so it may be that cycles of population increase and crash are unavoidable. The alternative, compelling people to act contrary to their instinctive drives, may be worse.

#3 sman

sman

    Questioning

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 229 posts

Posted 19 May 2013 - 12:30 PM

A natural experiment has occurred, and is documented with good archaeology. The "Hobbits" of Flores Island in Indonesia were miniature humans living as recently as 12000 years ago. Their small size probably fixed by insular dwarfism.

#4 SaxonViolence

SaxonViolence

    Understanding

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 315 posts

Posted 20 May 2013 - 01:14 PM

About the brain size...

There has been beaucoup knowledged gained in the 20 or 30 years since I was a fast, voracious reader with close to 100% recall.

But as I understand it, it takes a bigger brain to run a bigger body.

That kicks Dr Lily's Argument that Elephants, Dolphins and Whales Are more intelligent than people and we're just too anthropocentric to admit the obvious truth, on down the road.

And there is also the fact that assembling a usable "World Map" from sound images requires much more Processing Power than using light waves to navigate.

But I understood that intelligence Is a function of how many brain cells are left over after the body's needs are met...

But then there is the surprising intelligence of some birds—particularly Corvids.

If I'm mistaken, please let me know.

Tell me this:

Suppose that I could make a little humanoid android the size of a GI Joe...

Made completely out of naturally occurring compounds—no "Magic" substances.

{For what?

Well to gain access to places a full-sized Human couldn't go; plant microphones; take photos; reconnoiter; pilfer small valuable objects...}


But if our little man had physiology anything like a man's...

Per the Square-Cubed Law—wouldn't he be in serious danger of Hypothermia even in a comfortable 72o ?



Saxon Violence

Edited by SaxonViolence, 20 May 2013 - 01:16 PM.