Post No.: 0447
I primarily exist as a tiny furry beast. But which size is better – ickle or large?
The bigger they are, the harder they fall, where there’s atmosphere – as size increases (with density remaining constant), volume and thus weight cubes while surface area only squares, which means the relatively lesser influence of air resistance, a greater terminal velocity, and therefore a greater deceleration and force magnitude when hitting the ground. This is obvious when insects fall from a great height compared to humans.
Air resistance will have a greater effect against a smaller animal when it comes to jumping though, even though smaller animals are still more likely to be able to jump higher in relation to their own height (e.g. fleas versus kangaroos). The basal metabolic rate of a smaller critter also needs to be higher for it to keep warm because of its proportionally larger skin-surface-area-to-volume. Larger creatures thus have an advantage when it comes to withstanding the cold, hence why, along with being fluffy and/or blubbery, polar bears and walruses are massive. Smaller creatures like penguins must huddle. Larger animals may or may not suffer in the heat though – they take longer to heat up, and cool down.
However, on paper at least, if a creature’s dimensions are scaled up by a factor of 2 then its weight will increase by a factor of 8 and its bone cross-sectional area must increase by a factor of 4 to support this larger mass. And a big animal must haul its own heavy bodyweight around at all times, plus a greater muscle mass requires a greater oxygen and food supply to function, hence why massive athletes don’t generally have the same potential endurance as lighter athletes. Overall, there are balancing acts depending on what ability one wants to maximise.
Smaller, lighter limbs can move more dextrously than larger, heavier limbs. It’s down to physics again – it’s reasonably intuitive that giants lumber while little animals can blur when in motion. Lighter creatures are more agile – they can climb and do somersaults more easily. (Fluffystealthkitten prefers her usual small size to sneak around unnoticed.) It’s not necessarily the case that smaller animals can traverse distances faster or more energy-efficiently but they can change direction much faster and perhaps run circles around bigger animals. (Rattus rattus has evaded many a poor human!) Longer legs mean a greater stride length, but the communication between the brain and more distal body parts will be slower because nerve impulses need to travel further (although training has a major effect on reaction times).
A greater body mass is advantageous when you need to push or haul things around though – mass shifts mass. Just by virtue of being heavier – whether through muscle, bone or fat – you’ll find it easier to shove lighter people around or move weights. You could literally just lean on a person or object and let gravity be the acceleration that, with the mass, generates a large force (for Force = Mass * Acceleration). You’ll lose to a 1-ton wardrobe lying on top of you even though it obviously has no muscles or any technique whatsoever(!) MMA/cage fighters try to pack on (or really recover) some mass after the weigh-in for this reason (unless they’re at the unlimited category). Even if you were lighter but stronger and tried to push a heavier but weaker person away, and you’ve insufficient friction with the ground – you’d actually push yourself backwards with your own strength instead of push the heavier person away! Heavier things also press into and therefore grip the ground better. Like automobiles – power is pointless without traction.
Mass squeezed more solidly into a weightlifting belt will also help create a sturdier column for lifting heavy weights. Some strength competitors have round bellies but it’s not fat they really want but mass, and trying to cut this fat down would likely mean cutting some muscle mass down too, which is overall less desirable for them. But again, there’s a sweet spot.
This is all why in contests like wrestling or boxing, being heavier is generally an advantage, hence why there are weight divisions in many sports. (Spectators would rather watch close contests than predictable ones. The rules of sports often change to make competition tighter and therefore more interesting for viewers – this prevails over any notion of simulating real-life war. Although war has some conventions – sports are defined by their rules. Likewise, para-athletics mightn’t produce the highest performances compared to regular athletics but the market will watch if it’s entertaining.) Within a weight division, one must still balance one’s weight with other attributes like agility though, plus maximise other aspects like technique, tactics and understanding one’s own power recovery time, for instance.
But relatively smaller things tend to be better when it comes to ‘pound-for-pound’ averages. Ants, for example, can lift many more times their own bodyweight compared to humans. They have a superior strength-to-weight ratio (and exoskeletons). A top 56kg weightlifter can lift ~3x his own weight over his head, whereas a +105kg weightlifter can only lift ~2x his own weight. The strongest woman in the world is pound-for-pound stronger than the strongest man in the world (and stronger in absolute terms than most men full-stop!)
Therefore I’d rather face one massive person than two regular-sized people in a fight if both sides totalled the same bodyweight. I’d rather have to tackle a 20,000-ton monster-sized locust Shadow of the Colossus-style than 20,000 tons of normal-sized locusts!
Of course, a single +105kg weightlifter will out-lift a single 56kg weightlifter, and we might be able to divide and conquer those locusts if we’re ingenious enough. But in a real-life war, I’d rather have two people instead of one on my side because the former can utilise twice the number of guns and employ a greater diversity of tactics such as flanking. When we work together, we usually become greater than the mere sum of our individual parts – this is written in the laws of physics! One person, no matter how big or strong, cannot do much, whereas a group of people can build nations. We can think too much individualistically but an army is a team and works best as a team. Many videogames give a different impression but no war is ever won by one individual alone, whether in front of or behind the scenes, even if some individuals are more impactful than others.
Videogames also give the impression that larger bosses are much harder to defeat, even though, in reality, a couple of bullets to the chest of a big foe has the same effect as for a small foe – severe incapacitating injury or death! (Missing vital organs, they may take longer to bleed out though.) When it matters who makes the first hit (often from the furthest distance away or with surprise and/or speed), a smaller person is less likely to get shot too – that’s why soldiers use cover, concealment, crouch, go prone or otherwise try to get small. Woof!
Primitive animals brawl with whatever they’re born with. Battles aren’t even fought with sticks or swords anymore. Humans, as they gradually employed more ingenuity, brawled with hand weapons blunt and sharp, then traps and projectiles, while concurrently developing smarter, swifter and/or stealthier fighting techniques and strategies to hunt and protect. The world’s deadliest warrior is arguably a nuclear physicist(!) Even Bruce Lee understood that one shouldn’t intentionally pick fights with anyone, whatever their size, because gun beats fist. Any determined party can defeat anyone else too. Well we should use even more intelligence to avoid fighting altogether.
The force-multiplying technologies and methods of modern and future warfare increasingly render physical size moot – robots will perhaps fight the wars, for better or worse! Yet even so, super-large machines, especially walking ones (e.g. Warhammer 40k Titans) would be slow and easy targets in reality (although I’d still love to see a full-size, working one!)
It won’t likely be giant organisms but the united impact of trillions of bacteria or viruses that’ll bring an entire species down to its knees – so don’t fear the giant as much as the combined force of the tiny. We can more easily see a giant growing in order to curtail it if it starts to get threatening, while bacteria and viruses evolve relatively more rapidly and are hidden from sight until they cause harm. We know how dangerous viruses can be from the various pandemics that have occurred in history so far (e.g. COVID-19, the 1918 influenza pandemic), and there are few living things much smaller than viruses (although most biologists consider viruses as non-living, even though they carry DNA or RNA). Microbes, when combined, have always been and will always be more successful organisms than complex organisms like humans, dogs or cats – they’ve existed on Earth for far longer and if we find extraterrestrial life then it’s likely going to be (mostly) microorganisms.
We’ve found bones and fossils of mega bears, mega crocodiles, mega kangaroos and other mega-sized versions of animals that exist today – but these bigger versions went extinct. For a variety of separate reasons, the largest ever land animals existed in the past i.e. dinosaurs, not the present. In fact, humans evolved from small mammals that burrowed underground, protected from what killed off a lot of larger animals of the time above ground. Intelligence and adaptability are also why giraffes and gorillas don’t hold humans in zoos (although I have mixed feelings about zoos).
There are ultimately pros and cons to being big or small. A longer reach, that creates a longer lever, is sometimes an advantage and sometimes not because a lever can work for or against us. In terms of weight, most of the time it’s about maximising one’s power-to-weight ratio. According to anthropometrics and ergonomics in product design – the 50th percentile size (of all genders together) is probably the best size of human to be in the modern world because everything that’s meant for a global market and is well-designed should fit, or be adjustable to fit, at least the average-sized person. Your knees shouldn’t knock into steering wheels yet your head should be able to see above the dashboards.
Well whatever your size – you should be treated with equal respect. Intellect, courage, kindness and other deeper attributes matter more in many real-world contexts – a lot of physical problems can be overcome by using one’s brain (e.g. using a bigger lever, cooperation) so, if people are to judge each other, it’s these kinds of ‘higher evolved’ traits that we should judge others by. And we cannot quite judge these traits superficially, such as judging intelligence by the size of someone’s head. There isn’t even a perfect correlation between physical size and athleticism either – some smaller people are stronger than some bigger people. Some people can look the part but not be the part, and vice-versa, hence trusting in the superficial makes one very susceptible to being conned. The more people look, the more they can be blind. So cavepeople who discriminate others based on, say, height need to ironically grow up(!) It’s another ‘ism’. (Cavepeople aren’t desirable mates so it doesn’t matter what they think anyway.)
Value deeds or if not then spirit – when people actually do something great, they enter the history books for these reasons, not for the way they looked (e.g. Usain Bolt is tall but not the tallest, but we don’t care about that because he’s currently the fastest human over 100 to 200m and that’s why he’s great).
Nature evidently shows us that a wide diversity of sizes, and designs (e.g. fish, birds, beetles, mammals), of organisms are fit for survival.
Woof. I’m most happy with the way my puppy form is, and I hope you are happy with the way you are too, however you are. Feeling confident is an internal state of mind, and it’s what you do that matters!