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Why are humans the size of humans, and not ants?

If humans were a lot smaller, say the size of ants, would we still be able to have jet planes, fridges, cars, bridges etc but all pro-rated smaller? Or are there some things we couldn�t make smaller, say power stations in which case why are we the �right� size?
Robin Morgan from West Sussex (Aged 55+)

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2 Responses

  1. Its a nice idea isn’t it – maybe tiny power stations wouldn’t be so bad for the environment!

    Cells are the building blocks of living things. Something as tiny as an ant wouldn’t have enough cells to build a big enough brain to design and build a jet plane. That said, ants can do things that we can’t do with our brains. For example, they set off from the nest to forage and when they find something, they return in a straight line and know exactly how far they need to walk using the length of their little ant strides.

  2. One answer could be that we evolved from roughly human sized apes and haven’t had the time nor need to evolve down to that size. But you could probably answer this question in a number of ways.

    One thing I would like to say is that if a human were shrunk down to the size of an ant but all proportions kept the same (as sometimes happens in science fiction films) they would have a lot of trouble maintaining their body heat. Being “warm blooded” we generate heat internally and loose it through our skin. The heat production is proportional to the mass that generates it and the loss is proportional to the area of skin. As mass is a cubic function and skin area is a square function if you reduce the dimensions of a human their mass is reduced to a much greater extent than skin area is. This means the proportion of the body’s heat being lost every second would increase. If reduced to the size of an ant you would have to eat a very large amount of food to maintain a very high metabolism or freeze to death.
    Small mammals usually have very short limbs because they face this problem and need to minimise the surface area of their body.

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