By BERNARD JAFFE
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Extra resources for Crucibles: The story of chemistry
In a word, it has begun to simmer. Such self-organizingstructuresare ubiquitous in nature, said Prigogine. A living cell-although much systemthat too complicatedto analyzemathematically-is a self-organizing survives by taking in energy in the form of food and excreting energy in the form of heat and waste. In fact, wrote Prigoginein one article, it's conceivablethat the economy is a self-organizingsystem, in which market shuctures are spontaneously organizedby such things asthe demand for labor and the demand for goods and services.
Furthermore,Jacoband Monod's discoverysolvedthe long standingmysteryof how one fertilized egg cell could divide and differentiate itself into muscle cells, brain cells, liver cells, and all the other kinds of cells that make up a newborn baby. Each different type of cell correspondedto a different pattern of activated genes. To Arthur, the combination of d€i) vu and excitement when he read this was overwhelming. Here it was again: patterns. An entire sprawling set of self-consistentpatterns that formed and evolved and changed in responseto the outside world.
And suppose,for the sake'ofsimplicity, that there are iust two models to choosefrom. Call them A and B' Now, you ve read the brochureson both cars,saysArthur, but they'repret$ similar,and you still aren'tsurewhich to buy. And thenit sohappens, anysensible purely by chance,that the first two or threepeopleyou talk to saythat they'vebeendrivingcarA. Theytell youthatit worksfine. Soyou decide to buy one,too. But notice,saysArthur, thereis nowonemoreA-typedriverin theworld: you. And that meansthat the nextpersonto comealongaskingaboutcars is iust a little more likely to encounteran A-typedriver.