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emergence and chemistry....hmmm?

BhumikaPatel's picture
My understanding of emergence from Monday’s class is that it refers to how simple rules lead to complex patterns. It’s really interesting how this seemingly simple concept applies to so many different areas of study. Being a chemistry major, I began looking for evidence of emergence in the chemical world. I found a website that describes the similarities between The Game of Life and chemical synthesis. The similarity is that simple rules of interactions between molecules are used repeatedly to build very complex products. The website goes into a great detail about how chemical synthesis and The Game of Life have similar rules for “endgames” and how they differ. I am really excited to learn more about emergence and how it can be applied to computer science and chemistry!


Doug Blank's picture

I hope that we can directly make this connection this semester, through "artificial chemistry." More on that later...
Jesse Rohwer's picture

I think that the connection that the author of this website makes between the formation of the stable chemical structures of methane, ethene, propane, butane, pentane, and hexane and the "endgame" states of Life (the stable rings, which can exist because each cell has exactly two neighbors) has an important implication for the computer modelling of emergence. It has been evident since Darwin's theory of evolution that organic life on earth is nothing but the current state of the real-world, molecular correlary to Conway's Life--of course, we have not reached an "endgame." All the atoms and molecules on earth are still interacting. DNA has evolved as an efficient and well-adapted self-replicating molecular pattern (I was actually talking to my dad about this a few days ago and it's incredible how the arrangement of molecules in viral DNA is perfectly set up to accomplish replication by finding the right environment, copying the DNA, building the right proteins to encase it, then folding them and fitting them together just right) leading to the evolution of life on earth. It seems plausible to think that the same sort of emergence of very complex, self-replicating patterns is possible in a computer simulation, although, As Leach observes, the rules governing molecular interactions are much more complex and the environment unbounded (or at least a lot bigger than a computer's memory even if we are just considering earth). Here is a link to a page with one example of a pattern in Life with the 23/3 rule set that moves itself across the screen and generates a sort of debris behind it.