Chaos, Order and Snowflakes

In one of his most popular essays, "The Colloid and the Crystal," the nature writer Joseph Wood Krutch wrote about these opposing forces in nature. "Order and obedience are the primary characteristics of that which is not alive," he wrote. "Life is rebellious and anarchical." He was wrong to identify obedience and rebellion with nonlife and life. respectively. We now know that the inanimate snowflake crystal, so apparently lawful and static, grows its six-pointed form under the controlling influence of exquisite molecular vibrations—every water molecule in the crystal is permanently aquiver, each in resonance with all the others—and it is delicate instabilities in these vibrations that allow snowflakes their lovely variations on the six-pointed theme. And life, we now understand, would not be possible unless nature had contrived elaborate molecular machinery to detect and repair any rebellious deviation of an organism's genetic code. The inanimate and the animate are equally products of law and chaos. Still, Krutch was right when he said that "the ultimate All is not one thing but two."


Nonlife produces beautiful order in the snowflake, where the vibrations of the molecules create different six-pointed patterns.

Folksonomies: life entropy water order disorder

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DNA (0.945623): website | dbpedia | freebase | yago
Atom (0.781452): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Water (0.775229): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Chemical bond (0.717449): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Chemistry (0.691734): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Molecule (0.644631): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Law and Chaos (0.579500): dbpedia | freebase
Gene (0.563236): dbpedia | freebase

 The Path: A One-Mile Walk Through the Universe
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Raymo , Chet (2003-03-01), The Path: A One-Mile Walk Through the Universe, Walker & Company, Retrieved on 2011-06-08
Folksonomies: science naturalism