[i]”…but man he made to serve him, wittily, in the tangle of His mind.”

Robert Bolt, A Man for all Seasons [/i]

There is scientific evidence that objects on the mesoscopic scale (meaning sizes ranging from a few nanometers to a tenth of a micron) tend to be self-organizing when arranged in groups of two to three orders of magnitude. Inanimate particles begin to organize themselves into patterns that seem to respond to their surroundings in ways similar to life forms.

The driving force behind this tendency toward self-organization appears to be a combination of phenomena that scientists term “frustration” and “funneling.”

Frustration arises when systems contain components that compete against each other in two or more different ways, often with simultaneous attraction and repulsion. Such competition can force aggregates of matter into patterns that develop in unstable ways, and which, under the right conditions, suddenly materialize into a stable, low-energy state with new properties. The random competing processes of the frustration principle forces the system into the lowest energy state, much like a funnel directs water downward through its spout, which accounts for the term “funneling.”

An example of self-organizing, multiple-competing systems is a phospholipid cluster, which, in water solution, arranges itself into two layers, with the water soluble tails directed outward and the fat soluble heads directed inward. We call these clusters detergents.

Another example is an experiment for the reader to try. Dump a bunch of #7-1/2 or #8 steel bird shot in a single layer in a petri dish and place the dish on a rotating magnetic stirrer. Record what happens, then report the results on this forum.

You may be asking yourself what in the world does all this have to do with a literary web site.

It turns out that it may be possible to design an entirely artificial system that exhibits the adaptive behavior of living things. In fact, we may have already done so! The organizing principles that give matter emergent properties may not be limited to physical matter. They may apply to any complex and random system that emulates the mesoscopic environment.

The most enormously complex, most random, richest – and fastest growing – environment ever devised by man is right in front of us – the Web.

We can only conclude what we already know: Burning Word is coming alive!

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