Autocatalysis

Autocatalysis

A single chemical reaction can go through autocatalysis if the reaction product itself is a catalyst for that initial chemical reaction.

Scenario 1: Disney had ownership of many of the classic movies and animations that had graced American cinema for decades. Yet at a point, Disney was at a plateau. Maybe people had seen a few of their movies before but that was in a theater or maybe screened on TV every now and then.

Then the world changed with the VCR and video cassette tape. Once the video cassette tape was invented, Disney and their extensive catalog of classic content had been positioned perfectly to take over the home media industry—and that is exactly what happened!

They exploded onto the screens in homes of people worldwide with a library of Disney content that was absolutely unmatched by anything out there. Every home in North America had a dozen Disney video Cassette tapes in their home library if not more!

Scenario 2:  Maine East High School girl’s basketball team was trailing by nine points in the playoff game. Their Championship hopes were beginning to fade as the Lady Hawks lost momentum and morale.

With 2 minutes until the final buzzer, Coach Hughes put in the second-string point guard, Kelly. She was eager and full of energy and hope, and this was just what the team needed in the final moments of the game.

Within the first minute, she’d made two three-pointers, and an assist, tying the game. This ignited her teammates' will to steal the ball back in the final seconds and put up a game-winning lay-up.

Kelly was the catalyst that brought her team back to victory!

Definition

Scientifically speaking, within the context of chemistry circles, the definition of Autocatalysis can be broken down by the following actions.

A single chemical reaction is said to have undergone autocatalysis, or be autocatalytic, if the reaction product itself is the catalyst for that reaction.

Deep Analysis

Perhaps the greatest picture we can paint for one to grasp the idea of Autocatalysis would be the origin of life itself. That’s right the biological processes that generate life at the smallest molecular levels go through the process of autocatalysis.

This Idea was formulated by Stuart Kauffman a physician by trade who focused exclusively on Biology. During his tenure at the University of Pennsylvania, Kauffman theorized a radical new view for the stupendously head-scratching and improbable event of life forming on Earth.

Scientifically speaking, within the context of chemistry circles, the definition of Autocatalysis can be broken down by the following actions.

In the primordial soup several billion years ago, some first bundle of molecules had somehow arisen that could reproduce itself. But how did it start in the first place? Estimates showed that there had not been enough time since the beginning of the universe.

So Kauffman returned to his lab and began experiments designed to mimic the interaction of various molecule types on a young Earth.

He uncovered some groundbreaking science!

“Some molecules act as catalysts—that is, they act to speed up the chemical interactions between others.
Kauffman studied random networks of interacting molecules. If the variety of molecules was small, he found nothing exceptional in the chemistry of the soup, but as he increased that number, there would inevitably arise in the network an “autocatalytic set.”

In other words, he would find a subset of molecules that can begin reacting on its own.

“Molecule A might help to catalyze the production of D; D might help to produce E or F, which would, in turn, catalyze C and G, and so on. Ultimately, far down the line, Y and Z might catalyze A and B and complete the linking up, so that every molecule would be catalyzed by some other one.”

Once this loop is complete, the autocatalytic set becomes a self-perpetuating mechanism.

To define Autocatalysis would be to define this evolutionary loop that perpetuates the advancement of humanity and all other lifeforms on this planet.

Science and Biology aside, this function of autocatalysis has real-world functions that can be applied in everyday life. Wouldn’t it make sense that the same mechanism which spurred forth all living things is also responsible for the unprecedented complexity of human behavior?

It has been proposed that cultural evolution was made possible by a cognitive transition brought about by onset of the capacity for self-triggered recall and rehearsal. Mental representations like memories, concepts, ideas play the role of ‘molecules’, and ‘reactions’ are like associations. In the ‘episodic mind,reactions must be ‘catalyzed’ by external stimuli.
As cranial capacity increased, representations became more fine-grained which facilitated recursive catalysis and culminated in free-association and streams of thought.
At this point, the mind could combine representations and adapt them to specific needs and situations, thereby contributing to cultural evolution.

It doesn't stop there though. This model for reacting to stimuli and facilitating change is applicable wherever humans seek to expand, whether it’s business or social media, or even a sporting event.

This science behind autocatalysis remains the framework!

Applications in Business

When it comes to business autocatalysis is maybe most applicable when comparing it to marketing. Where and how can my marketing budget be applied the most effectively? Where can I get the most cataclysmic bang for my buck?

Over the past few decades, the field of marketing and market research has grown from small departments within a company, to be the backbone of major companies. It’s the first place where the consumer meets the brand, and first impressions are priceless!

So what’s the one reactionary force that needs to be predicted when it comes to your marketing budget?

Back in the day, the single autocatalysis might have been a tv commercial, catchy jingle, or even an appearance in a blockbuster movie. But now the game has changed and those methods seem ancient.

Online is where it’s at, but what to do?

There are so many avenues to reach the consumer. Maybe business owners should stop looking for that one avenue online, and instead diversify and try to create autocatalysis from every angle.

There is no telling what would drive a consumer to your cash register, something as trivial as a graphic, or a pretty face might win over a new potential customer.

The point is, the days of seeing success with single autocatalysis are long behind us, and the boldest companies willing to attempt a catalytic creation in every corner of the internet will ultimately see fortunes rise.

Applications in Education

In education, autocatalysis defines how one’s path unfolds. If you decide to pursue one academic path, your future will be determined by that catalyst. That decision dictates what happens next and in a way, this should provide you with comfort and security.

Knowing that you can dictate how your time in education is spent to an extent should provide you with security because this means you have control of the catalyst. You can direct your autocatalysis and acquire the skills and knowledge you find useful.

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