Foundations of Chemistry

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 201–214 | Cite as

Chain reactions, “impossible” reactions, and panenmentalist possibilities

  • Amihud Gilead


Panenmentalist possibilities are individual pure possibilities existing independently of any mind, actual reality, and possible-world conception. These possibilities are a priori accessible to our intellect and imagination. In this paper, I attempt to shed some panenmentalist light on the discovery of chemical branched chain reactions and its implications on biology and cancer research. I also examine the case of the Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction which, at first, was believed to be impossible. Finally, I proceed to examine through a panenmentalist lens Szilard’s discovery of the possibility of physical chain reactions and Mullis’s discovery of a polymerase chain reaction. All these major actual discoveries clearly depend on the discovery of the relevant panenmentalist possibilities and the ways in which they relate to one another.


Branched chain reactions Nuclear chain reactions The Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction Polymerase chain reaction “Impossible” reactions Individual pure possibilities Panenmentalism 



Istvan Hargittai, in his publications and personal correspondence, contributed much to my understanding of the discoveries discussed in this paper. I am very grateful to him for encouraging me to examine these fascinating discoveries in a panenmentalist light.


  1. Baskakov, I.V.: Branched chain mechanism of polymerization and ultrastructure of prion protein amyloid fibrils. FEBS J. 274, 3756–3765 (2007). doi: 10.1111/j.1742-4658.2007.05916.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bray, D.: The weeds in Fibonacci’s garden. Nature 394, 436–437 (1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Epstein, I.R.: Obituary: Anatol Zhabotinsky (1938–2008). Nature 455, 1053 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ershov, Y.A., Kotin, V.V.: Kinetic growth models at different biological development levels. Russ. J. Phys. Chem. A 84, 1792–1806 (2010). doi: 10.1134/S0036024410100171 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Gilead, A.: Saving Possibilities: An Essay in Philosophical Psychology, vol. 80. Rodopi—Value Inquiry Book Series, Amsterdam (1999)Google Scholar
  6. Gilead, A.: Singularity and Other Possibilities: Panenmentalist Novelties, vol. 139. Rodopi—Value Inquiry Book Series, Amsterdam (2003)Google Scholar
  7. Gilead, A.: How many pure possibilities are there? Metaphysica 5(2), 85–103 (2004)Google Scholar
  8. Gilead, A.: A possibilist metaphysical reconsideration of the identity of indiscernibles and free will. Metaphysica 6(2), 25–51 (2005)Google Scholar
  9. Gilead, A.: Necessity and Truthful Fictions: Panenmentalist Observations, vol. 202. Rodopi—Value Inquiry Book Series, Amsterdam (2009)Google Scholar
  10. Gilead, A.: Actualist fallacies, from fax technology to lunar journeys. Philos. Lit. 34(1), 173–187 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gilead, A.: The Privacy of the Psychical, vol. 233. Rodopi—Value Inquiry Book Series, Amsterdam (2011)Google Scholar
  12. Gilead, A.: Shechtman’s three question marks: Impossibility, possibility, and Quasicrystals”. Found. Chem. 15, 209–224 (2013). doi: 10.1007/s10698-012-9156-y CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gilead, A.: Pure possibilities and some striking scientific discoveries. Found. Chem. (forthcoming) (2013b). doi: 10.1007/s10698-013-9190-4
  14. Giovambattista, N., et al.: Two-dimensional patterns in reaction-diffusion system: an analytical tool for the experimentalist. Inverse Probl. 16, 1–9 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hargittai, I.: Dan Shechtman’s quasicrystal discovery in perspective. Israel J. Chem. 51, 1–9 (2011a). doi: 10.1002/ijch.201100137 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hargittai, I.: Drive and Curiosity: What Fuels the Passions for Science. Prometheus Books, Amherst (2011b)Google Scholar
  17. Hargittai, I.: Buried Glory: Portraits of Soviet Scientists. Oxford University Press, New York (2013)Google Scholar
  18. King, Ch.: Cosmic symmetry-breaking, bifuraction, fractality, and biogenesis. NeuroQuantology 3, 149–185 (2004)Google Scholar
  19. Lanouette, W., Silard, B.A.: Genius in the shadows: a biography of Leo Szilard: the man behind the bomb. Scribner, New York (1992)Google Scholar
  20. Morange, M.: What history tells us? XV. Cyril Norman Hinshelwood (1987–1967)—a chemical dynamic vision of the organic world. J. Biosci. 33, 669–672 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Semenov, N.N.: Chemical Kinetics and Chain Reactions. Clarendon Press, Oxford (1935)Google Scholar
  22. Semenov, N.N.: Some problems relating to chain reactions and to the theory of combustion. Nobel Lect. 487–514 (1956).
  23. Woody, A.I., Hendry, R.F., Needham, P. (eds.): Philosophy of Chemistry. North Holland, Amsterdam (2012)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael

Personalised recommendations