One can only wonder how Albert Einstein might have wrestled with the still-open question of how inanimate atoms produce life. He freely acknowledged the limitations of human understanding, including his own, and in July 1945, he wrote, “We have to admire in humility the beautiful harmony of the structure of this world — as far as we can grasp it. And that is all.” Science alone can take us only so far in our efforts to grasp the world, but sometimes teaming it with the arts can carry us the rest of the way forward on that journey. As a musician, Einstein understood this, and perhaps his love of music offered him insights into how life arises from atoms in ways that are now described in terms of “emergence.”
An emergent phenomenon arises from relatively simple components that somehow become more than the sum of their parts, as random scratches become letters if they are shaped in certain ways. Letters can be grouped into words with meanings that depend upon their sequences. The letters e, l, f, and i, for example, can become “file” or “life.” Emerging from the same kind of mysterious zone wherein the arrangements of words
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Those little slips of paper that accumulate in our pockets and purses may do more than just document recent take-out meals, pumpkin spice lattes and shopping sprees. Receipts, according to a small study published Wednesday, could also deliver a potentially harmful rush of hormone-scrambling chemicals into our bodies.
The new research adds fuel to a heated public health debate, hinting that bisphenol A, or BPA — a primary ingredient in thermal receipt paper used in cash registers, ATMs and some airline tickets — might more readily leach from the paper and absorb through the skin than previously thought. Men and women in the study who held receipts after using hand sanitizer had up to 185 times more BPA clinging to their skin after one minute, as compared to those who did the same with dry hands. Results also suggested that, after the exposure, BPA in the blood rose to levels previously linked to increased risks of heart disease and diabetes.
“This completely unravels the FDA’s position that BPA is safe,” said co-author Frederick vom Saal, an environmental health expert at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Scrutiny over BPA has been building in recent years, as researchers continue to uncover evidence that
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