Chemical oscillations

1951 Chemical oscillations

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Boris Pavlovich Belousov, Anatoly Zhabotinsky chemistry Chemical oscillations

Chemical oscillations

Belousov made a solution of inorganic chemicals that changed between yellow and clear all by itself, seemingly in violation of the zeroth law of thermodynamic equilibrium. Zhabotinsky investigated the reaction in detail and showed that non-linear chemical oscillations in a petri dish can be self-organizing, forming expanding rings or spirals.


Zhabotinsky was a graduate student of Simon El’evich Shnoll, a friend of Belousov who encouraged Belousov to publish his discovery. Belousov gave up on his work and gave his notes to Shnoll. Subsequently, Shnoll interested Zhabotinsky in continuing the work.


Belousov was looking for a non-organic equivalent of a metabolic process. Today scientists study Belousov-Zhabotinsky reactions for making organic computers.

A good scientist doesn’t ignore results that seem to contradict accepted theories or are difficult to explain; however, uncritical acceptance encourages quacks and kooks.

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