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Keywords:

  • catastrophe;
  • chemical reactivity;
  • reaction mechanisms;
  • singularity;
  • transition states

Abstract

This article proposes a model for chemical reactivity that involves singularities (“catastrophes”) in the timing of bond-making and bond-breaking events. The common stapler is a good mechanical analogy: As hand-pressure is increased on the machine, the staple hardly changes its configuration until the staple suddenly bends. This is viewed as a singularity or catastrophe, defined classically as an abrupt change resulting from a smooth increase or decrease in external conditions (pressure in the case of a stapler, distance in the case of reactivity). Although experimental observations are provided to support the singularity effect, the model remains a heterodox notion at the present time.