Disasters occur when disease spreads so far that it can’t be contained, when the electromagnetic fields of the brain lose order and cause a seizure, when clouds convert from fantastic puffy shapes to towering thunderheads that emit tornadoes across the plains, and when economies switch from boom to bust.
The transition from tranquility to disaster is also like water turning to steam.
Have you ever put a cup of water in a microwave for a few minutes? Plenty of time that it should have boiled, but didn’t? Then you reach in to remove the cup and, at the slightest jostle, the water bursts into a boil. What has happened is that the water reached a temperature above the boiling point without making the transition to steam: it superheated to a meta-stable fluid state and the tiniest perturbation to the system caused a dramatic change.
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