Though men now possess the power to dominate and exploit every corner of the natural world, nothing in that fact implies that they have the right or the need to do so.

Edward Abbey

This is a book about an idea. An observation, really. Simply stated - No one put you together. Or the trees outside my window, or the groundhog under my shed, or the simplest bacteria, or the largest whale, or the salt on my popcorn, or the soap bubbles I blow for my children. Somehow, remarkably, all of these things, some alive, some not, put themselves together. We call this process, this idea, self-assembly. Today, this simple observation has become the basis for one of the most exciting research directions in science, and more modestly, the subject of this book - Self Assembly: The Science of Things that Put Themselves Together. Understanding self-assembly requires the efforts of researchers from almost

every imaginable discipline. Biologists are busy unravelling nature’s secrets, yielding a deeper understanding of how she effortlessly produces intricate structures from simple building blocks. Chemists are coaxing molecules to form into ever larger and more complex systems. Engineers are developing new manufacturing methods, pushing the boundaries of engineered systems to the nanoscale. Computer scientists are learning to compute with DNA, while mathematicians are developing models to help solve the difficult design problems we encounter as we learn to harness the power of self-assembly. The study of self-assembly is truly a multi-disciplinary endeavor. If you want to understand what self-assembly is, if you are excited by the simple idea that no one put you together, and if you are prepared to examine this subject from a wide variety of perspectives, then this book is for you. But, self-assembly is a slippery concept. Patterns and structures abound

in nature. What is self-assembled? And, just as importantly, what is not? Consider the picture of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365 shown in Figure

FIGURE 1.1: Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1365. Colors have been reversed to highlight the spiral structure. Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.