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But who could resist the erotic lives of atoms and molecules – the violent passion of electrostatic attractions, the comfortable mutuality of covalent bonds, the gentle air kisses of van der Waals forces? The rules governing the couplings and uncouplings of tiny particles seemed to me as fascinating as the kinship rules of what we still called “primitive” societies – with the revulsion of like-charged particles, for example, functioning as a kind of incest taboo.

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