A mechanism consisting of a pawl, or hinged catch that engages sloping teeth on a wheel, allowing for rotation in only one direction.
Such a mechanism introduces an intermittent stop and go process. It is generally related to a step function. It produces discontinuous phase transitions, passing through a succession of critical states which trigger sudden jumps after periods of apparent stability that can be quite long.
By analogy the ratchet can be seen as a device that secures irreversibility of intermittent processes and may lead to incrementaly accumulative effects. In fact, it tends to block negative or counter active feedbacks.
In a sense it can be regarded as a kind of anti-regulator.
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Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (2020). Title of the entry. In Charles François (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics (2). Retrieved from www.systemspedia.org/[full/url]
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