'Cooks" in the petro chemical industry use expert systems--computer programs that are imbued with the knowledge of experts from a particular discipline--to whip up recipes for all manner of chemical stews. Next, they'll be doing the same for some real chefs.

Mrs. Baird's Bakeries, a large baked-goods company in Fort Worth, is training one of the chemical industry's top expert systems, a program dubbed G2, to keep tabs on everything from weighing ingredients to monitoring the goodies browning in giant ovens. The leap from chemicals to baked goods isn't as audacious as it sounds. In both businesses, what counts is quick response to changing conditions. If an unexpected temperature variation isn't dealt with rapidly, for example, the cake--or the polymer--can burn. G2, which was developed by Gensym Corp. in Cambridge, Mass., can track thousands of variables simultaneously and is "smart" enough to know when to ignore irrelevant information, even if it's only seconds old.

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