The Perfect Swarm
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University
(April 28, 2010 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM)
Collective organization is everywhere, both around us and within us. Our brains are composed of billions of interconnected cells communicating with chemical and electrical signals. We ourselves are integrated in our own collective - our human society. Elsewhere in the natural world hundreds of thousands of blind army ants coordinate a massive raid across the rainforest floor, a flock of birds arcs and ripples while descending to roost and a fish school convulses, as if one entity, when attacked by a predator. How can animal groups move in unison? How does individual behavior produce group dynamics? How do animal groups make informed unanimous decisions? From locust swarms to bird flocks, from consensus decision-making in fish to that among humans, I will discuss how, and why, coordinated collective behavior is so pervasive within the natural world.