Rules of the Swarm

fishschool500.jpgNot much blogging this week–I’m heading out to California to receive the National Academies prize I wrote about a while back. In the meantime, let me direct your attention to my lead article in this week’s Science Times section of the NY Times. I wrote about swarms, herds, schools, gaggles, and other crowds of animals, focusing on one of the scientists who studies them, Iain Couzin. If you want to find out more about his quest to find the underlying rules of swarm intelligence, check out his web site.

0 thoughts on “Rules of the Swarm

  1. Ford–Iain understands the difference, and I think my article reflects an understanding as well. I explain, for example, how army ants are relatives but mormon crickets are not, and their swarms are based on different evolutionary processes. There are plenty of other animals that form large swarms without having the close kinship of social insects–fish, for example.

  2. I apologize for the tone of my comment, which turned out more negative than I intended. But I found it frustrating that after mentioning relatedness, its implications weren’t really discussed. Are there rules that apply equally to swarming by relatives vs. nonrelatives — if so, does that imply that relatedness is less important than we thought for other kinds of interactions? — or do they need to be analyzed separately? And so on.

  3. Ford–No offense taken…I have conveyed the wrong tone very often myself. And I certainly wish I had had more room to go into these issues, but space is limited in the newspaper. And this week, time is limited too. I’ll just say here that herds can be selfless or selfish, and genetic structure plays a big part.

  4. I read Erica Klarreich, The Mind of the Swarm: Math explains how group behavior is more than the sum of its parts” in Science News Week of Nov. 25, 2006; Vol. 170, No. 22 , p. 347.

    I have not yet read original articles by Ian Couzin.
    On his webpage, Full publication list, I note the paper 32. Nabet, B., Leonard, N.E., Couzin, I.D. & Levin, S.A. (2007) Dynamics of decision-making in animal group motion, submitted.

    I suspect this will make use of mathematical game theory and control theory.

  5. “Each cricket itself is a perfectly balanced source of nutrition,” Dr. Couzin said. “So the crickets, every 17 seconds or so, try to attack other individuals. If you don’t move, you’re likely to be eaten.”

    This collective movement causes the crickets to form vast swarms. “All these crickets are on a forced march,” Dr. Couzin said. “They’re trying to attack the crickets who are ahead, and they’re trying to avoid being eaten from behind.”

    This is like something from Dante’s Inferno.

  6. Congrats on the prize. You should try to attend as much of the conference as you can. I was at last year’s meeting, and I’m still going back to my notes for story ideas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *