Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Sometimes even this old dude sees something that leaves him in awe.  The video here, which you may have already seen, is one of those times.  I happened upon it this morning as if by chance, perhaps.  It is this sort of phenomenon caught here on a video that makes me happy to have been so lucky as to actually exist at all (by the way the odds of any one of us existing is, well, far beyond imaginable itself).  

Scientists make be figuring out some of how this works - what they call "murmuration".  Maybe one day, they will figure out all of how it works. The bigger question though is WHY.  They may tell us they move as an intelligent cloud as a means of safety.  But still, really...quite a spectacular safety mechanism the universe has given to these birds...far better, far more astounding than some story about parting the Red Sea or some tale about never ending loaves of bread.

Scientists studying this say,

Measuring how a change in direction by one bird affects those around it, the team discovered that one bird's movement only affects its seven closest neighbors. So one bird affects its seven closest neighbors, and each of those neighbors' movements affect their closest seven neighbors and on through the flock.

So, okay.  Why seven???  All they say is that it is one of those numbers that just works.

Uh, huh, just works 

And, yeah, how come it is virtually instantaneous?

I spend too many hours, I sometimes think, chronicling so many awful things on this blog.  The truth is I do get sick of it from time to time.

The other me, the one you don't know, loves WONDER...loves to be filled with a sense of AWE.   It is why I am so drawn to the incredible (and for me joyous) science of  quantum physics and things like String Theory.  If I have a spiritual side, this is where it is found.  The science of quantum particles and fluctuations, multiverses, multiple dimensions... or the actions of a bunch of starlings...WONDER AND AWE...

Everything came from nothing, a weirdness all its own, but sometimes what is here is enough to make it all worthwhile.

PS: the bird show is amazing, but the expression on the young women's face at the end of the video, well, you tell me.

I've never done anything remotely like this on my blog before, but what the hell...have a wonderful day...

The following is from Wired.  If for some reason you can't actually see it on the blog, then just go to here.

The Startling Science of a Starling Murmuration

Video of a massive starling flock turning and twisting over a river in Ireland has gone viral, and with good reason. Flocking starlings are one of nature’s most extraordinary sights: Just a few hundred birds moving as one is enough to convey a sense of suspended reality, and the flock filmed above the River Shannon contained thousands.
What makes possible the uncanny coordination of these murmurations, as starling flocks are so beautifully known? Until recently, it was hard to say. Scientists had to wait for the tools of high-powered video analysis and computational modeling. And when these were finally applied to starlings, they revealed patterns known less from biology than cutting-edge physics.
Starling flocks, it turns out, are best described with equations of “critical transitions” — systems that are poised to tip, to be almost instantly and completely transformed, like metals becoming magnetized or liquid turning to gas. Each starling in a flock is connected to every other. When a flock turns in unison, it’s a phase transition.
At the individual level, the rules guiding this are relatively simple. When a neighbor moves, so do you. Depending on the flock’s size and speed and its members’ flight physiologies, the large-scale pattern changes. What’s complicated, or at least unknown, is how criticality is created and maintained.
It’s easy for a starling to turn when its neighbor turns — but what physiological mechanisms allow it to happen almost simultaneously in two birds separated by hundreds of feet and hundreds of other birds? That remains to be discovered, and the implications extend beyond birds. Starlings may simply be the most visible and beautiful example of a biological criticality that also seems to operate in proteins and neurons, hinting at universal principles yet to be understood.

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