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Have you ever seen a flock of starlings fly in incredible formations at a summer sunset? How do sardines do to change direction, all at once, to repel the attack of a predator? And the cells that make up a hand, how do they organize to form bone, muscle, skin? And five (and only five) fingers? How is it that the right hand is the same size as the left, even though they developed independently? All these cases (and many more) have something in common:
- There are a large number of individual agents (fish, birds, cells) that communicate only with its neighbors, though generate a very complex collective behaviour.
- It seems there isn't 'any' leader giving intructions to the whole group.
- Basically, all individuals are equal.
Scientists studying these processes suspect that all individuals in the group somehow follow the same instructions. Scientists observe nature, think about the basic instructions that could generate complex collective behavior and then use computers and robots to see if these instructions "work."
Larvae development is a good example to study swarm behaviour. In this video we see cells that are exactly the same and don't form any structure. All of a sudden, they start moving, change shape and dimensions, and get specialized. We can see different structures that form, e.g. the segments and the gut. Precision is a must to allow swarming.
See our proposal of outdoor games for groups of children between 6 and 12 years: