Mathematicians at the University of California, Merced created a model of penguin huddles that assumes each penguin aims solely to minimize its own heat loss. Surprisingly, the model reveals that such self-centered behavior results in an equitable sharing of heat. The results are published in the online journal PLOS ONE and the researchers will discuss their findings at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society's (APS) Division of Fluid Dynamics (DFD), held Nov. 18 – 20 in San Diego, Calif.
Penguins aren't a typical study subject for Francois Blanchette, an applied mathematician at UC Merced who focuses on fluid dynamics. However, after seeing penguin huddles in the movie "The March of the Penguins" Blanchette realized that the important factors that shaped the huddle, including wind and heat flow, fell within his area of expertise.
Blanchette and his fellow researchers, Arnold Kim and Aaron Waters, modeled huddles packed so tightly that only the penguins on the outside could move. Each penguin in the huddle generated heat that the wind blew away. By considering such factors as the number of penguins in the huddle and the strength and turbulence of the wind, the model calculated which penguin on the outside of the huddle was coldest. The coldest penguin moved to the most sheltered spot available, usually relocating from a windward to a leeward position, and then the heat distribution around the huddle was recalculated. Repeated iterations showed the huddle gradually elongating and creeping downwind over time.
At first the model assumed perfectly steady wind patterns and identical penguins, but produced huddle shapes that were longer and thinner than those observed in nature. When the researchers added uncertainty, which could represent irregular wind eddies and natural differences in the size and cold tolerance of individual penguins, the modeled huddles closely matched real huddles.
The researchers were surprised the model showed the penguins shared warmth nearly equally among themselves. "Even if penguins are only selfish, only trying to find the best spot for themselves and not thinking about their community, there is still equality in the amount of time that each penguin spends exposed to the wind," says Blanchette. Not all instances of selfish behavior result in such fair outcomes, he notes. "A penguin huddle is a self-sufficient system in which the animals rely on each other for shelter, and I think that is what makes it fair. If you have some kind of obstacle, like a wall, then I think it would stop being fair," Blanchette says.
Currently the researchers would like feedback from biologists before they further refine the model. Gathering experimental data, however, is difficult. "Penguins huddle during blizzards, when the conditions are horrible, and if you're going to collect data you're also going to be in a blizzard in horrible conditions," Blanchette points out. The mathematicians hope their work might serve as a guide for scientists in the field, helping them to know which observations to make to test the model.
Blanchette says his group may also investigate how to adapt the model to describe other biological organisms, such as certain bacteria, that move as a group in response to an outside stimulus like food or the presence of a toxin. Eventually, concepts from the model may guide the design of swarming robots that shelter each other in harsh conditions. But for now Blanchette is enjoying a more immediate side benefit of the research: "Nearly everybody seems to love penguins and not enough people love math," he says. "If we use math to study penguins we could potentially teach more people to love math too!"
Paper: "Modeling huddling penguins" is published in PLOS ONE at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 16. Link: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0050277
Presentation: "Modeling huddling penguins" is at 10:56 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 19 in room 28A. Abstract: http://meeting.aps.org/Meeting/DFD12/Event/178234MORE MEETING INFORMATION
Selected entries from the Gallery of Fluid Motion will be hosted as part of the Fluid Dynamics Virtual Press Room. In mid-November, when the Virtual Press Room is launched, another announcement will be sent out.
This release was prepared by the American Institute of Physics (AIP) on behalf of the American Physical Society's (APS) Division of Fluid Dynamics (DFD).ABOUT THE APS DIVISION OF FLUID DYNAMICS
Charles Blue | EurekAlert!
Space radiation won't stop NASA's human exploration
18.10.2017 | NASA/Johnson Space Center
Study shows how water could have flowed on 'cold and icy' ancient Mars
18.10.2017 | Brown University
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
18.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy