How can they do this? What is the key of their amazing cohesion? This is one of the questions the STARFLAG project – Starlings in Flight – aims to answer. The project, which started in 2005, is an EC-funded collaboration of seven European institutes, coordinated by the Italian National Institute for the Physics of Matter (INFM-CNR). Physicist Giorgio Parisi is the head of this European network.
The prominent task of STARFLAG was to collect empirical data on large flocks of starlings in the field, and to test the predictions of former theories. The equipe headed by INFM-CNR researcher Andrea Cavagna, conducted experiments over the skies of Rome and discovered that the behaviour of flocking birds is very different from what believed up to now. Current computer models assume that each bird interacts with all birds within a certain physical distance. Empirical observations, however, show that each bird keeps under control a fixed number of neighbours (seven), irrespective of their physical distance. A flock under predator attack may expands dramatically, but birds can regroup very quickly because the cohesion does not depend on the physical distance among starlings, but rather on their ability to interact with a fixed number of neighbours.
The INFM-CNR results will be published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
To obtain these empirical results the INFM-CNR equipe employed a multidisciplinary approach, using tools from stereometry, statistical physics and computer vision. The 3D position of individual birds has been reconstructed within flocks of thousands of starlings in the field. “Up to now numerical models of flocking had never been tested against empirical data, and it was impossible to select the right model. Now, thanks our data, we can really measure what goes on within a flock”, says Andrea Cavagna. “An interaction based upon the number of neighbours rather than their distance, implies rather complex cognitive capabilities in birds”- adds Irene Giardina, another INFM-CNR researcher.
According to Andrea Cavagna, “the STARFLAG findings may be important for fields as mobile robotics and control theory, where highly coordinated swarms of simple agents must solve complex tasks through a bottom-up approach.”
Giuditta Parolini | alfa
First chip-scale broadband optical system that can sense molecules in the mid-IR
24.05.2018 | Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science
Nuclear physicists leap into quantum computing with first simulations of atomic nucleus
24.05.2018 | DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
24.05.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
24.05.2018 | Medical Engineering
24.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy