To model a flock of birds or a school of fish – The real thing?

One of the most beautiful and awe-worthy show in nature is to observe a school of fish or a flock of birds, with their exquisite coordination between all its members that make the many individuals look like an organism in its own right. There is some progress in trying to model this behavior with mathematics and these models look pretty good indeed. This, as with absolutely any information that science may give us, has the potential of offering insights with practical applications.

As interesting as this effort is (and I truly believe it IS interesting), there is a little, very low voice in the back of my head that asks “…this is good, but, is it the real thing? How close is the model to the true reality of the flocking phenomenon?” In my mind, it is a little bit like watching an actor in a movie. In a sense, the film (and more recently an electronic version of an image) is an analog or digital model that shows how the actors move with a high degree of fidelity and yet… It is not the real thing.

I am thinking about expanding these thoughts into a full blog post. What do you think? Let me know! (:-)

Picture credit:




  1. Education is not about memorizing and getting the degrees in hand.
    Indeed, internet is the best source of because it is easily accessible and fast.
    “The boys said they’d been out collecting frogs when something approached from the saw grass.


  2. My son in law, Kevin, noticed that my daughters and I do a version of non-verbal group movement through the stores in the mall when we go power shopping. He relates the story of us girls going shopping for bridesmaids dresses through the King of Prussia mall and likened the behavior to a flock of birds.


  3. I think it is a great idea to post about the relation between models and reality, as this is really at the core of scientific knowledge – and those flocking models are a great place to start. @pcawdron – Simon Levin, from Princeton has been working with a bunch of other folks constructing models of social norms using some of the same principles…


  4. Who knows! I have been thinking about models (not the really pretty ones, not this time (:-)…) especially in the light of modelling the brain. I am sure that you have read Asimov. Remember the “Foundation” novels? Psychohistory?

    By the way, I just noticed that WordPress is telling me that this is my # 70 post!

    Double (:-)….


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