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Collective behavior in animal groups

On Monday, October 22, the director of the Initiative in Theoretical Science (ITS) at the Graduate Center, Bill Bialek, is hosting two Italian physicists who are doing fascinating work on animal behavior. Query is: do you want to hear their talks and/or meet with them and others for a few hours of interesting dialogue/exchange of ideas? There is some interest in bringing them to NYC for a year-long sabbatical at the Graduate Center...
When Oct 22, 2012
from 03:00 PM to 06:00 PM
Where CUNY GC room 4102
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Bill Bialek notes:
What Cavagna and Giardina accomplished in the physics of disordered systems was very deep. But what they have done more recently is potentially revolutionary. Roughly ten years ago they turned to the analysis of collective behavior in animal groups, trying to test explicitly whether the physicists’ intuition about emergent phenomena can help us understand, quantitatively, the beautiful patterns in a flock of birds, a school of fish, or a swarm of insects. Before their work, there were models of collective animal behavior, with roots both in biology and in physics, but the data against which these models could be compared was very limited. For something collective to happen, there must be many interacting elements, and so one would like to quantify the behavior not of small groups of a dozen birds, but of flocks containing thousands of birds, and similarly in other examples.

Irene Giardina and Andrea Cavagna (theoretical physicists in Italy, now working on animal behavior) - Cavagna homepage =

“From 2006 to 2008 I was the coordinator of the INFM-CNR node of the EC-funded STARFLAG project. The aim of my node was to collect three-dimensional data of free flying starlings in very large flocks and to understand the fundamental rules of interaction among the birds. Once we had the 3D data we finally discovered that the interaction is quite different from what was assumed in most models of collective behaviour. The new interaction we discovered is the key ingredient granting the extraordinary cohesion that we see in nature. Read more about collective animal behaviour here. <> “