The Mind of the Swarm

Math explains how group behavior is more than the sum of its parts

By Erica Klarreich, 15:56 PM April 15, 2008

Few people can fail to marvel at a flock of birds swooping through the evening sky, homing in with certainty on its chosen resting place. The natural world abounds with other spectacular examples of animals moving in concert: a school of fish making a hairpin turn, an ant colony building giant highways, or locusts marching across the plains.

Since ancient times, scientists and philosophers have pondered how animals coordinate their movements, often in the absence of any leader. Coordinated gr...

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