Re: Coordinated behavior among birds, fish, and insects

Date: Mon Aug 20 2001 - 09:06:14 BST

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    Subject: Re: Coordinated behavior among birds, fish, and insects
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    On 19 Aug 2001, at 13:02, Dace wrote:

    > From: Vincent Campbell
    > > <Obviously. The question is how the birds manage to maintain the
    > > right
    > > > distance, particularly when the whole flock turns on a dime.
    > > > Either the brain is running an incredbly elaborate motion program
    > > > or the flock is a morphic field in which the birds are
    > > > "particles." While the latter possibility might strike you as
    > > > being "weird," the former possibility would require neural
    > > > computing processes unimaginably more powerful and rapid than
    > > > anything humans have ever devised.>
    > > >
    > > When a human catches a ball in flight, they actually perform a
    > > complex mathematical calculation that only a pretty good
    > > mathematician
    > could
    > > work out on paper. Yet children can catch balls in flight with no
    > knowledge
    > > of the complex maths involved. Indeed, brains operate complex
    > mathemetical
    > > operations all the time to control movements etc. Why's that a
    > > problem
    > for
    > > you that needs the MR macguffin? The whole flock appears to us to
    > > turn on
    > a
    > > dime. What actually happens is that the lead bird responds to
    > > conditions
    > in
    > > flight with a slight turn that resonates rapidly through the flock,
    > > bird
    > by
    > > bird, into what ends up looking like a massive sharp turn for the
    > > whole flock. Each bird makes a relatively small turn in relation to
    > > the birds near it. They are not calculating the movement of the
    > > entire flock, but only their own movement in relation to the birds
    > > immediately around them which doesn't require huge amounts of brain
    > > power, and can easliy be done
    > by
    > > lots of organisms.
    > The planets are not performing Keplerian calculations as they sweep
    > across the sky, and neither are birds in a flock. If they had to do
    > the stupendously complex math involved, their brains would blot out
    > the sky.
    No shit; they don't have to. It's automatic, that is, genetically hard-
    wired. Simple action-reaction chains are so genetically hard-wired
    throughout the animal kingdom (check out the trap door spider).
    > The naturalist Edmund Selous has studied flocking behavior in dunlins.
    > He found that one or two birds located somewhere in the flock would
    > initiate a change in direction, and this change would then radiate
    > through the flock. He tested their reaction time in a laboratory and
    > found it to be at 38 milliseconds. But the change in direction of a
    > flock radiates from bird to bird at 15 milliseconds, more than twice
    > as fast as their reaction time. Also, the 38 millisecond reaction is
    > always arbitrary, unlike the precisely coordinated behavior of the
    > flock.
    That's because they were being tested in isolation from the rest of
    the flock; the enabling stimulus that allowed automatic, rather than
    mediated, reaction to manifest. Same for the fishes.
    > As schools of fish demonstrate, there's no individual in charge of the
    > group. The fish in the front of the school might seem to be leading
    > it until the whole school makes a sharp left turn, and suddenly the
    > "leaders" are the fish who happened to be on that side. When a
    > predator arrives on the scene, the school will sometimes engage in a
    > "flash expansion," which looks kind of like a bomb going off. The
    > fish dart away from the predator in as little as .02 seconds. Yet
    > they never collide. They behave as a single organism whose parts are
    > coordinated.
    One simple rule: When danger manifests, swim rapidly away from
    all other fish (supposedly this includes the predator). This would
    kinda look like an expanding universe.
    > This group-mind effect is revealed in the arch-building behavior of
    > termites. Researchers commonly observe termites building columns, and
    > if one column is close enough to another, then the termites, at a
    > certain height, will begin building the columns together into an arch.
    > Though the termites are blind, and none of them are running back and
    > forth between the columns to measure the difference in their
    > locations, the two columns always meet up perfectly. It was assumed
    > that the termites use their sense of smell to guide the columns
    > together, but when Eugene Marais stuck a steel plate between two
    > columns, he found that they still matched perfectly.
    The key is 'at a certain height.' there is probably a program that
    goes after 'so many termite footsteps up, must connect for support'
    this would evolve through mutation and natural selection when
    colonies deal with the same soil, rain and wind generation after
    generation, for hundreds of millions of years.
    > Marais also
    > discovered that all the coordinated activities of the termites are
    > somehow facilitated by their queen. Even if the queen is isolated
    > from the workers in a compartment, when the queen is killed, all work
    > instantly stops.
    Now this is explained by pheronomes transmitted on the feelers of
    messenger termites.
    > Phenomena such as this can only be explained according to the field
    > model.
    As I have demonstrated, this statement is untrue.
    > Either these fields are expressions of equations, as Goodwin
    > argues, or they're stabilized through resonance with previous similar
    > systems.
    To some externt geometry is destiny. It limits the field (no, not
    THAT kinda field) of possibilities from which the actuality must
    come. this is the message of Goodwin, and of D'Arcy thompson
    before him.
    > > In human society a similar kind of process, albeit kind of in
    > > reverse, is evident in traffic. In heavy traffic, when cars travel
    > > too closely together jams emerge out of apparently nothing. They're
    > > called shockwaves (IIRC), and are the net effect of small acts of
    > > braking caused
    > by
    > > cars travelling at different speeds, changing lanes, and climbing
    > > hills
    > etc.
    > > in heavy traffic. This works back down the line to result in
    > > complete standstills of traffic. The Jam doesn't stay in one place
    > > but moves
    > slowly
    > > backwards, with the jam increasing in size. None of this requires
    > > any collective resonance, but simply the compound result of lots of
    > > little individual responses to individual circumstances (the car in
    > > front changes lanes suddenly making you brake, that compounds down
    > > the road behind you
    > to
    > > a mile long tail back).
    > Sheldrake has never suggested that traffic jams are caused by morphic
    > fields (though morphic resonance with past drivers might cause a
    > progressive improvement in our ability to drive safely).
    Give him time; if he can ignore queueing theory and cascading
    feedback, he will.
    > Ted
    > ===============================================================
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