Re: Coordinated behavior among birds, fish, and insects

From: Dace (
Date: Thu Aug 23 2001 - 19:20:12 BST

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    Subject: Re: Coordinated behavior among birds, fish, and insects
    Date: Thu, 23 Aug 2001 11:20:12 -0700
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    > <The naturalist Edmund Selous has studied flocking behavior in
    > dunlins. He
    > > found that one or two birds located somewhere in the flock would
    > > a
    > > change in direction, and this change would then radiate through the
    > > 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.>
    > >
    > Reference please.

    Selous, E., *Thought Transference, or What? in Birds*, Constable, 1931.

    Potts, Wayne K., "The chorus line hypothesis of manoeuvre co-ordination in
    avian flocks," Nature, 309:344-345, 1984.

    It was Potts, not Selous, who measured the reaction time in dunlins. Potts
    compared flocking behavior to a chorus line. While the reaction time of
    humans is 194 milliseconds, the gap between kicks in a chorus line is only
    107 milliseconds. Potts said the people in the chorus line are able to
    predict when their turn will arrive, because they see it coming out of the
    corner of their eye. He claimed this effect applied to birds in a flock as
    well. The problem is that, half the time, the wave approaches each bird
    from behind, implying that they have 360 degree vision. And even if the
    birds could see the wave coming, this doesn't explain how they're able to
    move so precisely with it. Despite being densely packed together, the birds
    never bump into each other. You may balk at my use of that dangerous work,
    "never," but birds in a flock have *never* been observed to collide (at
    least not by anyone who was taking notes).

    > Differences in measured reaction time is not a
    > problem for the basic point that birds that flock are capable of applying
    > simple mathematical rules in order to prevent the birds bumping into each
    > other. I don't know how reaction time were tested, but we know, for
    > example, that motor racing drivers have faster than average reaction times
    > than ordinary drivers. Is it not possible that a bird's reaction times in
    > flight are faster when in a flock than when flying alone, and that the
    > direction of movement is relatively arbitary when flying solo, and not
    > in a flock.

    As I said, birds don't do math, any more than planets do. But that doesn't
    mean they're not subject to field-based forces, such as gravitational or
    morphic, which are themselves describable mathematically.

    > <This group-mind effect is revealed in the arch-building behavior of
    > > termites. Researchers commonly observe termites building columns, and
    > > one column is close enough to another, then the termites, at a certain
    > > height, will begin building the columns together into an arch. Though
    > > 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
    > > plate between two columns, he found that they still matched perfectly.
    > > Marais also discovered that all the coordinated activities of the
    > > 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
    > > stops.>
    > >
    > Wouldn't all social insects disperse on the death of the central
    > queen?

    They lose their social behavior instantaneously, before the message has had
    a chance to be transmitted chemically.

    > <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).>
    > >
    > Might or should? Either this theory applies universally or not at
    > all, it can't apply to just those things you want it to.

    No one's experimentally demonstrated morphic resonance in the case of
    driving. But you're right to point out that if it's true in general it
    would have to apply to driving cars.

    > Apologies for the intensity of this discussion, it's not personal on
    > my behalf, I'm just enjoying the intellectual fencing.

    No prob.

    > I have a feeling that the problems of MR are related to the problems
    > of memetics, that some have suggested, namely- why have the theory at all?
    > What does it add that isn't covered by other well established, and
    > empirically supported theories? Etc. This discussion is a good work-out
    > those kinds of arguments.
    > Vincent

    Memes make a lot more sense in the morphic model rather than the
    materialistic model. As Kenneth pointed out, they share the same basic
    idea, that a given unit of form picks up momentum as more people adopt it.
    Without the principle of like-affects-like, it's hard to explain how certain
    memes "catch on." Ultimately, memetics will sink or swim with morphics.


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