For years ornithologists tried to explain flocking. One went as far as to actually hypothesize that ESP was involved. In 1987, Craig Reynolds using a computer simulation figured out that it only needs three rules.
- Keep a certain distance from neighbors.
- Cohere to the group.
- Align within the group.
This is part of a fairly new branch of math called emergent complexity. Many seemingly complex processes can be accounted for by emergence, including snow flakes, termite cathedral mounds, shapes of weather patterns, ripple patterns in sand dunes and the Stone Symphony at Garni Gorge which were carved by a river.
For more information, see:
Photo of termite cathedral mound from:
©2016 Stephen L. Martin