Steven Strogatz: How things in nature tend to sync up

Steven Strogatz: How things in nature tend to sync up


I was trying to think, how is sync connected to happiness, and it occurred to me that for some reason we take pleasure in synchronizing. We like to dance together, we like singing together. And so, if you’ll put up with this, I would like to enlist your help with a first experiment today. The experiment is — and I notice, by the way, that when you applauded, that you did it in a typical North American way, that is, you were raucous and incoherent. You were not organized. It didn’t even occur to you to clap in unison. Do you think you could do it? I would like to see if this audience would — no, you haven’t practiced, as far as I know — can you get it together to clap in sync? (Clapping) Whoa! Now, that’s what we call emergent behavior. (Laughter) So I didn’t expect that, but — I mean, I expected you could synchronize. It didn’t occur to me you’d increase your frequency. It’s interesting. (Laughter) So what do we make of that? First of all, we know that you’re all brilliant. This is a room full of intelligent people, highly sensitive. Some trained musicians out there. Is that what enabled you to synchronize? So to put the question a little more seriously, let’s ask ourselves what are the minimum requirements for what you just did, for spontaneous synchronization. Do you need, for instance, to be as smart as you are? Do you even need a brain at all just to synchronize? Do you need to be alive? I mean, that’s a spooky thought, right? Inanimate objects that might spontaneously synchronize themselves. It’s real. In fact, I’ll try to explain today that sync is maybe one of, if not one of the most, perhaps the most pervasive drive in all of nature. It extends from the subatomic scale to the farthest reaches of the cosmos. It’s a deep tendency toward order in nature that opposes what we’ve all been taught about entropy. I mean, I’m not saying the law of entropy is wrong — it’s not. But there is a countervailing force in the universe — the tendency towards spontaneous order. And so that’s our theme. Now, to get into that, let me begin with what might have occurred to you immediately when you hear that we’re talking about synchrony in nature, which is the glorious example of birds that flock together, or fish swimming in organized schools. So these are not particularly intelligent creatures, and yet, as we’ll see, they exhibit beautiful ballets. This is from a BBC show called “Predators,” and what we’re looking at here are examples of synchrony that have to do with defense. When you’re small and vulnerable, like these starlings, or like the fish, it helps to swarm to avoid predators, to confuse predators. Let me be quiet for a second because this is so gorgeous. For a long time, biologists were puzzled by this behavior, wondering how it could be possible. We’re so used to choreography giving rise to synchrony. These creatures are not choreographed. They’re choreographing themselves. And only today is science starting to figure out how it works. I’ll show you a computer model made by Iain Couzin, a researcher at Oxford, that shows how swarms work. There are just three simple rules. First, all the individuals are only aware of their nearest neighbors. Second, all the individuals have a tendency to line up. And third, they’re all attracted to each other, but they try to keep a small distance apart. And when you build those three rules in, automatically you start to see swarms that look very much like fish schools or bird flocks. Now, fish like to stay close together, about a body length apart. Birds try to stay about three or four body lengths apart. But except for that difference, the rules are the same for both. Now, all this changes when a predator enters the scene. There’s a fourth rule: when a predator’s coming, get out of the way. Here on the model you see the predator attacking. The prey move out in random directions, and then the rule of attraction brings them back together again, so there’s this constant splitting and reforming. And you see that in nature. Keep in mind that, although it looks as if each individual is acting to cooperate, what’s really going on is a kind of selfish Darwinian behavior. Each is scattering away at random to try to save its scales or feathers. That is, out of the desire to save itself, each creature is following these rules, and that leads to something that’s safe for all of them. Even though it looks like they’re thinking as a group, they’re not. You might wonder what exactly is the advantage to being in a swarm, so you can think of several. As I say, if you’re in a swarm, your odds of being the unlucky one are reduced as compared to a small group. There are many eyes to spot danger. And you’ll see in the example with the starlings, with the birds, when this peregrine hawk is about to attack them, that actually waves of panic can propagate, sending messages over great distances. You’ll see — let’s see, it’s coming up possibly at the very end — maybe not. Information can be sent over half a kilometer away in a very short time through this mechanism. Yes, it’s happening here. See if you can see those waves propagating through the swarm. It’s beautiful. The birds are, we sort of understand, we think, from that computer model, what’s going on. As I say, it’s just those three simple rules, plus the one about watch out for predators. There doesn’t seem to be anything mystical about this. We don’t, however, really understand at a mathematical level. I’m a mathematician. We would like to be able to understand better. I mean, I showed you a computer model, but a computer is not understanding. A computer is, in a way, just another experiment. We would really like to have a deeper insight into how this works and to understand, you know, exactly where this organization comes from. How do the rules give rise to the patterns? There is one case that we have begun to understand better, and it’s the case of fireflies. If you see fireflies in North America, like so many North American sorts of things, they tend to be independent operators. They ignore each other. They each do their own thing, flashing on and off, paying no attention to their neighbors. But in Southeast Asia — places like Thailand or Malaysia or Borneo — there’s a beautiful cooperative behavior that occurs among male fireflies. You can see it every night along the river banks. The trees, mangrove trees, are filled with fireflies communicating with light. Specifically, it’s male fireflies who are all flashing in perfect time together, in perfect synchrony, to reinforce a message to the females. And the message, as you can imagine, is “Come hither. Mate with me.” (Music) In a second I’m going to show you a slow motion of a single firefly so that you can get a sense. This is a single frame. Then on, and then off — a 30th of a second, there. And then watch this whole river bank, and watch how precise the synchrony is. On, more on and then off. The combined light from these beetles — these are actually tiny beetles — is so bright that fishermen out at sea can use them as navigating beacons to find their way back to their home rivers. It’s stunning. For a long time it was not believed when the first Western travelers, like Sir Francis Drake, went to Thailand and came back with tales of this unbelievable spectacle. No one believed them. We don’t see anything like this in Europe or in the West. And for a long time, even after it was documented, it was thought to be some kind of optical illusion. Scientific papers were published saying it was twitching eyelids that explained it, or, you know, a human being’s tendency to see patterns where there are none. But I hope you’ve convinced yourself now, with this nighttime video, that they really were very well synchronized. Okay, well, the issue then is, do we need to be alive to see this kind of spontaneous order, and I’ve already hinted that the answer is no. Well, you don’t have to be a whole creature. You can even be just a single cell. Like, take, for instance, your pacemaker cells in your heart right now. They’re keeping you alive. Every beat of your heart depends on this crucial region, the sinoatrial node, which has about 10,000 independent cells that would each beep, have an electrical rhythm — a voltage up and down — to send a signal to the ventricles to pump. Now, your pacemaker is not a single cell. It’s this democracy of 10,000 cells that all have to fire in unison for the pacemaker to work correctly. I don’t want to give you the idea that synchrony is always a good idea. If you have epilepsy, there is an instance of billions of brain cells, or at least millions, discharging in pathological concert. So this tendency towards order is not always a good thing. You don’t have to be alive. You don’t have to be even a single cell. If you look, for instance, at how lasers work, that would be a case of atomic synchrony. In a laser, what makes laser light so different from the light above my head here is that this light is incoherent — many different colors and different frequencies, sort of like the way you clapped initially — but if you were a laser, it would be rhythmic applause. It would be all atoms pulsating in unison, emitting light of one color, one frequency. Now comes the very risky part of my talk, which is to demonstrate that inanimate things can synchronize. Hold your breath for me. What I have here are two empty water bottles. This is not Keith Barry doing a magic trick. This is a klutz just playing with some water bottles. I have some metronomes here. Can you hear that? All right, so, I’ve got a metronome, and it’s the world’s smallest metronome, the — well, I shouldn’t advertise. Anyway, so this is the world’s smallest metronome. I’ve set it on the fastest setting, and I’m going to now take another one set to the same setting. We can try this first. If I just put them on the table together, there’s no reason for them to synchronize, and they probably won’t. Maybe you’d better listen to them. I’ll stand here. What I’m hoping is that they might just drift apart because their frequencies aren’t perfectly the same. Right? They did. They were in sync for a while, but then they drifted apart. And the reason is that they’re not able to communicate. Now, you might think that’s a bizarre idea. How can metronomes communicate? Well, they can communicate through mechanical forces. So I’m going to give them a chance to do that. I also want to wind this one up a bit. How can they communicate? I’m going to put them on a movable platform, which is the “Guide to Graduate Study at Cornell.” Okay? So here it is. Let’s see if we can get this to work. My wife pointed out to me that it will work better if I put both on at the same time because otherwise the whole thing will tip over. All right. So there we go. Let’s see. OK, I’m not trying to cheat — let me start them out of sync. No, hard to even do that. (Applause) All right. So before any one goes out of sync, I’ll just put those right there. (Laughter) Now, that might seem a bit whimsical, but this pervasiveness of this tendency towards spontaneous order sometimes has unexpected consequences. And a clear case of that, was something that happened in London in the year 2000. The Millennium Bridge was supposed to be the pride of London — a beautiful new footbridge erected across the Thames, first river crossing in over 100 years in London. There was a big competition for the design of this bridge, and the winning proposal was submitted by an unusual team — in the TED spirit, actually — of an architect — perhaps the greatest architect in the United Kingdom, Lord Norman Foster — working with an artist, a sculptor, Sir Anthony Caro, and an engineering firm, Ove Arup. And together they submitted a design based on Lord Foster’s vision, which was — he remembered as a kid reading Flash Gordon comic books, and he said that when Flash Gordon would come to an abyss, he would shoot what today would be a kind of a light saber. He would shoot his light saber across the abyss, making a blade of light, and then scamper across on this blade of light. He said, “That’s the vision I want to give to London. I want a blade of light across the Thames.” So they built the blade of light, and it’s a very thin ribbon of steel, the world’s — probably the flattest and thinnest suspension bridge there is, with cables that are out on the side. You’re used to suspension bridges with big droopy cables on the top. These cables were on the side of the bridge, like if you took a rubber band and stretched it taut across the Thames — that’s what’s holding up this bridge. Now, everyone was very excited to try it out. On opening day, thousands of Londoners came out, and something happened. And within two days the bridge was closed to the public. So I want to first show you some interviews with people who were on the bridge on opening day, who will describe what happened. Man: It really started moving sideways and slightly up and down, rather like being on the boat. Woman: Yeah, it felt unstable, and it was very windy, and I remember it had lots of flags up and down the sides, so you could definitely — there was something going on sideways, it felt, maybe. Interviewer: Not up and down? Boy: No. Interviewer: And not forwards and backwards? Boy: No. Interviewer: Just sideways. About how much was it moving, do you think? Boy: It was about — Interviewer: I mean, that much, or this much? Boy: About the second one. Interviewer: This much? Boy: Yeah. Man: It was at least six, six to eight inches, I would have thought. Interviewer: Right, so, at least this much? Man: Oh, yes. Woman: I remember wanting to get off. Interviewer: Oh, did you? Woman: Yeah. It felt odd. Interviewer: So it was enough to be scary? Woman: Yeah, but I thought that was just me. Interviewer: Ah! Now, tell me why you had to do this? Boy: We had to do this because, to keep in balance because if you didn’t keep your balance, then you would just fall over about, like, to the left or right, about 45 degrees. Interviewer: So just show me how you walk normally. Right. And then show me what it was like when the bridge started to go. Right. So you had to deliberately push your feet out sideways and — oh, and short steps? Man: That’s right. And it seemed obvious to me that it was probably the number of people on it. Interviewer: Were they deliberately walking in step, or anything like that? Man: No, they just had to conform to the movement of the bridge. Steven Strogatz: All right, so that already gives you a hint of what happened. Think of the bridge as being like this platform. Think of the people as being like metronomes. Now, you might not be used to thinking of yourself as a metronome, but after all, we do walk like — I mean, we oscillate back and forth as we walk. And especially if we start to walk like those people did, right? They all showed this strange sort of skating gait that they adopted once the bridge started to move. And so let me show you now the footage of the bridge. But also, after you see the bridge on opening day, you’ll see an interesting clip of work done by a bridge engineer at Cambridge named Allan McRobie, who figured out what happened on the bridge, and who built a bridge simulator to explain exactly what the problem was. It was a kind of unintended positive feedback loop between the way the people walked and the way the bridge began to move, that engineers knew nothing about. Actually, I think the first person you’ll see is the young engineer who was put in charge of this project. Okay. (Video) Interviewer: Did anyone get hurt? Engineer: No. Interviewer: Right. So it was quite small — Engineer: Yes. Interviewer: — but real? Engineer: Absolutely. Interviewer: You thought, “Oh, bother.” Engineer: I felt I was disappointed about it. We’d spent a lot of time designing this bridge, and we’d analyzed it, we’d checked it to codes — to heavier loads than the codes — and here it was doing something that we didn’t know about. Interviewer: You didn’t expect. Engineer: Exactly. Narrator: The most dramatic and shocking footage shows whole sections of the crowd — hundreds of people — apparently rocking from side to side in unison, not only with each other, but with the bridge. This synchronized movement seemed to be driving the bridge. But how could the crowd become synchronized? Was there something special about the Millennium Bridge that caused this effect? This was to be the focus of the investigation. Interviewer: Well, at last the simulated bridge is finished, and I can make it wobble. Now, Allan, this is all your fault, isn’t it? Allan McRobie: Yes. Interviewer: You designed this, yes, this simulated bridge, and this, you reckon, mimics the action of the real bridge? AM: It captures a lot of the physics, yes. Interviewer: Right. So if we get on it, we should be able to wobble it, yes? Allan McRobie is a bridge engineer from Cambridge who wrote to me, suggesting that a bridge simulator ought to wobble in the same way as the real bridge — provided we hung it on pendulums of exactly the right length. AM: This one’s only a couple of tons, so it’s fairly easy to get going. Just by walking. Interviewer: Well, it’s certainly going now. AM: It doesn’t have to be a real dangle. Just walk. It starts to go. Interviewer: It’s actually quite difficult to walk. You have to be careful where you put your feet down, don’t you, because if you get it wrong, it just throws you off your feet. AM: It certainly affects the way you walk, yes. You can’t walk normally on it. Interviewer: No. If you try and put one foot in front of another, it’s moving your feet away from under you. AM: Yes. Interviewer: So you’ve got to put your feet out sideways. So already, the simulator is making me walk in exactly the same way as our witnesses walked on the real bridge. AM: … ice-skating gait. There isn’t all this sort of snake way of walking. Interviewer: For a more convincing experiment, I wanted my own opening-day crowd, the sound check team. Their instructions: just walk normally. It’s really intriguing because none of these people is trying to drive it. They’re all having some difficulty walking. And the only way you can walk comfortably is by getting in step. But then, of course, everyone is driving the bridge. You can’t help it. You’re actually forced by the movement of the bridge to get into step, and therefore to drive it to move further. SS: All right, well, with that from the Ministry of Silly Walks, maybe I’d better end. I see I’ve gone over. But I hope that you’ll go outside and see the world in a new way, to see all the amazing synchrony around us. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Steven Strogatz: How things in nature tend to sync up

  1. Jmdd93, Atheists reject faith in god(s), not "the logic of faith". Faith cannot inherently equal true or false. Faith is simply believing something without supportive tangible, quantifiable, non-personal, and empirical evidence. If there were supporting evidence for an idea then you wouldn't need faith. Again, Atheism is the rejection of faith in god(s)

  2. Good, I'm glad we agree. I probably should have just said that atheism rejects "theism and all that it implies" in order to blanket the thought more completely.

    Circular logic is fun. "Did you know that the water that I drink keeps elephants away? Do you see any elephants around? No, then it must be true."

  3. So religion doesn't get questioned at all by its followers? Have you read any serious theology? Have you consulted any serious journal of religion? Some of the sharpest critics of religion I know are religious people.

  4. The books that were not included in the Bible because some of them are apocrypha, some are Gnostic writings, and some (such as 3 Maccabees) are accepted by the Orthodox Church. These books are useful for historic purposes, to see how people lived and taught during the time period they cover. They tell a lot about the people that wrote them, either orthodox Christians and Jews, or heretical groups.

  5. Why are we discussing this?
    If atheism is not a religion, then why did this court in America rule it to be a religion?

    archives . neuralgourmet . com/2005/08/19/court_rules_atheism_a_religion

    ?

  6. Sometimes these books corroborate the Scriptures, sometimes -if they are heretical- they will contradict the Scriptures, sometimes the content is neutral. None of them (unless, in a few cases, you are Eastern Orthodox) are inspired Scripture and to be considered, in themselves, a reliable norm for truth. They are mostly useful for scholars or other people that have a special interest in studying them. For the rest of us, they are merely interesting.

  7. People who really start to question their faith eventually become atheists or at least agnostic. The other people only half question their faith because they can't ignore evidence but they still want the warm and fuzzy feeling of being loved by something intangible. God is just one of those things that the more that science explains the unknown, the further god gets pushed back into further unknowns.

  8. Atheism is only a religion to the courts, just as jmdd93 put it, because it's about the rights of people.

    Atheism is just as much of a religion as mathematics is.

  9. dictionary . com's definitions for a religion is "4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion."

    What is the definition of an atheist? Someone who does not belive in a Supernatural deity. But if their really was no Deity then how could you call yourself A-Theist, that is to say, anti-God or anti the things of God

    There is a God. There is no God.
    Both require faith to say in earnest and integrity. God cannot be proven therefore He cannot be disproved.

  10. Atheism worships Nogod, whose existence it can never prove, and so must be taken on faith alone. It has its own missionaries and its own "saints", Nietzsche, Mencken, etc. To the extent that it is hard atheism, it even has its own principle of infallibility as to the existence of Nogod, though ironically, with respect to morals, it preaches all kinds of relativism.

  11. It also has its councils, or synods, the American Atheist Society, the ACLU, part of the scientific community, much of the liberal media and academia, the share of the entertainment industry which routinely mocks and cusses religion.

  12. Many atheists say that there is a lack of empirical evidence of the existence of God. There is much room for doubt here. The Bible says the universe was created. So does modern science (-the Big Bang-). The Bible says the universe fulfills God's design. Science today is very much unsettled about the possibility of Intelligent Design. Even some atheists are getting won over.

  13. The idea that you're missing xtrashed is that when you state an argument as true, you have to provide evidence for it's validity. Theism states that there is a god and fervently stands behind that idea. Atheism rejects theism because it cannot provide substantial hard evidence for it's case.

    It's like this mathematically. Theism says that there is 1 while Atheism says, how do you know there is 1? An Atheist will not become a Theist until the Theist can prove 1 as true.

    Simple right?

  14. To continue my last comment…

    Between Theism and Atheism; Theist are saying that God exists and Atheists are saying, how do you know?

    Sure, anyone can say that god made the big bang and god is the source of all life. That sounds really nice and all but for god to have created literally everything, there must have been a system before creation as we know it, and before that, and before that. Nothing comes from Anarchy.

    Better doubt than believe until there is hard, quantifiable evidence.

  15. Continuing (Part 2)

    The problem with a theory like "God exists and made everything", there needs to be a lot of other supporting ideas behind it. Such as how god and his/her/it's environment functions. In order to justify something like that, you have to continue to add new theories on top of it when the logic of the argument breaks down.

    And thus, it's better to doubt and believe nothing than to believe something that cannot be proven.

  16. Continuing (Part 3)

    Conversely, I don't disbelieve in the idea of god, I just doubt it.

    Theism makes a LOT of claims for God and have for the last few millennia. The more claims that are made, the more evidence there needs to be.

    So when you say things like "the universe fulfills god's design". I have to ask the question, what design, and who defines what this design is exactly?

    The last time that I checked, nothing has ever been written directly by a supernatural force; it's always man.

  17. Continuing (Part 4: Final)

    So I ask you this xtrashed.

    Beyond any personal experiences that you've had regarding god or anything supernatural, what direct evidence makes you believe that there is a god or anything supernatural.

    Keep in mind that I sort of like the idea of some sort of uber 1337 programmer god that made everything awesome, but I doubt it, and I'm not going to let a question of "how did all of this get here?" lead me to an answer that has no basis in tangibility.

  18. To see religion as the unique cause of violence is naive in the extreme. And secularism doesn't make people do crazy things? As I said to before, I have absolutely no quarrel with a self-critical attitude on the part of religious people. But I would like secularists and atheists to demonstrate at least as much scepticism about themselves. Atheistic regimes killed over 150 million people during the 20th century alone. They demanded atheism of their members, religious people were killed!

  19. Please consult the similar prophecies of the imminent demise of religion penned by Friedrich Nietzsche, Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, Auguste Comte, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Jean-Paul Sartre, Mao Tse-Tung, and Sigmund Freud. They're all gone; religion is still here!

  20. Physics has actually confirmed a lot of the Bible. Especially in the book of Daniel and Revelations. String theory physics accepts that there are many extra dimensions, and the math is being worked out to determine exactly how many extra-dimensions there are, though 16 is a popular estimate. In Daniel 5:5, a hand from another dimension writes a riddle on the wall of a king. A "third heaven" is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:2.

  21. One of those extra dimensions is what's called "monopoly field" in physics, also known as the Bermuda trangle effect; whereas things and people can vanish. In Rev 9 and 20, Angels come and go from an extra-dimensional "bottomless pit", which perfectly describes monopoly field effects; but without the crushing melting "singularity" at the bottom of black holes.

  22. Isaiah 34:4 describes what can only be black hole type objects in the sky, via gravity pulling in all the host of the heavens, vanishing away. "And the heavens DEPARTED as a scroll when it is rolled together"-Rev 6:14.

  23. Revelations is scientifically accurate in describing the effects of a major meteoric hail and impact event, such as in Rev 8 & 18:21; a global quake that collapses all the cities of the world at once (Rev 16:18 & Isaiah 14:16-17), and part of earth scorched (Rev 8), and waves roaring. (Luke 21:25 & Daniel 9:25 and Isaiah 14:23), and skies darkened (Rev 8:12 and Acts 2:20). That alone is reason to believe in Revelations & Daniel.

  24. Job 38:13 and Isaiah 24:1/20 seems to describe a reversal of polarity with an axis shift, as science confirms has happened in the far past repeatedly. Reversals occur when the EM field strength weakens to critical level. The EM field can be weakened by solar flares, gamma ray bursts, or impact. When a magnet is struck, it briefly loses its'
    field strength; so with a planet EM field.

  25. So, the predicted impact event can indeed cause a reversal with axis shift (Isaiah 2:18-21) and fulfil this Revelations predictionthat "every mountain and island were moved
    from their places"-Rev 6:14. There are many longer Bible references to openings in the sky, and blinding flashes, etc.

  26. What Darwin didn't realize (and what we know now) is just how machine-like even a single cell is, how delicately and intricately interdependent its elements are. That this construction was not, in some sense, designed or directed by a higher intelligence seems counter-indicated.

  27. Islam, Christianity and Judaism. That is for a reason-there is only one truth that hasn't changed; it's men who has. Religion is simply acknowledging the truth, truth that is eternal and sometimes even beyond our own understanding. God wants us to find Him for ourselves and learn of his true teachings, not just to follow any claims of higher power because they're "there", or "all the same".

  28. And let me get this straight: you dismiss the beliefs of billions of religious people as "funny" and I'm the one who's arrogant. Perhaps you could read a little more philosophy, theology, and sophisticated biblical criticism before pronouncing all of religion as "funny."
    My suspicion is that, like most contemporary atheists, you have no idea what you're criticizing. You have a caricature of religion in your mind, and you delight in taking it apart. Try the real stuff.

  29. ake a look at the recent work of Antony Flew and the texts of John Polkinghorne, both of whom argue from the complex intelligibility of the world to a creative intelligence. All of science rests upon the assumption that finite being is intelligible. Some creative intelligence must ground that intelligibility.

  30. Take a stroll to the library and look at the texts of Augustine, Aquinas, Bonaventure, Duns Scotus, Anselm, John Henry Newman, Hans Urs von Balthasar, and Joseph Ratzinger, to name just a handful. Now you might not agree with these books, but I would defy you to call them unsophisticated. Until you have considered these, you don't have a right to bloviate about religion. It's been very interesting discussing this with all of you! I hope I've called you to ask some more questions….GOD BLESS!!

  31. String Theory is just that, a theory. You can't use a theory to prove another theory. You're just using carefully selected snippets of biblical text and relating them to things that we only know a tiny bit about. Just because The words "You" and "Idiot" both have the letter "o" in them doesn't mean that they're the same word.

  32. I love it, you're just picking the parts of Revelations out that seem like they relate to something else that we do know something about but then completely omitting all of the text that talks about dragons having seven heads and other mythical creatures.

    You're argument for the existence of god or the legitimacy of the bible is so unbelievably flawed. You can't just pick the parts that you like and not critique the rest of it that doesn't have any physical links.

  33. Just because you cant see the answer behind the mystery doesn't mean the answer automatically points to an intelligent source.

    We used to think that there was an intelligent source behind lighting but it turns out that wasn't true either.

  34. See, you can't say that you know for sure that "god wants us to find him for ourselves…" You're basing that statement of written word that doesn't have any tangible evidence so how can you possibly say that it's true? You're just guessing and wishful thinking.

    You can't even prove god so how are you going to be the one to know exactly what god is thinking without consulting text written by man or other men who are equally unable to provide proof or at the very least, evidence.

  35. You're not arrogant xtrashed, you're one of the billions of silly people who still believe things that there parents told them without actually questioning why they believe it in the first place. One of the billions of silly people who still live in the dark ages of logic and reason.

    There sure where a whole lot of people, namely everyone, who believed that the world was flat and at the center of the universe. What does it take to make you understand that you should doubt what you believe.

  36. I think the only question that you've called anyone to ask is "How on earth can these people still exist?" and "I wonder how long it will take until we live in a more logical, reasoning, and intelligent society; one that encourages questioning ideas rather than blindly following them just because someone else says that they're true?"

    It's better to have doubt to the extraordinary in the presence of what we do not understand than to believe in something where there is most likely nothing.

  37. This is really quite interesting because it sums up to the notion that the universe has a way of working things out. There is a relationship between everything; an interconnectingness. It is also exciting that mathematics and science are discovering such patterns and will enable our civilization to be more harmonious through technology and understanding. One day we will reap the full benefits of what the universe has to offer.

  38. What does that have to do with this video? Why do I always have to see scientific ideas spammed with conversations about religion?

    If you don't believe in religion, don't antagonize those that do.

  39. That's because people like that are everywhere and clearly don't care to see things in any other way and feel compelled to spread like the cancer they think they're curing the world of.

    However I think they keep going because smarter people like yourself think they actually can change their minds by something we say.

    I apologize for putting you on the spotlight, I just keep seeing religious conversations on any scientific video.

    Sorry, I'm just irritated today.

  40. I think he showed THAT things in nature tend to sync up, but he didn't go into how too much (with the exception of the bridge, but that isn't really related too much to groups of birds).

  41. women synchronize their menstrual cycles when in groups also.. but i donno if it has any connection to this, heh 😛

  42. Synchronicity occurs in all wakes of life. People follow others around them, and in a collective manner move as one order. We can infer that atoms and electrons work in the same way. So is the electron orbit random? If on a grand scale order is reached by a collective of conscious individuals? OMG! I am losing my MIND!

  43. You right, it is the false pretense that we are all individuals. (Selfishness in a way) If we look on a grand scale we are all but one organism under one heaven. And one heaven under one universe.

  44. I've noticed especially after being one of 100s walking down 7th Avenue near Times Square today on a sunny very pleasant day and then one of thousands at rock concert, that individuals tend to enjoy being in masses as long as the collective energy is unified and free of visible predators.

  45. are you joking? what's the purpose of that metronome experiment? it was a metaphorical distraction if anything! entirely driven by crowd expectation, just because the phases crossed doesn't mean it went in sync!
    I understand it's a visualization tool, but he should have set it up in the beginning, with 4 metronomes, 1 connected and the other not, and in various times during the presentation check back on them and see if they are in sync or not. And even that is lacking

  46. @oathme420
    no energy can't be created or destroyed, but matter can be made from energy and when destroyed it gives off energy, none is lost in the creation or destruction hence energy can't be created or destroyed

  47. @oathme420 I'm guessing by 4 states of matter you mean gas, liquid, solid and plasma, all 4 of which are do exist on earth not 3, and have you studied science? time and time again the idea of something controlling say matter, creation and everything has been proved false, so you can't say "for us to think that there is NOT something else at force here is ludicrius" and then believe yourself a man of science as well.

  48. So that you understand what he's talking about, check out the book "Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos" by Steven Strogatz. It has become the standard introductory text on nonlinear dynamics. All you need to work through it is introductory linear algebra and basic ordinary differential equations.

  49. This is so fucking cool. My family catches bait fish, which hang out in large swarms. My dad was always sure that there must be some kind of hierarchy, with senior bait fish coordinating smaller bait fish. We would argue about this once a week or so and I never thought it had to be so complicated.
    Those three rules don't sound too hard to implement in a program. Find your nearest neighbors with a Voronoi diagram, and model distances and orientation as springs. Then it's just finding constants.

  50. I wonder how the phenomenon of spontaneous synchronization applies to a DJ rocking the crowd on a dance floor? Are there similar positive feedback loops to what happened when people started walking funny on the Millennium Bridge?

  51. that metronome argument was very week. they did not sync up they simply fell in an out of phase as their similar frequencies oscillated. they are in an endless cycle of being in phase and then out of phase in a periodically repeating pattern

  52. the body is a mere vehicle we all have to own in order to experience this reality. once the concept is settle trough out the world, there will be no more sadness.
    i own a ferrari, you a lamborguini? your lamborguini color sucks! (this makes me a racist?) think about it, think about all the stuff you are missing by THINKING WHAT YOU SEE TROUGH THE WINDSHIELD IS ALL THERE IS! i love you all.

  53. FYI Steven, There are Synchronous Fireflies in North America.  We have them here in my backyard in the Allegheny National Forest of NW Pennsylvania.  They are also known to exist in the Great Smoky Mountains.  You should come to our PA Firefly Festival on June 28 and see the for yourself.

  54. so what happened with the bridge? was it something that needed structural fixing? or has it just become a case of 'don't let too many people on the bridge at once' ?

  55. I recall, reading or hearing somewhere, that Soldiers of the British Empire had to break step when marching over a suspended bridge! – In order to stop the bridge from swaying. For the very reason, illustrated to us by the eloquent Professor!. 🙂

  56. That clapping experiment right at the beginning. Steven said he was expecting it to synchronise but not to speed up. But in my admittedly limited experience of synchronised clapping it usually does speed up involuntarily (unless it's the slow handclap, a deliberate  expression of collective displeasure). Why? Why doesn't it slow down? My opinion: one by one people fall out of phase as the tempo becomes more demanding, disorder supervenes, at which point it's OK to stop. Slowing down wouldn't provide this excuse, so clapping would be excruciatingly prolonged. Maybe that's why clapping is usually unsynchronised in the first place. I wonder if this difference in synchrony between gradually stepped up and stepped down tempo would also occur if incorporated into those famous spontaneously synchronised metronome experiments.

  57. how can he say "There seems to be nothing mystical about this process?" then goes on to state three simple rules plus the one about the predator… this is the kind of left-brained intellect that can not feel the truth of consciousness – pure consciousness is a sacred UNION of ENERGY. (he's arrogant to think he knows these things with his little mask-u-line physical brain)

  58. I have studied starling murmurations (synchronized swarming) and a flaw I see alot is that they have been witnessed to murmurate when flocking, landing, as well as roosting. so, if they sync swarm also outside of predators, does't that flaw their model immensely? what's the evolutionary benefit to perform such incredible task if predation avoidance is only a partial reason for their actions?

  59. i wish he had thought of swarms in relation to their geodesic structures.. if the motion trajectory of each bird/fish can be quantified based on its initial point and direction-speed.. one can form a differential equation that averages the flow..
    .what makes it effective to think in this way is that when we factor in the "points" where predators strike the swarm, we can predict the trajectory and shape of the swarm based on its impact.

  60. это не синхронность !!!! а мгновенная последовательность !!!!! ОНИ ДВИЖУТСЯ ВОЛНОЙ, ЭТО НЕ СИНХРОННОСТЬ!!!! НЕ ДУРИТЕ ЛЮДЕЙ!!!!!

  61. I can not help but notice that when you burn some wood and small pieces of red burning 'coal like' wood remains, they sort of blink around in a symphony that you could probably play a good music to and would look amazing. The light from these pieces seems to move around, slowing down over time but if you blow some air (oxygen) it goes up again. What does the mathematical description of this phenomenon look like? The energy is being swirled around in the system of woods, and the light emitted makes some pattern. The mathematical model of the system probably has some connection to ocean-atmosphere dynamics.

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