Swarming behavior of masses of living things

On May 18th, I went to a talk by Dr. Iain Couzin, hosted by the Secret Science Club at the Bell House in Brooklyn.

Couzin’s lab at Princeton investigates collective animal behavior, some of which include fish schools, bird flocks, and locust swarms.

This video shows predator and the prey swarms interacting. When the video shows it in slow motion, notice how the prey individuals can avoid the predator by keeping a cushion of space between them. Couzin talked about how they measure these movements in his lab’s research and what they hope to be able to model and measure in the future, like behavior and movement.

They are also using some really amazing tracking software to calculate the orientation and movement of fish using video taken from above the tanks. They have even started using this technology to track movements of people walking around and as part of an escape-route experiment.

I couldn’t find any videos from this section, but there was a video that Couzin showed from an experiment where they had a large group of people in a circular room. Only a few people were told which “emergency exit” was the safest exit. These people had to move towards that door and get others to follow without communication.

The most incredible thing I took away from the talk was from the discussion of locust swarms and their research on what drives the movement of these swarms.

Here is Iain Couzin giving a short talk about swarm movement:

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2 Responses

  1. chewbear says

    I wonder if he has worked with video game programmers at all about their software. That might be a good question to email him about! Thanks for the link!

  2. Nat says

    This is cool stuff, and video game programmers actually deal with flocking and swarming a lot when trying to make realistic behavior for artificially intelligent agents.

    This article has some interesting information and references on artificially modeling swarms:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swarm_intelligence