Gorgeous starling flocks act like magnets, scientists say3/14/2012
You've probably seen flocks of starlings soaring through the evening sky -- or at least one of hundreds of YouTube videos that have recorded their ballet-like, beautiful movements, like the one above. Wired reports on some of the science behind their incredible, coordinated movements: "The birds' aerial formations don't just transcend biology, but span multiple physical phenomena. ... To achieve their extraordinary coordination, starling flocks in flight behave mathematically like metals becoming magnetized."
Statistical physicist Irene Giardina studied flocks of starlings and found that when one bird changes its direction, its seven closest neighbors also changed direction -- and so on, throughout the flock. That's similar to the way metals act as they become magnetized. Giardina says: "People are used to the flocks ... but they always wonder how it's possible for them to act in such complex ways. We looked at the flocks and said, 'We should be able to do something about this. We should be able to understand.'"
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Have you seen a flock of starlings?