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The Rules of the Swarm

samzenpus posted more than 6 years ago | from the welcome-to-the-collective dept.

Science 166

Hugh Pickens writes "Researchers are starting to discover the simple rules that allow swarms of thousands of relatively simple animals to form a collective brain able to make decisions and move like a single organism. To get a sense of swarms, Dr. Iain Couzin, a mathematical biologist at the Collective Animal Behaviour Laboratory at Princeton University, builds computer models of virtual swarms with thousands of individual agents that he can program to follow a few simple rules. Among the findings are that swarm behavior has patterns common to many different species, that just as liquid water can suddenly begin to boil, swarm behavior can also change abruptly in character, and that just a few leaders can guide a swarm effectively by creating a bias in the swarm's movement that steers it in a particular direction. The rules of the swarm may also apply to the cells inside our bodies and researchers are working with cancer biologists to discover the rules by which cancer cells work together to build tumors or migrate through tissues. Even brain cells may follow the same rules for collective behavior seen in locusts or fish. "How does your brain take this information and come to a collective decision about what you're seeing?" Dr. Couzin says. The answer, he suspects, may lie in our inner swarm."

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166 comments

I live for the swarm (4, Funny)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#21344649)

Spawn more overlords.

Re:I live for the swarm (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21344703)

Congrations on a firts post

Re:I live for the swarm (4, Funny)

UnderDark (869922) | more than 6 years ago | (#21344917)

Can not build more Overlords: More minerals required!

Re:I live for the swarm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21345209)

You require additional pylons.

Re:I live for the swarm (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21345491)

You require more vespian gas.

Re:I live for the swarm (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#21346141)

At least the zerg make sense.

If all the Terrans you're going to have are in the first command center and just get "trained" by the barracks, how come you can hit the psi limit even after getting a hundred marines killed?

Re:I live for the swarm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21345271)

We need focus!

Re:I live for the swarm (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345327)

nah ah! You must be using teh mineral hackz if you have that many units already! cheater! *uses disconnect hack*
Btw this article is idiotic. Cancer cells use principles of chemistry to move. Swarms used intelligent neural networks aka millions of neuron cells, not one cell. There's absolutely no corrolation in how each works beyond pure coincidence. They just added that BS to cover the fact that their research has no purpose at the moment. I hate people who study something with no purpose other than they think it's cool and then hope they stumble upon something useable to technology. Btw this dumb study is brought to you by the same school that closed down the PEAR institute. If you're going to study something ridiculous and seemingly pointless, at least make it about human psychic abilities!

Strength is irrelevent (2, Funny)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 6 years ago | (#21344659)

You will be assimilated

C'est la vie (1)

pallmall1 (882819) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345139)

Such is life [bitstorm.org]. John Conway's [wikipedia.org] game of life, that is. And it's been around a lot longer than this rebranded form of cellular automaton [wikipedia.org] called "Swarm Theory" has. Note that Conway also worked at Princeton. Small world, and smaller attribution.

Re:Strength is irrelevent (2, Funny)

jagdish (981925) | more than 6 years ago | (#21346019)

Jesus is returning, Resistance is futile [somethingawful.com].

Re:Strength is irrelevent (1)

Sproggit (18426) | more than 6 years ago | (#21347035)

How many christians does it take to change a light bulb?
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
ZERO, they just wait thousands of years for the old one to come back to life...

it's funny because it's true (4, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 6 years ago | (#21344675)

Researchers are starting to discover the simple rules that allow swarms of thousands of relatively simple animals to form a collective brain able to make decisions and move like a single organism.

Strangely enough, it also explains republican voting habits.

Re:it's funny because it's true (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21344807)

Yes, because of course the average (and I mean **average**) Democrats is any more informed and makes their decision based on their indepth knowledge of the issues and having weighed all options...

Jeebus. Just shut up. The fact is that MOST people vote for whomever is offering them what they want, be it welfare or bombing some turd-world country. The few rational, enlightened individuals who are NOT bent on exploiting the mob tendencies of the voting bloc for either party (if you think Democratic or Republican candidates say what they say because they believe it and not just because they know that certain segments of the population will come to heal and show up on election day, then please tell me - what does it feel like to be part of a hoard?) support neither the Republicans nor the Democrats. However, there are few of those people despite the large numbers who speak against both. Most of them are just apathetic losers who can't be bothered, and that's a good thing for they shouldn't be voting anyway.

Re:it's funny because it's true (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21344833)

I'm sorry but I'm pretty sure that there is some kind of new law that says you can't write this kind of response without mentioning Ron Paul.

Re:it's funny because it's true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21345029)

Ron Paul is alright. I've met him.. actually got on CSPAN2 with him when a club I'm a member of in Arlington hosted him as our speaker. He's the only candidate on either side that isn't a flat lier, but in the long run, I don't really support most of his solutions. That is why I didn't mention him.

Re:it's funny because it's true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21344871)

Jeebus. Just shut up. The fact is that MOST people vote for whomever is offering them what they want, be it welfare or bombing some turd-world country.
it's not even that anymore... look at how political zealotry works- it isn't so much the issues of the party as it is being in a group of like-minded people, fitting in and attacking the other side. take a look at the voting stats on bills, they are very very partisan and if one party supports it, the other violently opposes it and condemns any one who votes otherwise.

Re:it's funny because it's true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21344965)

you're right there is quite a bit of bipartisanship these days, and as a former republican, well I blame the neo-cons.

Re:it's funny because it's true (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21345811)

You're right.

The fact is this refers to the entire US public, the majority of whom have their heads so far up their asses that they don't know any other country even exists unless the US happens to be bombing it at the time.

Re:it's funny because it's true (4, Insightful)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345147)

That's right, keep the Republican jokes comming. Typical Slashdot "Swarm-think".

Hey, I just discovered something...

Re:it's funny because it's true (1)

skoaldipper (752281) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345217)

That's right, keep the Republican jokes comming. Typical Slashdot "Swarm-think".

Hey, I just discovered something...
That we are the beekeepers?

Re:it's funny because it's true (4, Funny)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345951)

If slashdot were a swarm of bees, it would long ago have committed suicide by repeatedly attempting to mate with a toaster.

"Ohh! Shiny gizmo!"

*BZZZZT*

"....what do you think happened to him?"
"who cares? look at the shiny gizmo!"

Re:it's funny because it's true (1)

Eric52902 (1080393) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345937)

You mean that people with similar points of view tend to congregate in the same venues? And here I was thinking /. was a diverse, representative cross-section of humanity...

Re:it's funny because it's true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21346253)

Slashdot will always have a democrat bias, as most IT workers have some form of higher education.

Re:it's funny because it's true (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21345177)

Actually, studies have been done and Democratic voters are generally less educated and less informed. See the book --> "If Democrats Had Brains, They'd Be Republicans" by Ann Coulter. Or just watch the people lined up to vote in any majority Democrat district. It's like watching the inmates milling around at the asylum. Some things are true whether you believe them or not.

Re:it's funny because it's true (2, Interesting)

innerweb (721995) | more than 6 years ago | (#21346547)

For our next trick, we will quote Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern as principles of honesty and integrity in reporting.

Group think is really a misnomer. Group think is really a large bunch of individuals not thinking (or thinking at a minimal level). So, republicans, democrats, libertarians, religious assemblies, whatever, is just minimal thinking individuals participating in groups guided by a few individuals in swarm behavior. It really does make so much sense this way. It has almost always worked when marketing. That is why marketers want a buzz about their ads and products, it promotes a swarm (mob) mentality about the product in question.

It is funny, but I think this will have more impact on marketing in the next 10 years than anything else.

InnerWeb

Gaia? (2, Insightful)

ynososiduts (1064782) | more than 6 years ago | (#21344715)

Maybe they are each part of the same consciousness? Have you not read Foundation's Edge?

Re:Gaia? (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#21344841)

Maybe they are. Maybe there's a flying spaghetti monster. Or an invisible pink unicorn. Or an honest politician. Wait, no, that's going too far.

Re:Gaia? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21345275)

Well, I guess I don't have to, now, you insensitive clod.


First Peanuts ruins Citizen Kane for me, then the Simpsons ruins Planet of the Apes, and now this. Well, you, Schultz, and Groening can rot in hell for all I care!

Re:Gaia? (1)

vandan (151516) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345285)

I have a single moderation point left, but I think I'd prefer to respond personally and congratulate you on your insight :)

Re:Gaia? (1)

Santana (103744) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345529)

"[...] look, see those birds? At some point a program was written to govern them. A program was written to watch over the trees, and the wind, the sunrise, and sunset." - The Oracle.

Probably not a program as we know it, but maybe a spirit that governs the swarms.

Just like fractals (5, Interesting)

Gabest (852807) | more than 6 years ago | (#21344745)

We are already "cells" of a thing called "economy", for an alien the earth may just look like a single living being.

heh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21344761)

this guy has been playing wayyyyyyy too much starcraft. i shouldnt talk, i played it for 10 hours a day while in iraq in my stryker :P

Think of the movie potential (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21344771)

Cannibal cricket^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hs on a forced march for protein and salt.

I'm sure in some deep, dark basement (1)

instantkarma1 (234104) | more than 6 years ago | (#21344791)

Stephan Wolfram is going "I told ya so."

Re:I'm sure in some deep, dark basement (1)

muoncatcher (946065) | more than 6 years ago | (#21344991)

I don't think the credit goes to Wolfram. He just popularized the idea, but the study of cellular automata goes back before him.

Re:I'm sure in some deep, dark basement (2, Funny)

BCGlorfindel (256775) | more than 6 years ago | (#21344993)

Stephan Wolfram is going "I told ya so."

Wouldn't that be more like "WE told ya so".

Re:I'm sure in some deep, dark basement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21345193)

Deep, dark basement? With his brains and money, the guy is probably getting more pussy than the bottom half of slashdot combined.

I think the acient chinese may have been onto it.. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21344795)

sounds an awful lot like our "chi"

Collectively, of course (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 6 years ago | (#21344813)

I, for one, welcome our new Inner Swarm Overlord...

Would it be redundant to say 'slashdot swarm effect?

But seriously --- hunger, fright, spawning, yawning, roosting, cheering, migrating, hibernating, buying lotto tickets...you can't have a 'crowd' effect without a crowd, so discovering there is such a thing seems a bit like finding a bullet hole and then inventing the gun. All sounds a bit medieval if you ask me.

I just want to know where the on/off switch is so I can control it...

Re:Collectively, of course (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21345235)

You forgot everyone's favorite, the mob effect... OK, what if everyone, as a group, decided not to act as a group? Not to mention the paradoxical possibilities of a Beowulf cluster of swarm driven computers...

This message is endorsed by pi.

Re:Collectively, of course (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345359)

"OK, what if everyone, as a group, decided not to act as a group."

Exactly... Ok if I quote you? As a group, I mean.

Now, everybody don't move - I want a picture of this one. Is everybody not ready?

Re:Collectively, of course (3, Insightful)

Tribbin (565963) | more than 6 years ago | (#21346113)

You got it all WRONG!!!

A swarm has no overlord!

Re:Collectively, of course (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 6 years ago | (#21346337)

It would be the collective, or group, overlord. Sort of the all-4-1 & 1-4-all approach to the mob-acting-as-one big...really big...overlord.

Are you with us?

The Rules of THE SWARM (4, Funny)

Null Perception (914562) | more than 6 years ago | (#21344815)

1st RULE: You do not talk about THE SWARM. 2nd RULE: You DO NOT talk about THE SWARM.

But in case you do... (1)

DwarfGoanna (447841) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345283)

know that violations of Rules 1 & 2 can usually be mitigated by CLOSING THE BLINDS AND GETTING A DOG.


in b4 "what the hell is this", -1 Offtopic, etc. =)

Rules of the Swarm (4, Funny)

Misanthrope (49269) | more than 6 years ago | (#21344845)

Swarm Subtype

A swarm is a collection of Fine, Diminutive, or Tiny creatures that acts as a single creature. A swarm has the characteristics of its type, except as noted here. A swarm has a single pool of Hit Dice and hit points, a single initiative modifier, a single speed, and a single Armor Class. A swarm makes saving throws as a single creature. A single swarm occupies a square (if it is made up of nonflying creatures) or a cube (of flying creatures) 10 feet on a side, but its reach is 0 feet, like its component creatures. In order to attack, it moves into an opponent's space, which provokes an attack of opportunity. It can occupy the same space as a creature of any size, since it crawls all over its prey. A swarm can move through squares occupied by enemies and vice versa without impediment, although the swarm provokes an attack of opportunity if it does so. A swarm can move through cracks or holes large enough for its component creatures.

A swarm of Tiny creatures consists of 300 nonflying creatures or 1,000 flying creatures. A swarm of Diminutive creatures consists of 1,500 nonflying creatures or 5,000 flying creatures. A swarm of Fine creatures consists of 10,000 creatures, whether they are flying or not. Swarms of nonflying creatures include many more creatures than could normally fit in a 10-foot square based on their normal space, because creatures in a swarm are packed tightly together and generally crawl over each other and their prey when moving or attacking. Larger swarms are represented by multiples of single swarms. The area occupied by a large swarm is completely shapeable, though the swarm usually remains in contiguous squares.
Traits

A swarm has no clear front or back and no discernable anatomy, so it is not subject to critical hits or flanking. A swarm made up of Tiny creatures takes half damage from slashing and piercing weapons. A swarm composed of Fine or Diminutive creatures is immune to all weapon damage. Reducing a swarm to 0 hit points or lower causes it to break up, though damage taken until that point does not degrade its ability to attack or resist attack. Swarms are never staggered or reduced to a dying state by damage. Also, they cannot be tripped, grappled, or bull rushed, and they cannot grapple an opponent.

A swarm is immune to any spell or effect that targets a specific number of creatures (including single-target spells such as disintegrate), with the exception of mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, phantasms, patterns, and morale effects) if the swarm has an Intelligence score and a hive mind. A swarm takes half again as much damage (+50%) from spells or effects that affect an area, such as splash weapons and many evocation spells.

Swarms made up of Diminutive or Fine creatures are susceptible to high winds such as that created by a gust of wind spell. For purposes of determining the effects of wind on a swarm, treat the swarm as a creature of the same size as its constituent creatures. A swarm rendered unconscious by means of nonlethal damage becomes disorganized and dispersed, and does not reform until its hit points exceed its nonlethal damage.
Swarm HD Swarm
Base Damage
1-5 1d6
6-10 2d6
11-15 3d6
16-20 4d6
21 or more 5d6
Swarm Attack

Creatures with the swarm subtype don't make standard melee attacks. Instead, they deal automatic damage to any creature whose space they occupy at the end of their move, with no attack roll needed. Swarm attacks are not subject to a miss chance for concealment or cover. A swarm's statistics block has "swarm" in the Attack and Full Attack entries, with no attack bonus given. The amount of damage a swarm deals is based on its Hit Dice, as shown in the table.

A swarm's attacks are nonmagical, unless the swarm's description states otherwise. Damage reduction sufficient to reduce a swarm attack's damage to 0, being incorporeal, and other special abilities usually give a creature immunity (or at least resistance) to damage from a swarm. Some swarms also have acid, poison, blood drain, or other special attacks in addition to normal damage.

Swarms do not threaten creatures in their square, and do not make attacks of opportunity with their swarm attack. However, they distract foes whose squares they occupy, as described below.
Distraction (Ex)

Any living creature vulnerable to a swarm's damage that begins its turn with a swarm in its square is nauseated for 1 round; a Fortitude save (DC 10 + ½ swarm's HD + swarm's Con modifier; the exact DC is given in a swarm's description) negates the effect. Spellcasting or concentrating on spells within the area of a swarm requires a Concentration check (DC 20 + spell level). Using skills that involve patience and concentration requires a DC 20 Concentration check.

Re:Rules of the Swarm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21345971)

D&D day's still got a hold of you? Me too, I'm knee deep in books and online shit, it only took what 3 days and I'm hooked, I need a twenty die program or something. Rolls, ..... "1" critical failure to beat "D&D addiction", spend $200 on books and miniatures, buy food only for game nights, quit showering and live in mom's basement clutching your miniatures squealing "precious, my precious..." until the transformation is complete and a short guy comes over from seven eleven, insisting you melt the your precious in the friar of DOOM!


"Not! my precious..." - I growl

The Rules of the Swarm... on slashdot. (5, Insightful)

Willbur (196916) | more than 6 years ago | (#21344865)

When I read the summary my immediate response was that this was old news. It has been known for quite a while that cellular automata with simple rules can form universal Turing machines. That means that they can "form a collective brain" and "make decisions and move like a single organism". The interesting question then becomes; What "program" is your machine running, and how do you make it robust so that it works in the real world (with all the noise of nature)?

The article is a popular science article, but addresses this, more interesting, question much more than the summary. They discuss some of the rules involved in specific situations (ants), and even look at "human swarms" (although that bit is a little cheesy). There is no general theory posited about how to make these rule sets though, apart from trial and error (in simulation if you can). They say that the researchers are starting to see patterns, but don't talk about what those patterns are - pity really, as that would have been very interesting.

Re:The Rules of the Swarm... on slashdot. (1)

markov_chain (202465) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345081)

Programs running on humans = religion

Hackers = L. Ron Hubbard, whoever wrote the Bible, the Torah, etc.

Re:The Rules of the Swarm... on slashdot. (1)

BorgCopyeditor (590345) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345173)

Programs running on humans = religion. Hackers = L. Ron Hubbard, whoever wrote the Bible, the Torah, etc.

My inner swarm is whispering to me that 1992 called and wants its mass-market paperback scifi novel premise back.

Re:The Rules of the Swarm... on slashdot. (1)

upside (574799) | more than 6 years ago | (#21346975)

If you start on that path: any "ism", and "hackers" would include
- Lenin
- McCarthy

You know, to people from some parts the ritual of swearing an oath of allegiance to a flag is a quite sinister form of programming. Who's hacking who there? That's right, nobody. It's swarm behaviour to enforce swarm cohesion.

We all are programmed to take some things for granted, on which we base our interpretation of the world outside ourselves. Travel is great because interacting with others exposes many of your own "programs" that you'd otherwise never call to question. It seems to me the Internet doesn't seem to do that for some reason, despite the crosscontinental interaction.

Re:The Rules of the Swarm... on slashdot. (2, Interesting)

catmistake (814204) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345251)

~160 years ago, Søren Kierkegaard worked out the First Philosophy of the human swarm:
The crowd is untruth.

Re:The Rules of the Swarm... on slashdot. (2, Interesting)

m0nstr42 (914269) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345323)

The article is a popular science article, but addresses this, more interesting, question much more than the summary. They discuss some of the rules involved in specific situations (ants), and even look at "human swarms" (although that bit is a little cheesy). There is no general theory posited about how to make these rule sets though, apart from trial and error (in simulation if you can). They say that the researchers are starting to see patterns, but don't talk about what those patterns are - pity really, as that would have been very interesting.
Check out Dr. Couzin's web site: http://www.princeton.edu/~icouzin [princeton.edu] there are lots of great papers there.

One common set of rules is (related to boids) 1. Move away from those closest to you. 2. Move towards those farthest from you. 3. Align with those in the middle.

On the other hand, it would be erroneous to posit a common set of rules for every species. Different evolutionary pressures produce different behaviors in different situations. An interesting facet of this type of research is to see how different sets of parameters for the same set of rules can produce different behaviors, or different sequences of behaviors.

Re:The Rules of the Swarm... on slashdot. (2, Interesting)

skiingyac (262641) | more than 6 years ago | (#21346283)

I can't speak for him directly, but I've been to one of his talks and read a bunch of his papers. Basically, the 3 rules for bird/fish/etc movement are very simple and are surprisingly robust. But, it is extremely difficult to reverse-engineer the rules. Sure, those 3 rules are simple enough, but are they the ones actually used by the animals? You can't exactly ask them. And then there are questions about whether an individual gives more weight to a neighboring individual which it can only hear and not see (because it is behind them), or to what extent an individual's own sense of direction and instincts plays a part. Animals have tons of senses, each with tons of dimensions.

Then there are behaviors like in geese where if one goose in a migrating flock is injured/sick/tired/dying, another goose will leave the flock (the rest of which continues on) and this other goose waits until the first goose is better (or dies) and then they continue the migration. What is the rule for that? It is just as hard to fine-tune a given set of rules except via experiment/simulation since there's not much mathematical theory behind this yet (though I believe he's got some started).

Then there are things like, we'd like to make robot swarms and we want them to act like birds except do X instead of Y. Even if the natural behaviors are modeled it is very difficult to figure out what rules to add/change/delete to get the desired change. Or, we want the robots to do natural thing X, but we need some guarantee that they will do it with some level of accuracy and we need a kill switch in case they become self-aware. This field is wide open and is extremely interesting, because even if we're not explicitly mimicking natural phenomenon we are anyway when we have groups of things (computerized or otherwise) that have many individual components with complex and somewhat autonomous interactions.

Cheap shot: (1)

Glowing Fish (155236) | more than 6 years ago | (#21344897)

"How does your brain take this information and come to a collective decision about what you're seeing?" Dr. Couzin says. The answer, he suspects, may lie in our inner swarm."

Which explains AOL!

Stand Alone Complex? (2, Interesting)

necro2607 (771790) | more than 6 years ago | (#21344901)

"... just a few leaders can guide a swarm effectively by creating a bias in the swarm's movement that steers it in a particular direction"

Wow, did this remind anyone else somewhat of Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex [wikipedia.org] and the Laughing Man and Individual Eleven cases? Plus there is plenty of discussion throughout the series about how subtle influence by a select few can affect the whole of society, unnoticed. I know it's a bit different, but it's kind of unreal to be hearing about this in the news after having only just recently watched the two seasons of Stand Alone Complex episodes...

Fresh Articles Please! (1)

milsoRgen (1016505) | more than 6 years ago | (#21344903)

This was just in Nation Geographic or Scientific American, one of those rags like that... Fresh articles please

Re:Fresh Articles Please! (1)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345089)

It was featured yesterday in the New York Times. I believe there was something new in it.

And if you're referring to analysis of swarm behavior, well, that's been around for a long time.

Water never (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21344913)

"suddenly" boils. There is always a build up of pressure and or temperature.

Re:Water never (4, Insightful)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345267)

There's a distinct phase transition that forms a discontinuity. Here are some Phase diagrams [wikipedia.org] showing how state depends on pressure and temperature. The point is that you don't get a continuous transition between liquid and gas, say, with a half-liquid/half-gas state. Phase diagrams exhibit distinct lines separating quite distinct regions. The idea here is that maybe swarms also have these kinds of discontinuous phase transitions.

*cough*cough* (2)

yusing (216625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21344921)

My inner swarm tells me to suspect the validity of this concept when applied to educated individuals running free-will simulations.

Not to mention my inner hippy.

Re:*cough*cough* (0)

virtualXTC (609488) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345045)

I doubt that education makes one less likely to swarm. While you may be able to train people to critically think, so that they won't swarm around the underly stupid. Further even in less educated populations there always exist outliers to the social norms.

Did you go to grade school, or where you a home-schooled hippy?

Re:*cough*cough* (1)

mrbobjoe (830606) | more than 6 years ago | (#21346257)

suspect the validity of this concept when applied to educated individuals running free-will simulations
And this would please Hari Seldon, as an important aspect of Psychohistory is that the individuals involved must believe in their own free will.
Knowledge of the rules controlling the swarms by the swarms themselves make the problem much more difficult (as if it wasn't hard enough already...)

Locusts and cannibalism (5, Interesting)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345055)

Cool to see Couzin on slashdot... I coincidentally saw a talk of his last week and gave him a brief lab tour. His own research is somewhat outside my area, but one of the most surprising things I recall from his talk is that marching locust swarms are apparently propelled by cannibalistic behavior. If I'm remembering correctly, baby locusts (before they've grown wings) in a region will feed in a pretty disorderly fashion. However, once salt and protein supplies start running low, they get hungry and start trying to eat each other. The researchers realized this when the locusts in their enclosure seemed to be mysteriously disappearing at a steady rate, due to being consumed by their peers. ;)

In any case, once they start eating each other, the locusts start trying to chase the locusts in front of them, while simultaneously avoiding the locusts behind them trying to eat them. The emergent behavior is that the entire swarm moves as a mass until a new area is found where salt and protein supplies are plentiful enough to cause them to switch out of cannibalism-mode. This presumably has a number of ramification on how to control migration of locust swarms, which are an immense destroyer of food resources in the developing world.

Re:Locusts and cannibalism (2, Informative)

m0nstr42 (914269) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345589)

My favorite thing about Dr. Couzin is his willingness to work with people in other disciplines - particularly the "harder" sciences. It's mentioned towards the end of the article. My advisor, Naomi Leonard, and her students have published several papers with Iain as a co-author - see http://www.princeton.edu/~naomi/ [princeton.edu] and search for "Couzin" and "Levin" on the page for a few references. Dr. Grunbaum, who is also mentioned in the article, is great with this as well (also on the page). They are both fantastic guys to work with.

And a shameless plug for my tiny contribution - http://www.princeton.edu/~dswain/publications/2007/DSCDC07.pdf [princeton.edu]

Re:Locusts and cannibalism (1)

skeftomai (1057866) | more than 6 years ago | (#21346053)

When locusts swarm, are they ALWAYS chasing one another? Does the idea of there being several leaders in the swarm and the swarm moving due to a bias still play a part in the swarm's movement?

Tax Cuts! (0, Offtopic)

kramulous (977841) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345057)

Researchers are starting to discover the simple rules that allow swarms of thousands of relatively simple animals to form a collective brain able to make decisions and move like a single organism.

 
The promise of tax cuts??
 
Sorry, initial reaction over, back to RTFA.

Swarm simulations? (2, Informative)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345061)

I would like to welcome Slashdot to 1986 [wikipedia.org].

Re:Swarm simulations? (1)

m0nstr42 (914269) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345545)

I would like to welcome Slashdot to 1986.
Certainly no new work in artificial life simulation has been done in the last 21 years, and it's not possible that this has been applied to something new. Certainly not publishable [princeton.edu], especially not in respected publications like Science [princeton.edu] or Nature [princeton.edu] or Nature [princeton.edu].



... or IEEE Conference on Decision and Control [princeton.edu]... OK that one was a shameless plug for my own paper. But the others aren't.

Re:Swarm simulations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21346151)

You have a seven-digit posting ID. Were you even alive in 1986?

friset psot (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21345125)

The nu8bers. The bureaucratic and

Boids (1)

ambulatorybird (1151807) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345169)

I didn't RTFA, but I wonder if the guy's work is related to an old artificial life simulation called Boids [wikipedia.org]. The developer of Boids was able to model the flocking behavior of birds by formulating some relatively simple rules. When I first learned about the program, it sounded really neat, and according to Wikipedia it's still used in computer graphics to model flocking behavior.

Re:Boids (2, Informative)

m0nstr42 (914269) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345443)

I didn't RTFA, but I wonder if the guy's work is related to an old artificial life simulation called Boids. The developer of Boids was able to model the flocking behavior of birds by formulating some relatively simple rules. When I first learned about the program, it sounded really neat, and according to Wikipedia it's still used in computer graphics to model flocking behavior.
The rules are quite similar, but the treatment is different. Boids was an artificial life simulation experiment. The stuff TFA refers to is intended as a simplified model of a set of mechanistic rules to describe animal behavior. The parameter space is explored with the goal of discovering behaviors that may be argued to have analogs in actual animal groups.

leaders and bias in swarm? Marketers. (5, Funny)

Sir Holo (531007) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345215)


and that just a few leaders can guide a swarm effectively by creating a bias in the swarm's movement that steers it in a particular direction.

In human populations, we call those marketers.

Re:leaders and bias in swarm? Inventors (1)

lenski (96498) | more than 6 years ago | (#21345791)

Or perhaps artists...

Imagine that at any given moment, each element of the swarm has:

1) A "desire" to behave in a unique way, with some probability;

2) The ability to persuade some number of nearby elements to follow it, also with a probability.

Might be an interesting simulation problem. The hypothetical link with reality is analogous to human societies; some the desire and persuasive power (and are therefore opinion leaders). And at various times in history, such people have moved entire societies in unexpected directions.

The Anti-Swarm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21345281)

"Nobody goes to that restaurant anymore, it's always too crowded."
 
-Yogi Berra

i dont get it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21345461)

How the HECK is this news? This is like saying, "researchers believe a collection of simulated neurons to form a virtual neuron network can be used to solve complex problems" NO SHIT! Neural networks have been around since ages and ages and so has this idea of swarm behavior.

obligatory quote (1)

alien9 (890794) | more than 6 years ago | (#21346029)

I welcome our Next Tenants [everything2.com]... whatever.

Think of ourselves as a well succeeded cluster of cells. Think of the cell as a collection of proto-organisms.

We are an undefined life form. Trying to get out of the shell.

Mankind, shoal. Swarm, individual.

Collective consciousness is far beyond particular will.

Kent Brockman (1)

humpy101 (1042972) | more than 6 years ago | (#21346881)

I for one welcome our new insect overlords, and I would like them to know, as a respected TV presenter, that I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves.

probably applies on macro scale too (2, Insightful)

lashi (822466) | more than 6 years ago | (#21346143)

rules of the swarm applies to more than just simple creatures. it probably can be used to study our society, mass hysteria, war, religion.....

Kids, parentheses and earlier work (1)

muonzoo (106581) | more than 6 years ago | (#21346311)

Bah! Kids these days!
Although some of the concepts in TFA are interesting, it is certainly building on ideas that have passed before it.
Much work has been done on emergent behaviour in aggregates of simple organisms, for example the early work of Craig Reynolds [toronto.edu] is a pivotal paper in this area and widely regarded as a key work in this area. When you might ask? 1987 of course. Bonus points that it was done in LISP. (ObXkcd link [xkcd.com]).

Swarmswarmswarmswarm (1)

lindseyp (988332) | more than 6 years ago | (#21346359)

Am I the only one here for whom the word "swarm" has lost all meaning and become a mere phoneme after reading that summary?

TFA was very cool though. I'd love to watch a video on this.
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