A Murmuration of Starlings

By Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg

Sophie Windsor Clive and Liberty Smith happened upon a flock of starlings, called a murmuration, while canoeing at dusk, and captured "one of nature's greatest and most fleeting phenomena" on video. The starlings begin their astonishing flight about thirty seconds into the video. 

Alexis Madrigal explains the complex dynamics of starlings' flight:

Last year, Italian theoretical physicist Giorgio Parisi took on the challenge of explaining the murmuration. What he found, as ably explained by my old Wired colleague Brandon Keim, is that the math equations that best describe starling movement are borrowed "from the literature of 'criticality,' of crystal formation and avalanches -- systems poised on the brink, capable of near-instantaneous transformation." They call it "scale-free correlation," and it means that no matter how big the flock, "If any one bird turned and changed speed, so would all the others."

Read the rest of his post here.

For more work by Sophie Windsor Clive and Liberty Smith, visit http://www.islandsandrivers.co.uk/.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/video/archive/2011/11/a-murmuration-of-starlings/247878/