The Statistical Mechanics of Flocking


Dr Andy Martin, The University of Melbourne
This colloquium will be held in Parnell (07) 222 at 3pm.

Flocking refers to a system where coherent large scale behaviour is exhibited by self propelled particles without a predetermined leader; the term self-propelled particles, refers to systems where the particles maintain an average constant speed. This sort of behaviour is displayed across a variety of biological systems, which vary widely in size, both in the size of the group and the physical extent of the system. For example, the spiral patterns and clustering motion of bacteria have been attributed to flocking behaviour. At a larger scale, flocking is observed in the motion of schools of fish and  flights of birds; both in the way the groups move as a whole, as well as their response to predators.

In this talk I will discuss the current models underpinning our understanding of flocking behaviour. In particular, I will initially focus on minimal agent based models which demonstrate flocking behaviour through the introduction of an aligning force between the individual agents. I will then move on to introduce a different approach to studying flocking behaviour. This approach will be based on treating the flock as a gas with “novel” aligning interactions. From this perspective I will show how it is possible, adapting undergraduate statistical mechanics techniques, to analytically determine the thermodynamic properties of a flock. This approach will then be compared with numerical simulations of an equivalent agent based model. I will then speculate on future directions for flocking research.

Dr Andrew Martin – The Statistical Mechanics of Flocking from School of Mathematics & Physics on Vimeo.