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Posted December 29, 2008
Steven Strogatz: How things in nature tend to sync up
Mathematician Steven Strogatz shows how flocks of creatures (like birds, fireflies and fish) manage to synchronize and act as a unit -- when no one's giving orders. The powerful tendency extends into the realm of objects, too.
Steven Strogatz studies some of the most interesting problems in applied mathematics -- such as the intersection of math and biology, looking for patterns in the human sleep-wake cycle or in swarms of blinking fireflies.
More recently, he's been looking at nonlinear dynamics and chaos applied to physics, engineering and biology, and branching out into new areas, such as explorating of the small-world phenomenon in social networks (popularly known as "six degrees of separation"), and its generalization to other complex networks in nature and technology.
Recently, Strogatz' work has been in the news as British engineers released the definitive paper on the Millenium Bridge wobble, and its roots in how people walk on an unpredictable surface.