In a Flight of Starlings: The Wonder of Complex Systems

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In a Flight of Starlings: The Wonder of Complex Systems

In a Flight of Starlings: The Wonder of Complex Systems

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They look forward only, to the bird ahead, maintaining constant distance so that all can fly at the same speed, much as humans driving at fast highway speeds do (for the most part). Earlier this year, he suggested that when cooking pasta, one should turn the burner off after adding the noodles to boiling water.

It is important to understand how scientific consensus is achieved, how individual discoveries become validated by the scientific community. When you have two simultaneous images of a flock seen from a different angle, it’s not easy to match the bird in the first image with the same bird in the second. He went into detail explaining how he organized a method to achieve his goal of recreating a three dimenssional model by using photography of the flock in flight, as well as adding some physics to the process.You’re angled into your pinched seat, and your seatmate starts telling you stories, at best, of unknown grandchildren and, at worst, vaguely offensive opinions about women in the military or crime in Chicago. There’s a growing lack of trust in science, with people denying Covid, or the need for vaccinations, or climate change. This makes it easier to swing towards new directions, and makes it easier for individual birds to know their place in the scheme. He studied physics at the Sapienza University in the city, and is now a professor of quantum theories there.

We have seen during the pandemic the tragedy of the many people who have died refusing to be vaccinated, despite the millions of COVID-related deaths. The anecdotes failed to give any sense of personality or deliberative process, and the physics were explained (when they were explained, which wasn't often) as if to another professional physicist, and not to a regular reader. Parisi knows, knew or at least acknowledges pretty much everyone who ever won a Nobel Prize in Physics (He won his in 2021). In this enlightening book, Nobel Prize winner Giorgio Parisi guides us through his unorthodox yet exhilarating work to show us how.

The deceptively slim volume serves as a forceful argument for the value of scientific literacy at a time when it’s increasingly being challenged by misinformation . You begin by writing about your study of starling murmurations, which seems an unusual subject for a physicist to tackle. When it was time to go to university, I pondered if I should do physics or maths, but in the end I went for physics. A bunch of Italian physicists concocted a gizmo of numerous synced cameras, each taking stills of a murmuration. Its a step-back and think-about-how-things-work book that is important for understanding what real science is and how it is achieved.

Now that climate change is starting to affect people’s lives, there is perhaps a stronger reaction, but we need much more forceful measures to be taken. There were so many discussions about it, and it was amusing that everybody was saying that Parisi was saying this. Along the way, he reflects on the lessons he has taken from a life in pursuit of scientific truth: the importance of serendipity to the discovery of new ideas, the surprising kinship between physics and other disciplines, and the value of science to a thriving society. This has happened thanks to a re- jection of science that becomes even more serious when it occurs in relation to climate change. To create a 3D image, we positioned two cameras 25 metres apart on the roof of the Palazzo Massimo in Rome, to track each individual as they moved.When the flock was turning, the impression that one has is that they are turning as a flock, but the reality is that some birds start to turn in advance and the others follow. Unfortunately, it quickly degenerated into a memoir, whose most significant aspect was name dropping. The interaction between starlings depends not so much on the general distance between them as on the connections between the closest birds. We must, as the saying goes, show our work: demonstrate in an engaging way how scientists toil, doubt, succeed, and fail. For example, images produced by AI should have some kind of signature so that people can understand if they are real or fake, to prevent us from losing contact with reality.

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