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A murmuration of robots, a huddle of penguins


A murmuration of robots, a huddle of penguins. Swarm behaviour is a sticky problem. Scientists are twisting their brains to come up with self-organising systems. The murmuration of starlings, the behaviour of slime moulds, ants and corals are examples of nature being waaaay ahead of us. Here, Harvard University has created a self-organising system, consisting of 1024 (magic number!) tiny robots. They are a long way away from the sterlings, but there is something really adorable about seeing those little robots getting in line.

Basically, what these robots are doing, is a version of the emperor penguins’ “huddle”: to keep themselves and their chicks warm in the depth of winter, the (male, actually) penguins shuffle and ripple around in a massive pile. It keeps everyone from freezing to death. Besides, it looks adorable:

Murmuration of starlings:

Slime molds will always somehow find the shortest way to food, and can be used to create complex networks such as urban communications. Here is a video of a slime mold describing the Tokyo metro. More information about that project here.

We are smart creatures, but nature usually gets there first, without smarts.


(Featured image slime mold by NobleSavage3, Wikimedia CC)


“Incuriosity is the oddest and most foolish failing there is”. All-round nerd with a tendency to poke things with a stick to see what happens. Doodler, artist, bookbinder, photographer, illustrator, graphic designer, web developer.

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2 comments on “A murmuration of robots, a huddle of penguins
  1. yisela on said:

    Amazing. I strongly suggest anyone reading this to watch all the videos. Beautiful article, Bente. Any idea where I can get some slime molds on wheels and carrying trays?


    • benteh on said:

      Hoho! I am sure you can go into the woods and find some slime moulds :D For wheels and trays; you need to call an engineer.


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