Swarms with a Purpose: Collective Motion, Dynamics, and Control from Bacteria to Ballet

December 2014

The term “swarming” describes the ability of groups of agents to move coherently in space and time. This behavior is ubiquitous among living systems across many scales: in subcellular systems, bacteria, metastatic and normal cells, insects, fish, birds, and mammals, and as an inspiration for engineering function into robotic agents: examples include cytoskeletal patterns, bacterial swarms, and fish schools. Two simple properties are responsible for many of the emergent behaviors and patterns that result: 1) the ability to move and 2) the ability to sense and respond, often in a noisy environment. Collective motion and dynamics in systems as different as the interior of a cell and a bevy of ballet dancers suggest that there are unifying mathematical principles that underlie these behaviors. This workshop will bring together people who represent different communities that, despite different languages and methods for their investigations, share a common interest in the phenomenon of self-organized collective dynamics and its control in art, engineering, science, and social dynamics.