Principles of Nature: towards a new visual language
Wayne Roberts © 2003-2015.  

Synchronisations* in the group behaviour of clocks and cicadas


Consider this analogy. It is a known fact that, if an antique-clock shop owner has shelves of various pendulum clocks, and these are all initially wound up and started asynchronously (i.e. out-of-phase, pendula non-synchronized), then after a period of time, the pendula self-organise to be swinging and tick-tocking in unison (in phase).

Or consider the throb of thousands of cicadas on a summer’s afternoon: they begin out of phase, but within a very short time their pulsating sound becomes synchronized. They rapidly zero-in to be in phase . Their listening and sounding is interactive.
(W. Roberts, 2003, p.25)

These group processes which result in synchronous rhythms are obviously interactive and integrative properties of particular nonlinear systems, and while a given component (say cicada) is a discrete and somewhat-independent and unique individual , it is, at one and the same time, connected in principle—in the ecological sense of species. The net result is an amplification and reinforcement of those events or sounds in close space-time proximity and a simultaneous attenuation of those that are more out-of-phase or 'distant' in space-time.

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