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A Murmuration of Starlings: Is It a Flock of Millions, or a Single Organism?

One topic that has always fascinated me is how an organism emerges from many smaller parts. We are made of billions of individual cells (with their own individual parts), each with specific functions, and yet from this huge assembly a ‘human’ emerges as a single object. And, stretching that thinking to consciousness, how do many individual neurons networking together eventually result in a coherent, non-physical thing called consciousness?

So looking at the amazing short film above of starling murmurations, the question is posed – can we think of the murmuration as a single organism itself?

We know a lot of factual information about the starling—its size and voice, where it lives, how it breeds and migrates—but what remains a mystery is how it flies in murmurations, or flocks, without colliding. This short film by Jan van IJken was shot in the Netherlands, and it captures the birds gathering at dusk, just about to start their “performance.” Listen well and you’ll be able to hear how this beautiful phenomenon got its name.

(via Boing Boing)

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