Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Murmuration - The Ultimate In Group Travel

Ornithology, a division of Zoology in which its area of specialty is the study of birds, is one of the most primitive of all the sciences.  

The principal problem ornithologists are up against is, bird's aren't interested in talking to them.  So that leaves the ornithologists to speculate, and speculation isn't the strong suite of a scientist, no matter what their field of study.

To give you an idea of how far afield speculation has lead ornithologists consider this.  In a effort to explain how a hummingbird, which they believed must consume seven times its body weight in food every twenty-four hours, can cross the gulf of Mexico when migrating, they generally accepted, until very recently, that hummingbirds flew on the backs of Canadian geese.

The issue for ornithologists, is rooted in the simple fact that all scientific observation is filtered through the notion that humans are not only the highest life form on the planet, they are also the highest life form in the universe.  

That filter for years precluded the possibility that hummingbirds could somehow bypass what is known of their metabolic system and fly directly across the Gulf of Mexico to their winter home.

That filter still prevents ornithologists from explaining how a murmuration (flock) of starlings, regardless of the number of individuals which form it, can twist and turn in absolute perfect synchronicity.  They have come closer to explaining it with a principal adopted from physicists, namely phase transition.  

As applied to a group of starlings, this proposition theorizes that at some point, a flock of starlings transforms itself into something new, as water can become ice or steam.  Since heat, or the absence of it, is required for those transitions, the ornithologists note that the transition of the starlings is initiated by an, as yet unknown force.

When we break away from the mental filter that humans are the highest forms of life on the planet and in the universe, the correct explanation reveals itself.  When starlings (and many other birds) elect to migrate, they choose to do it in the safest possible manner.  That manner is to travel as one bird, not a flock of individual birds.  To do that, they choose to become one bird.

The, as yet unknown force, that enables them to make the phase transition to oneness is simply choice - they choose to become one, and it is done.  

It is enough to make you wonder what is, in fact, the highest life form on the planet while knowing that humans aren't the holder of that title.