A new mathematical study of chaos has revealed larger scale order seemingly appearing out of nothing when left to its own devices, during studies of bacteria colonies, each one an individual cell, existing on its own. It was in 2015 when Hong-Kong university post-graduate Chong Chen demonstrated his remarkable findings in studies of E.Coli.
Although self autonomous and totally independent to one another, it was seen that in large scale colonies, uniform structures began to evolve. Seemingly non-random motion was causing functional ellipses at scales far larger than the influence of the single cells. The statistical analysis which revealed this organisation was in the early stages and it fell on the shoulders of Hugues Chate, theoretical physicist at CEA Saclay France, to carry the torch further.
With Chong Chen's advisor in tow, the three scientists set about studying the strange phenomenon in greater detail. The results have been published in Nature from Feb 17, and they have shown that the results can be repeated in varying bacteria type. Chate has described the process as “robust” and “spectacular” (Quanta magazine).
Discovering collective behaviour of non-verbal and apparently non-communicating organisms on large scale is a truly remarkable find. It provides evidence that in some way life has patterns and behaviours that transcend the individual. The motion of bacteria has been harnessed before to provide power to miniature machines and to provide structure in visual displays. It's a subject that is revealing many pathways of knowledge.
Using mathematical functions to describe the motion of a body of individuals could become a key factor in determining medical interventions in several forms of illness. Understanding the principles that govern life on large scale could translate into the behaviour of herding animals and even human beings when in large groups. We too have tendencies to behave differently when in crowds. Maybe there's more going on than just copying the person next to you.
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