Colloquium- Thierry Mora- Ecole Normale Title: Inferring the statistical physics of collective biological behavior Abstract: The coordinated flight of bird flocks is a striking example of collective behavior in biology. Using 3D positions and velocities of large natural flocks of starlings, I will show how to build an explicit mapping of flock behavior onto statistical physics models of magnetism. Learning the parameters of these models allows us to infer the local rules of alignment, and to reveal that flocks are poised close to a critical point, where susceptibility to external perturbations is maximal. Extending the approach to alignment dynamics shows that flocks are in a state of local quasi-equilibrium.
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