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Science

The Rules of the Swarm 166

Posted by samzenpus
from the welcome-to-the-collective dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Researchers are starting to discover the simple rules that allow swarms of thousands of relatively simple animals to form a collective brain able to make decisions and move like a single organism. To get a sense of swarms, Dr. Iain Couzin, a mathematical biologist at the Collective Animal Behaviour Laboratory at Princeton University, builds computer models of virtual swarms with thousands of individual agents that he can program to follow a few simple rules. Among the findings are that swarm behavior has patterns common to many different species, that just as liquid water can suddenly begin to boil, swarm behavior can also change abruptly in character, and that just a few leaders can guide a swarm effectively by creating a bias in the swarm's movement that steers it in a particular direction. The rules of the swarm may also apply to the cells inside our bodies and researchers are working with cancer biologists to discover the rules by which cancer cells work together to build tumors or migrate through tissues. Even brain cells may follow the same rules for collective behavior seen in locusts or fish. "How does your brain take this information and come to a collective decision about what you're seeing?" Dr. Couzin says. The answer, he suspects, may lie in our inner swarm."
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The Rules of the Swarm

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  • by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @09:48PM (#21344649) Homepage Journal
    Spawn more overlords.
  • by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @09:49PM (#21344659) Journal
    You will be assimilated
  • by User 956 (568564) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @09:50PM (#21344675) Homepage
    Researchers are starting to discover the simple rules that allow swarms of thousands of relatively simple animals to form a collective brain able to make decisions and move like a single organism.

    Strangely enough, it also explains republican voting habits.
  • by PPH (736903) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @10:03PM (#21344775)
    Nobody talks about the swarm.
  • by Null Perception (914562) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @10:07PM (#21344815)
    1st RULE: You do not talk about THE SWARM. 2nd RULE: You DO NOT talk about THE SWARM.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @10:09PM (#21344833)
    I'm sorry but I'm pretty sure that there is some kind of new law that says you can't write this kind of response without mentioning Ron Paul.
  • by Misanthrope (49269) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @10:11PM (#21344845)
    Swarm Subtype

    A swarm is a collection of Fine, Diminutive, or Tiny creatures that acts as a single creature. A swarm has the characteristics of its type, except as noted here. A swarm has a single pool of Hit Dice and hit points, a single initiative modifier, a single speed, and a single Armor Class. A swarm makes saving throws as a single creature. A single swarm occupies a square (if it is made up of nonflying creatures) or a cube (of flying creatures) 10 feet on a side, but its reach is 0 feet, like its component creatures. In order to attack, it moves into an opponent's space, which provokes an attack of opportunity. It can occupy the same space as a creature of any size, since it crawls all over its prey. A swarm can move through squares occupied by enemies and vice versa without impediment, although the swarm provokes an attack of opportunity if it does so. A swarm can move through cracks or holes large enough for its component creatures.

    A swarm of Tiny creatures consists of 300 nonflying creatures or 1,000 flying creatures. A swarm of Diminutive creatures consists of 1,500 nonflying creatures or 5,000 flying creatures. A swarm of Fine creatures consists of 10,000 creatures, whether they are flying or not. Swarms of nonflying creatures include many more creatures than could normally fit in a 10-foot square based on their normal space, because creatures in a swarm are packed tightly together and generally crawl over each other and their prey when moving or attacking. Larger swarms are represented by multiples of single swarms. The area occupied by a large swarm is completely shapeable, though the swarm usually remains in contiguous squares.
    Traits

    A swarm has no clear front or back and no discernable anatomy, so it is not subject to critical hits or flanking. A swarm made up of Tiny creatures takes half damage from slashing and piercing weapons. A swarm composed of Fine or Diminutive creatures is immune to all weapon damage. Reducing a swarm to 0 hit points or lower causes it to break up, though damage taken until that point does not degrade its ability to attack or resist attack. Swarms are never staggered or reduced to a dying state by damage. Also, they cannot be tripped, grappled, or bull rushed, and they cannot grapple an opponent.

    A swarm is immune to any spell or effect that targets a specific number of creatures (including single-target spells such as disintegrate), with the exception of mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, phantasms, patterns, and morale effects) if the swarm has an Intelligence score and a hive mind. A swarm takes half again as much damage (+50%) from spells or effects that affect an area, such as splash weapons and many evocation spells.

    Swarms made up of Diminutive or Fine creatures are susceptible to high winds such as that created by a gust of wind spell. For purposes of determining the effects of wind on a swarm, treat the swarm as a creature of the same size as its constituent creatures. A swarm rendered unconscious by means of nonlethal damage becomes disorganized and dispersed, and does not reform until its hit points exceed its nonlethal damage.
    Swarm HD Swarm
    Base Damage
    1-5 1d6
    6-10 2d6
    11-15 3d6
    16-20 4d6
    21 or more 5d6
    Swarm Attack

    Creatures with the swarm subtype don't make standard melee attacks. Instead, they deal automatic damage to any creature whose space they occupy at the end of their move, with no attack roll needed. Swarm attacks are not subject to a miss chance for concealment or cover. A swarm's statistics block has "swarm" in the Attack and Full Attack entries, with no attack bonus given. The amount of damage a swarm deals is based on its Hit Dice, as shown in the table.

    A swarm's attacks are nonmagical, unless the swarm's description states otherwise. Damage reduction sufficient to reduce a swarm attack's damage to 0, being incorporeal, and other special abilities usually give a creature immunity (or at least resistance) to damage from a swarm. Some swarms
  • by UnderDark (869922) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @10:21PM (#21344917)
    Can not build more Overlords: More minerals required!
  • Stephan Wolfram is going "I told ya so."

    Wouldn't that be more like "WE told ya so".
  • by Sir Holo (531007) * on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @11:01PM (#21345215)

    and that just a few leaders can guide a swarm effectively by creating a bias in the swarm's movement that steers it in a particular direction.

    In human populations, we call those marketers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @11:03PM (#21345235)
    You forgot everyone's favorite, the mob effect... OK, what if everyone, as a group, decided not to act as a group? Not to mention the paradoxical possibilities of a Beowulf cluster of swarm driven computers...

    This message is endorsed by pi.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @11:30PM (#21345491)
    You require more vespian gas.
  • by c6gunner (950153) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @12:29AM (#21345951)
    If slashdot were a swarm of bees, it would long ago have committed suicide by repeatedly attempting to mate with a toaster.

    "Ohh! Shiny gizmo!"

    *BZZZZT*

    "....what do you think happened to him?"
    "who cares? look at the shiny gizmo!"
  • by jagdish (981925) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @12:39AM (#21346019)
    Jesus is returning, Resistance is futile [somethingawful.com].
  • by FlopEJoe (784551) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @12:11PM (#21350029)
    What do you call thousands of relatively simple animals that form a collective brain?

    Politicians.

When the weight of the paperwork equals the weight of the plane, the plane will fly. -- Donald Douglas

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