The ancient Chinese philosopher Laozi, the original architect of Daoism, once said that “when oneness was attained by creatures and things, their lives were perpetuated.”
It all boils down to a concept known as scale-free correlation. However, what sounds like a very complex notion is actually quite simple. Imagine the movement of snow just before an avalanche, where movement cascades from a preceding trigger into an inevitable direction. This simple movement, which is correlated beyond the immediate surroundings, is scaled to a larger interconnected movement across an unquantified size. In Starling terms, the bird’s movement has more than just an influence on its immediate neighbours. It spreads far out among the flock.
One incredibly interesting fact that has emerged from recent research is that the movement of a Starling only affects the movement of the closest seven surrounding birds. The closest statistical analogy is that of magnetism, where various particles align in a single direction as the metals become magnetised. Apparently, a similar thing occurs when a starling moves.
Andrea Cavagna and colleagues at the University of Rome found that the Starling groups “respond as one”, and “cannot be divided into independent subparts”. When a single Starling changes direction or speed, the whole flock responds as if information has spread in real-time across the flock.