2012 : WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DEEP, ELEGANT, OR BEAUTIFUL EXPLANATION?

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Academic; Newspaper Columnist; Vice-President, Wolfson College; Author, From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: what you really need to know about the Internet

Flocking Behaviour In Birds

My favourite explanation is Craig Reynold's suggestion (first published in 1986, I think) that flocking behaviour in birds can be explained by assuming that each bird follows three simple rules—separation (don't crowd your neighbours), alignment (steer towards the average heading of your neighbours) and cohesion (steer towards the average position of your neighbours). The idea that such complex behaviour can be accounted for in such a breathtakingly simple way is, well, just beautiful.