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“… words are not numbers, nor even signs. They are animals, alive and with a will of their own. Put together, they are invariably less or more than their sum. Words die in antisepsis. Asked to be neutral, they display allegiances and stubborn propensities. They assume the color of their new surroundings, like chameleons; they perversely develop echoes.” Guy Davenport, “Another Odyssey”, 1967. [above: painting by Mark Rothko – untitled]

No, not the Grand Caynon neither the Epstein & Axtell Sugarscape (link) this time, instead a soundscape. A landscape made of sounds or grooves. Look at this as an ancient form of encapsulating data. Taken by Chris Supranowitz, a researcher at The Insitute of Optics at the University of Rochester (US), the image depicts a single groove on a vinyl record magnified 1000 times, using electron microscopy. Dark bits are the top of the grooves, i.e. the uncut vinyl, while even darker little bumps are dust on the record (e.g. centre right). For more images check SynthGear, and found out (image link) what have they discovered if we keep magnifying that image further still!

Fig. – (Above) A 3D toroidal fast changing landscape describing a Dynamic Optimization (DO) Control Problem (8 frames in total). (Bellow) A self-organized swarm emerging a characteristic flocking migration behaviour surpassing in intermediate steps some local optima over the 3D toroidal landscape (above), describing a Dynamic Optimization (DO) Control Problem. Over each foraging step, the swarm self-regulates his population and keeps tracking the extrema (44 frames in total). [extra details + PDF]

[] Vitorino Ramos, Fernandes, C., Rosa, A.C., Abraham, A., Computational Chemotaxis in Ants and Bacteria over Dynamic Environments, in CEC´07 – Congress on Evolutionary Computation, IEEE Press, USA, ISBN 1-4244-1340-0, pp. 1009-1017, Sep. 2007.

Chemotaxis can be defined as an innate behavioural response by an organism to a directional stimulus, in which bacteria, and other single-cell or multicellular organisms direct their movements according to certain chemicals in their environment. This is important for bacteria to find food (e.g., glucose) by swimming towards the highest concentration of food molecules, or to flee from poisons. Based on self-organized computational approaches and similar stigmergic concepts we derive a novel swarm intelligent algorithm. What strikes from these observations is that both eusocial insects as ant colonies and bacteria have similar natural mechanisms based on stigmergy in order to emerge coherent and sophisticated patterns of global collective behaviour. Keeping in mind the above characteristics we will present a simple model to tackle the collective adaptation of a social swarm based on real ant colony behaviors (SSA algorithm) for tracking extrema in dynamic environments and highly multimodal complex functions described in the well-know De Jong test suite. Later, for the purpose of comparison, a recent model of artificial bacterial foraging (BFOA algorithm) based on similar stigmergic features is described and analyzed. Final results indicate that the SSA collective intelligence is able to cope and quickly adapt to unforeseen situations even when over the same cooperative foraging period, the community is requested to deal with two different and contradictory purposes, while outperforming BFOA in adaptive speed. Results indicate that the present approach deals well in severe Dynamic Optimization problems.

(to obtain the respective PDF file follow link above or visit

Video – Thousands of starlings birds gathering in flocks, flying in formations while emerging complex patterns on S.W. Scotland (more photos & video by/at Fresh Pics, 2007). Here for an artificial version with different purposes. They are not birds, instead an entirely different new animal.

[…] In contrast to negative feedback, positive feedback (PF) generally promotes changes in the system (the majority of self-organizing SO systems use them). The explosive growth of the human population provides a familiar example of the effect of positive feedback. The snowballing autocatalytic effect of PF takes an initial change in a system (due to amplification of fluctuations; a minimal and natural local cluster of objects could be a starting point) and reinforces that change in the same direction as the initial deviation. Self-enhancement, amplification, facilitation, and autocatalysis are all terms used to describe positive feedback [9]. Another example could be provided by the clustering or aggregation of individuals. Many birds, such as seagulls nest in large colonies. Group nesting evidently provides individuals with certain benefits, such as better detection of predators or greater ease in finding food. The mechanism in this case is imitation (1): birds preparing to nest are attracted to sites where other birds are already nesting, while the behavioral rule could be synthesized as “I nest close where you nest”. The key point is that aggregation of nesting birds at a particular site is not purely a consequence of each bird being attracted to the site per se. Rather, the aggregation evidently arises primarily because each bird is attracted to others (check for further references on [7,9]). On social insect societies, PF could be illustrated by the pheromone reinforcement on trails, allowing the entire colony to exploit some past and present solutions. Generally, as in the above cases, positive feedback is imposed implicitly on the system and locally by each one of the constituent units. Fireflies flashing in synchrony [49] follow the rule, “I signal when you signal”, fish traveling in schools abide by the rule, “I go where you go”, and so forth. In humans, the “infectious” quality of a yawn of laughter is a familiar example of positive feedback of the form, “I do what you do”. Seeing a person yawning (2), or even just thinking of yawning, can trigger a yawn [9]. There is however one associated risk, generally if PF acts alone without the presence of negative feedbacks, which per si can play a critical role keeping under control this snowballing effect, providing inhibition to offset the amplification and helping to shape it into a particular pattern. Indeed, the amplifying nature of PF means that it has the potential to produce destructive explosions or implosions in any process where it plays a role. Thus the behavioral rule may be more complicated than initially suggested, possessing both an autocatalytic as well as an antagonistic aspect. In the case of fish [9], the minimal behavioral rule could be “I nest where others nest, unless the area is overcrowded” (HEY !! here we go again to the El Farol Bar problem!). In this case both positive and negative feedback may be coded into the behavioral rules of the fish. Finally, in other cases one finds that the inhibition arises automatically, often simply from physical constraints. […]

in, V. Ramos et al., “Social Cognitive Maps, Swarm Collective Perception and Distributed Search on Dynamic Landscapes“.

(1) See also on this subject the seminal sociological work of Gabriel Tarde; Tarde, G., Les Lois de l’Imitation, Eds. du Seuil (2001), 1st Edition, Eds. Alcan, Paris, 1890.

(2) Similarly, Milgram et al (Milgram, Bickerman and Berkowitz, “Note on the Drawing Power of Crowds of Different Size”, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 13, 1969) found that if one person stood in a Manhattan street gazing at a sixth floor window, 20% of pedestrians looked up; if five people stood gazing, then 80% of people looked up.

(to obtain the respective PDF file follow this link or visit

[...] People should learn how to play Lego with their minds. Concepts are building bricks [...] V. Ramos, 2002.

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