greater than the sum of its parts

I remember sitting on the couch with Rosie and Brett back in Worcester, watching Blue Planet, a series produced by the BBC devoted to the amazing life to be found in the Ocean. In the Pacific, they featured are huge schools of small fish. When a whale comes up from the abyss to feed, the hundreds of fish school together into a giant whirling ball of whale-food. The whales feed in passes. rushing through the swarm over and over again until theyve had their fill, and retreat. while apart none of the fish can outrun the whale, most of the school will survive by sheer volume, the group manages to carry on without splitting up.

Meanwhile it is cicada season in Japan. The cicadas (semi) are everywhere and they spend most of their time screaming for sex at the top of their lungs (thoraxes?).. It's kind of mating call that i imagine is similar to what it might be like to stand next to a landing fleet of UFOs. 

Semi spend the majority of their life (often more than ten years) in a larval state below the ground. During maturation, they crawl out of the ground and transform into giant noisy creatures with wings but no mouths, and apparently no sense of direction, as they fly into everything. Their sole purpose, since it obviously isn't eating, is to reproduce. and they do so in humongous generations called broods. 

I should also mention that semi are delicious to most larger animals, some humans included. Therefore, the life-cycle of a cicada is always a prime number of years because it keeps the predators from adapting to a natural flowing rhythm of delicious adult semi wafting through the air. But the main defense mechanism of semi is, again, sheer volume. By reproducing in such huge broods, they ensure that predators can have their fill (it's inevitable really) and there will STILL be enough reproducing individual to keep the population steady.

Bearing in mind these two examples, let us re-evaluate the schooling patterns of another species-- a subpopulation, like the fish, native to the South Pacific.

[photos to come]

While watching practice in the gym today, i commented to my supervisor how interesting the emphasis on group dynamics is to me. I mentioned how seeing everyone move together is so entrancing, and reminds me of the schooling fish.

"To us, this is the concept of absolute beauty."

"You mean complete group coordination?"

"Yes. In Japan, if you lose your individual identity... it's okay."  


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