Active Matter

It seems to be a fact about the world that a wide gulf separates the behavior of living and non-living matter. Living matter is ever so complex, and reproduces its complexity. Over evolutionary time, life becomes ever more complex. Non-living matter is as simple as it can be, and with time its structures are washed out, making it simpler yet.

We look to anything that is “in between” to help us understand the physics of life. There is a new science of active matter that studies with equations and lab experiments some (non-living) collections of objects that can respond to the world and maintain their structure, move and reform after a disturbance.

Starlings in flight

This article from Nature offers background and describes an experiment with microtubules, components of a living cell that are removed from the cell and given an energy source.

And here is a video about the physics of birds flying in formation.

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