On February 28, 2019, Dr. Matthew Mizuhara gave a talk at Bucknell University’s Department of Mathematics. As part of their Student Colloquium Series, his talk, “An Orchestra Without a Conductor: The Mathematics of Synchornizing Fireflies,” discussed his current research on collective synchronization, a phenomenon seen in certain species of fireflies where they spontaneously begin to flash their lights at the same time. He discussed the type of mathematics which can be used to model this phenomenon and presented numerical simulation results which capture an even wider variety of pattern formation beyond synchronization.
In Amphawa, Thailand trees are lined with thousands of fireflies spontaneously flashing in near perfect unison. However, there is no “leader” driving this coordination. The Kuramoto model, a non-linear system of differential equations, describes the firefly flashes. Using numerical simulations, we can capture this spontaneous emergence of synchronization and explore other, new patterns which can arise. No background in differential equations is required to enjoy this talk!