By Jonah Ward
I heard this really interesting Radiolab broadcast the other day on NPR. It was mostly about emergence, about how rhythms and patterns in nature can materialize from what seems to be nothing.
They told this story about John Buck, who in the 1960's was the the first westerner to witness a huge phenomenon that takes place in southeast Asia every year. Tens of thousands of fireflies congregate on the banks of a river, blinking randomly at first as they normally would. Then, with no particular reason, one by one all begin to flash on and off again in perfect unison. Just image total silence, except the occasional chirp from an exotic bird, and for miles the mangrove forests that line the banks of the river suddenly light up like Time Square, then complete darkness...On...Off...On...Off. Then they all disperse and it's as if nothing happened. Individually they go about their business as usual, but when they collect, they, for whatever reason, blink in total harmony.
This happens with all sorts of things on earth. Out of chaos a rhythm and pattern can form and create life. This is something that I am completely fascinated with. I love to let things happen on their own. There are so many simple things that when combined and allowed to emerge on their own can create something so fantastic it's hard to believe there was no conductor facilitating its unimagined result.