Icelandic surfing, enabled by the new Land Rover Defender
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| Author Helen Russell explores the meaning of happiness
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Wonderful World The
Wonderful World The science behind the wonder of nature by Helen Czerski Physicist and oceanographer at the Department of Mechanical Engineering, UCL, Helen is also a BBC presenter, and a speaker and writer about the science of everyday life, the atmosphere and oceans ,0$*(6$/(;%5(11(5-'(5*5(()%8,7(1%((/'0,1'(13,&785(6 A MURMURATION OF STARLINGS A single starling isn’t particularly GLVWLQFWLYHLWōVDPHGLXPVL]HG bird that feeds on insects and fruit, with dark iridescent feathers and an impressive sideline in mimicking the calls of other ELUGV%XWZKHQWKH\DVVHPEOH in large numbers, starlings form one of the most mesmerising sights in the skies. )URP2FWREHUWR0DUFKWKH\ gather at dusk in tens or even hundreds of thousands, to swoop around the sky as a single aerial entity called a murmuration. Each individual bird becomes one SRLQWLQDZKLUOLQJVKDSHVKLIWLQJ cloud that lasts for around half an hour, stretching, splitting and spinning as the sun sets. The mechanisms driving all that beauty are still being picked apart by scientists. The murmuration is a complex dynamical system: it’s made of lots of individuals, it generates emergent behaviour (patterns that can’t be predicted from the individuals) and there’s no central control. Each starling is only paying direct attention to the seven birds closest to it, but that alone can’t explain the dramatic patterns. The starlings IROORZWKHGLUHFWLRQRIŴLJKWRI their neighbours: when one bird turns, the one next to it turns. The initial change comes from DVLQJOHSODFHLQWKHŴRFNDQG VSUHDGVDFURVVWKHŴRFNDW metres per second, so a whole ŴRFNRIELUGVFDQFKDQJH direction in just half a second. The reason for this complexity is still being debated, but the current evidence suggests that murmurations make life harder for predators. When a falcon appears nearby, it will struggle to pick out an individual target, and it’s likely to be spotted early because there are thousands of eyes watching the skies. It’s been suggested that the starlings position themselves so that they VHHDƓ[HGUDWLRRIRWKHUELUGV to clear sky, so even the central ELUGVFDQNHHSDORRNRXW7KH most dramatic patterns occur in response to predators, as the starlings take evasive action while still remaining in a cohesive group. Some of the mathematical equations used to understand all of this are borrowed from the SK\VLFVRIVXSHUŴXLGKHOLXP and the underlying rules of WKHŴRFNVWLOODUHQōWFOHDU%XW fortunately for most of us, you don’t need maths to appreciate the elegance and showmanship of this stunning phenomenon. 78
Land Rover Magazine showcases stories from around the world that celebrate inner strength and the drive to go Above and Beyond.
In this issue, New Defender is put through its paces by two inspirational young adventurers as they prepare for an expedition to the South Pole. We also celebrate 50 years of Range Rover by taking a journey of discovery to Dubai. As well as looking back, we look to future as a group of visionaries explain the technologies that could change the future for all of us.