# Penguin math is very precise

As an alternative to freezing solid:

“A penguin huddle looks like organized chaos,” said François Blanchette, a mathematician at the University of California, Merced. “Every penguin acts individually, but the end result is an equitable heat distribution for the whole community.”

It turns out that penguins execute their huddles with a high degree of mathematical efficiency, as Blanchette and his team discovered. More recently, Daniel Zitterbart, a physicist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, helped develop and install high-resolution cameras to observe undisturbed huddling behavior. Zitterbart’s team recently discovered which conditions cause penguins to huddle, and they are investigating the possibility that the penguins’ mathematical behavior may reveal secrets about colony health over time…

Penguins seem to know what mathematicians learned long ago: The densest packing of shapes on a plane is a hexagonal grid. According to Blanchette’s model, the birds arrange themselves as if they were each standing on their own hexagon in a grid.

Susan d’Agostino, “Math of the Penguins” at Quanta

It seems more likely that the math underlying the universe plays a role in this than that somehow, hundreds of destroyed penguin species later, a single group of penguins randomly hit on the right answer.

## 2 Replies to “Penguin math is very precise”

1. 1
polistra says:

The hexagon isn’t the most interesting part. Hexagons pretty much happen spontaneously when you pack soft things tightly.

What’s interesting is the intentionality of the seeking. Each bird knows what to do and where to go when it finds itself in the most exposed position.

Most interesting of all, the “second layer” birds don’t try to stop the most exposed birds from leaving the windward side. Birds are fiercely competitive, not prone to altruism or hivemind. Their fierceness has been subdued by a knowledge that the whole mass will be more comfortable if it gradually rotates toward the leeward center.

2. 2
bornagain77 says:

Nature by Numbers – Cristóbal Vila / Music – Often a Bird – Wim Mertens