Monitoraggio di detriti spaziali basato su stereo-rilevazioni intercontinentali

Founding Body: Lazioinnova – Regione Lazio
Total grant: €150k
Principal Investigator: Andrea Cavagna
Other participants: CNR ISC: Massimo Cencini, Stefania Melillo
Sapienza: Fabio Santoni, Fabrizio Piergentili, Tommaso Cardona
Project duration:

Progetto di Ricerca, finanziato ai sensi della L.R. 13/08Read the rest

Dynamic scaling in natural swarms – Nature Physics Cover

The cover page of the September issue of Nature Physics is dedicated to the article "Dynamic scaling in natural swarms" recently published by CoBBS Group


Collective Response from Individual Behaviour in Groups and Ecosystems

Founding Body: ERANET
Total grant: € 70k
Principal Investigator: Andrea Cavagna
Other participants:
Project duration: 2017-2019
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COBBS – Flocking Experiment

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COBBS – Computer Vision and Tracking

The raw data gathered from the experimental work consists of three sequences of images, one from each camera, for each flocking/swarming event. Each sequence may consist of up to 2700 images, meaning a single event could have a total of 7100 images!! It would be impossible to process each event by hand in a timely manner. The solution is to apply various computer vision methods and algorithms to extract the required information, namely the position of each individual, from the images automatically.… Read the rest

COBBS – Non-biting Midge Experiment

Our search for midge swarms has taken us to many of the public parks within Rome including Riserva Naturale Valle dell’Aniene, Villa Paganini, Villa Torlonia, Parco dell’Acquedotto, Villa Ada, Laghetto dell’EUR and Ponte Tazio. Basically any place with an aquatic or semiaquatic habitat (the larval stage requires water for development) is where midges can be found. Our experimental setup is similar to that of the flocking experiment except that our baseline distance shrinks from 25 m down to approximately 5 – 8 m (depending on our distance to the swarm).… Read the rest

COBBS – Collective Behaviour in Biological Systems

From bird flocks to fish schools, from insect swarms to cell colonies, collective behaviour is a very widespread phenomenon in many biological systems. It is hard to define, but easy to recognize. What are the mechanisms regulating collective behaviour in biological systems?

In many cases collective behaviour is the result of local rules of interactions among the individuals, without any need of a centralized control.… Read the rest

COBBS – Laboratory

The COBBS Laboratory is housed on the 4th floor of the Fermi Building, Sapienza University. This is our main lab space and houses the experimental team. The numerical analysis and computer vision teams are located two doors down the hallway from our lab.… Read the rest


Three-dimensional reconstruction of individual trajectories within bird flocks and insect swarms

Founding Body: AirForce Office for Scientific Research – USA
Total grant: $ 400k
Principal Investigator: Andrea Cavagna
Other participants:
Project duration: 2010-2014
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COBBS – Publications

COBBS papers in collective behaviour:

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The growth of amorphous order in supercooled liquids

Close to the glass transition supercooled liquids display an impressive increase of the relaxation time, without any clear sign of growing thermodynamic order, nor correlation length. This is at variance with physical intuition, which suggests that a large relaxation time is always associated to a large correlation length. Even though dynamical length scales were introduced and measured, nothing similar was thought to be possible for thermodynamic lengths.… Read the rest

COBBS – Photographs

Here is a selection of some of the INFM-CNR photographs from the STARFLAG project.

They are at low resolution. You can have the high resolution versions by contacting Andrea Cavagna:

Please note that the credit for each one of the following images is:

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Here follows a very synthetic description of the role each one of the people in the INFM-CNR/STARFLAG team had:

  • Michele Ballerini (CNR-INFM)
    electronics, data taking
  • Nicola Cabibbo (La Sapienza)
    electronics design, experimental setup design
  • Raphael Candelier (La Sapienza and CEA)
    data taking, experimental setup
  • Andrea Cavagna (CNR-INFM)
    coordinator of the INFM-CNR node; experimental setup design, matching algorithm, data analysis
  • Alessio Cimarelli (La Sapienza)
    experimental setup, data taking, data analysis
  • Evaristo Cisbani (ISS)
    electronics design
  • Irene Giardina (CNR-INFM)
    deputy coordinator of the INFM-CNR node; matching algorithm, data analysis
  • Vivien Lecomte (LMSC, Paris VII)
    numerical simulations
  • Alberto Orlandi (CNR-INFM)
    computer vision, trifocal matching, data analysis
  • Giorgio Parisi (La Sapienza, CNR-INFM)
    coordinator of the EU project, experimental setup design, optimization, data analysis
  • Andrea Procaccini (La Sapienza)
    experimental setup design, data taking, data analysis
  • Raffaele Santagati (La Sapienza)
    experimental setup, data taking, data analysis
  • Fabio Stefanini (La Sapienza)
    experimental setup, data taking, data analysis
  • Massimiliano Viale (La Sapienza and Roma 3)
    matching, optimization
  • Vladimir Zdravkovic (CNR-INFM)
    experimental setup design, data taking
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Topological vs. Metric distance

Basically all existing models of collective animal behaviour (bird flocks, fish schools, etc) assume that the interaction between different individuals depends on the metric distance, just as in physics. This implies, for example, that two birds 5 meters apart interact more strongly than two birds 10 meters apart.

Models developed by biologists are based on a “behavioural zones” scheme, where each zone is associated to one of the three basic ingredients of all models: short range repulsion, alignment, long range attraction.… Read the rest

Home Page of Andrea Cavagna


Post-Doc, Theoretical Physics, Physics Dept, Manchester University, UK, 2001 (with Alan Bray and Mike Moore)

Post-Doc, Condensed Matter, Theoretical Physics Dept, Oxford University, UK, 1999 (with David Sherrington)

Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics, University of Rome Sapienza, Italy, 1998 (Spin-Glasses – advisor Giorgio Parisi)

M.S. and B.A. in Theoretical Physics, University of Milan and SISSA – Trieste, Italy, 1995 (Conformal Field Theory – advisor Giuseppe Mussardo)

I was trained as a theoretical physicist and I have studied for some years the statistical mechanics of disordered systems, with a particular interest in spin-glasses, structural glasses and supercooled liquids. … Read the rest

STARFLAG: a project on collective animal behaviour

Collective animal behaviour is a fascinating phenomenon. How does global co-ordination emerge in a flock of thousands starlings swirling at dusk? How does a school of sardines organize in a circular pattern? What is the evolutionary function of collective behaviour? Is it purely defensive, or has it some other purpose, perhaps social? INFM-CNR was the leader node of a European project – FP6-NEST 12682 STARFLAG (2005-2008) – dedicated to the study of collective animal behaviour.Read the rest

COBBS – Press and Media Coverage

The seventh starling (Murmuration) – The Guardian

Choreografie ohne Choreografen – NZZ


Birds of a feather … track seven neighbors to flock together – News at Princeton

How do starlings create those mesmerizing murmurations – Cornell Lab Ornithology

Editorial: Tech is a flock of starlings – Engadget

Flights of Fancy: How birds (and bird-watchers) compute the behavior of a flock on the wing – American Scientist

Animal magnetism: modeling flocks of birds using simple attractions – ArsTechnica

Starling Flocks Behave Like Flying Magnets – Wired

The Startling Science of a Starling Murmuration – Wired

Birds flock with scale invariance – Physics World

How starling flocks create their aerobatic displays – BBC

The Smart Swarm – Peter Miller

Amazing Starling Flocks are Flying Avalanches – Wired

Birds network too – Science News

Study of starling formations points way for swarming robots – Daily Telegraph

Statistical Physics is for the Birds – Physics Today

A selection of low resolution photos from the project.… Read the rest