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A model system for group behavior of nanomachines
Date:9/1/2010

For the casual observer it is fascinating to watch the orderly and seemingly choreographed motion of hundreds or even thousands of fish, birds or insects. However, the formation and the manifold motion patterns of such flocks raise numerous questions fundamental to the understanding of complex systems. A team of physicists from Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) and LMU Muenchen has developed a versatile biophysical model system that opens the door to studying these phenomena and their underlying principles. Using a combination of an experimental platform and theoretical models, more complex systems can now be described and their properties investigated. The Munich researchers report on their findings in the current issue of the renowned journal Nature.

"Everything flows and nothing abides," is a saying ascribed to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. Large groups of individuals may show collective behavior where the individuals' actions appear to be coordinated or even subordinated to the common good: Flocks of birds move through the air without a conductor, as if they were choreographed, and shoals of fish change their direction instantaneously when a shark appears. Yet science is still puzzled: Do all these systems obey the same universal laws? Does complex group behavior emerge from simple interactions between individuals intrinsically and inevitably? A team of researchers headed by Professor Andreas Bausch, Chair of Biophysics at TUM and Professor Erwin Frey, Chair of Statistical and Biological Physics at LMU, are unraveling the mystery.

The Munich researchers have developed a biophysical model system that makes it possible to carry out targeted high-precision experiments under controlled conditions. To this end, Volker Schaller from the TUM Chair of Biophysics, first author of the study, fixed biological motor proteins to a microscope coverslip in such a way that they could drive filaments of the muscle protein actin, suspended
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Contact: Andreas Battenberg
battenberg@zv.tum.de
49-892-891-0510
Technische Universitaet Muenchen
Source:Eurekalert

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