Everyday Examples of Emergence

  • By Peter Tyson
  • Posted 07.01.07
  • NOVA scienceNOW

What is the phenomenon known as emergence? Birds, atmospheric disturbances, and city dwellers self-organize, giving rise to flocks, hurricanes, and distinct neighborhoods. Such entirely new properties and behaviors "emerge," with no one directing and no one able to foresee the new characteristics from knowledge of the constituents alone. In this slide show, see how emergence pervades our world.

Launch Interactive Printable Version

From bird flock to slime mold, chess to consciousness, see emergence in action all around us.


Original interview produced by
Carla Denly


© istockphoto.com/Tomas Jensen/In Situ Foto
© istockphoto.com/Klaas Lingbeek-van Kranen
(slime mold)
© istockphoto.com/Laurie Knight
© istockphoto.com/David Freund/David G. Freund Photography
Courtesy Hal Pierce, Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
© istockphoto.com/Donald Swartz
(stock market)
© Charles O'Rear/CORBIS
(chess board)
© istockphoto.com/Rene Mansi/www.urbancow.com
(statue with gears)
© Comstock Select/CORBIS
© Tom Grill/CORBIS

Related Links

  • Emergence

    How does the "intelligence" of an ant colony or the stock market arise out of the simple actions of its members?

  • Emergence: Expert Q&A

    John Holland of the Santa Fe Institute answers questions about this mysterious phenomenon.

  • Bird Brains

    Clues to the origins of human language are turning up in the brains of birds.

  • The Waggle Dance

    Watch David Pogue shake his money maker like a honeybee.


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