What a night out in a club and a night out in the Antarctic winter have in common.
It’s Saturday night, Sunday morning to be precise, you are with your friends in this hip nightclub, you’ve finally managed to get your beers at the overcrowded bar, you’ve found a spot on the dance floor that is close enough to the DJ but not too claustrophobic, and now you’re ready for some good ol’ booty shakin’. But. Somebody bumps into you while he is leaving the dance floor, then three people are cutting their way from the bar to the other end of the dance floor, directly between you and your friends, you try to dance, but somebody runs into you again, not even paying attention. This becomes annoying because your have to concentrate more on others than on your original purpose. After a short while, you and your friends try to find a better spot on the dance floor to dance peacefully. So you cut your way through the dancing and sweating crowd, bumping into others. Finally you’ve found a new spot, ready to dance and… everything starts from the beginning. You ask yourself: “Why is the passage always where we are?”
It is not, you are just part of a huddle. Current scientific research has shown that penguin huddles move like waves or traffic jams, and thus follow a rather simple pattern that is complex in its consequences. Because penguins have a sense of the appropriate distance to their neighbours – not too touchy, not too long – one penguin is enough to create a wave. When he is moving one step forward, all of his neighbours also have to move, so all of their neighbours have to move, and so on. Some penguins leave to the outskirts of the huddle during this process, whereas others are re-entering the inner circle. Thus, the huddle itself stays almost stable in its shape and its location, while its members are constantly circulating.
Further research is required, of course. It should be sufficient if the penguin researchers go to a nightclub instead of the Antarctic this time to answer one last question: Why do people constantly have to move from A to B to A to C to B to D? Here another similarity to penguins becomes apparent – it is still unclear.