Geese Flying in Vee Formation

One, two, three ragged files of Canada geese skim the treetops, preceded and followed by their honking chorus. I freeze in my tracks to watch them pass, heading south, feathers ruffled by the last warm breezes of the season. When their honks have faded into silence, I notice a chill in the air. The spinning planet has leaned into its winter curve, away from the Sun. And then, just when I think the racket has passed, I hear another barely audible chorus of honks, high in the air. I look up to see a long, asymmetrical vee of perhaps a hundred geese, moving south at high altitude, catching the direct rays of a Sun that has not yet broken the horizon, like gold doubloons spilled across the sky.

Why the vee? Why that Euclidean arrow aimed at warmer climes? It is a fundamental tenet of science that things don't happen by happenstance, or merely to strew a vee of gold across a morning sky for the benefit of a human watcher. We find vee formations beautiful, but our taste for geometry has no value as explanation. Adaptation is the key to understanding the vee. Formation flying may increase aerodynamic efficiency by giving each successive goose in line a bit of extra uplift with something aeronautical engineers call wingtip vortex. Or geese may fly in vees merely to keep each other in view. Whatever the reason, creatures inevitably evolve the competitive edge that helps their genes flow into the future. It was Darwin's genius to recognize that natural selection leads to complexity—even, in the case of the Canada geese, to a spectacular morning geometry. The law of entropy asserts that as time passes the universe moves—on balance—toward disarray. Life builds patterns of order by drawing upon a correspondingly greater disordering process at the center of the Sun where solar energy is produced. The geese that etch their vees against the morning sky are creatures of our yellow star, which now—-just now—lifts its fiery rim above the horizon, bathing the path in golden light.


Evolutionay benefits explain the pattern, which is an example of order forged out of an even greater disordering process occurring in our sun.

Folksonomies: evolution biology entropy order disorder

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Sun (0.955543): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Sky (0.680541): dbpedia | freebase
Horizon (0.558458): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
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Solar energy (0.460612): dbpedia | freebase
Goose (0.460455): dbpedia | freebase

 The Path: A One-Mile Walk Through the Universe
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Raymo , Chet (2003-03-01), The Path: A One-Mile Walk Through the Universe, Walker & Company, Retrieved on 2011-06-08
Folksonomies: science naturalism