Scale-Free Correlations in Flocking Systems with Position-Based Interactions

Cristián Huepe*, Eliseo Ferrante, Tom Wenseleers, Ali Emre Turgut

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


We consider a model of self-propelled agents with spring-like interactions that depend only on relative positions, and not on relative orientations. We observe that groups of these agents self-organize to achieve collective motion (CM) through a mechanism based on the cascading of self-propulsion energy towards lower elastic modes. By computing the correlation functions of the speed and velocity fluctuations for different group sizes, we show that the corresponding correlation lengths are proportional to the linear size of the group and have no intrinsic length scale. We argue that such scale-free correlations are a natural consequence of the position-based interactions and associated CM dynamics. We hypothesize that this effect, acting in the context of more complex realistic interactions, could be at the origin of the scale-free correlations measured experimentally in flocks of starlings, instead of the previously argued proximity to a critical regime.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)549-562
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Statistical Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • Active elastic systems
  • Active matter
  • Collective motion
  • Criticality
  • Energy cascade
  • Flocks
  • Scale-free correlations
  • Self-organization
  • Swarms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Mathematical Physics


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