Solar syncing

Solar syncing

Sunday saw a rare solar eclipse and audiences gathered in crowds to watch:

On July 11, after a long trek eastward across the southern Pacific Ocean, the Moon’s shadow reached landfall in South America. In a total solar eclipse close to sunset, silhouetted Moon and Sun hugged the western horizon, seen here above the Andes mountains near the continent’s southern tip. To enjoy a good vantage point, the photographer hiked to a windy spot about 400 meters above a lake, Lago Argentino, climbing into the picture after setting up his camera on a tripod. At left, the sky outside the shadow cone is still bright. Below, the lights of El Calafate, Patagonia, Argentina, shine by the lake shore. [via]

As you watch this video, you’ll see the solar eclipse transform the crowd, and it did me. Yet I couldn’t help but be distracted — as the moon eclipsed the sun, then the sun broke free again of the moon again — by the crowd who’d gathered in the cold, breaking out in spontaneous applause.

Applause for whom?

Steven Strogatz, in 2004, has some answers in his TED talk on sync:

For some reason, we take pleasure in synchronizing. We like to dance together, like singing together. …. [S]yncronicity is perhaps one of the most pervasive drives in all of nature. It extends from the subatomic scale to the farthest reaches of the cosmos. It’s a deep tendency toward order in nature that opposes what we’ve all been taught about entropy. …. There is a countervailing force toward spontaneous order.

So even though I join the likes of Alex Ross and Glenn Gould with his GPAADAK (the Gould Plan for the Abolition of Applause and Demonstrations of All Kinds, of course), it’s clear we’re fighting a rather natural drive to be in sync.