How many dissenters does it take to disorder a flock?

D. Yllanes, M. Leoni, M. C. Marchetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


We consider the effect of introducing a small number of non-aligning agents in a well-formed flock. To this end, we modify a minimal model of active Brownian particles with purely repulsive (excluded volume) forces to introduce an alignment interaction that will be experienced by all the particles except for a small minority of 'dissenters'. We find that even a very small fraction of dissenters disrupts the flocking state. Strikingly, these motile dissenters are much more effective than an equal number of static obstacles in breaking up the flock. For the studied system sizes we obtain clear evidence of scale invariance at the flocking-disorder transition point and the system can be effectively described with a finite-size scaling formalism. We develop a continuum model for the system which reveals that dissenters act like annealed noise on aligners, with a noise strength that grows with the persistence of the dissenters' dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103026
JournalNew Journal of Physics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 24 2017


  • Langevin equations
  • active matter
  • disordered systems
  • flocking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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