Minimal stochastic field equations for one-dimensional flocking

Eoin Ó Laighléis, Martin R. Evans, Richard A. Blythe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We consider the collective behaviour of active particles that locally align with their neighbours. Agent-based simulation models have previously shown that in one dimension, these particles can form into a flock that maintains its stability by stochastically alternating its direction. Until now, this behaviour has been seen in models based on continuum field equations only by appealing to long-range interactions that are not present in the simulation model. Here, we derive a set of stochastic field equations with local interactions that reproduces both qualitatively and quantitatively the behaviour of the agent-based model, including the alternating flock phase. A crucial component is a multiplicative noise term of the voter model type in the dynamics of the local polarization whose magnitude is inversely proportional to the local density. We show that there is an important subtlety in determining the physically appropriate noise, in that it depends on a careful choice of the field variables used to characterise the system. We further use the resulting equations to show that a nonlinear alignment interaction of at least cubic order is needed for flocking to arise.
Original languageEnglish
Article number062127
JournalPhysical Review E
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2018


  • cond-mat.stat-mech


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