Economists Do It With Models

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Random Link: Cow Behavior, In Amusingly Technical Terms…

May 14th, 2010 · 17 Comments
Random Links

My mom really like cows. (Hi Mom!) I’ve mentioned this before, but let me remind you with a visual:

Since this is what I grew up around, I am always on the lookout for interesting cow information, and when it has to do with economics, it shows up here. (See here and here for examples.) So I couldn’t resist sharing the following model of the “dynamics and sychronization of cows.” Via Marginal Revolution:

We formulate a mathematical model for daily activities of a cow (eating, lying down, and standing) in terms of a piecewise affine dynamical system. We analyze the properties of this bovine dynamical system representing the single animal and develop an exact integrative form as a discrete-time mapping. We then couple multiple cow “oscillators” together to study synchrony and cooperation in cattle herds. We comment on the relevant biology and discuss extensions of our model. With this abstract approach, we not only investigate equations with interesting dynamics but also develop interesting biological predictions. In particular, our model illustrates that it is possible for cows to synchronize less when the coupling is increased.

Am I the only one who finds the phrase “bovine dynamical system” hilarious? I have to admit that I had to check and make sure that this excerpt was an actual paper and not from The Onion or something. Apparently this model explains why cattle tend to face the same direction when grazing…and that, ladies and gentlemen, is your fun farm fact for the day. 🙂

Tags: Random Links

17 responses so far ↓

  • 1 dWj // May 14, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    “Cattle are ruminants, so it is biologically plausible to view them as oscillators.”

  • 2 JzMom // May 14, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Be still my heart! 🙂

  • 3 Dave // May 15, 2010 at 3:03 am

    Why do cows all face the same direction when grazing? Wouldn’t you face upwind if your butt was at the same level as your nose?

  • 4 Spencer // May 17, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    If your mom is truly a cow aficionado then you may want to suggest she choose her next vacation spot from the cities that are hosting the cow parade.
    We just had it here in Lima and I have to say this isn’t Ma and Pa’s Bessie. Some pretty cool cows showed up.

  • 5 Dain // May 17, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Am I the only one who found the phrase: “In particular, our model illustrates that it is possible for cows to synchronize less when the coupling is increased” vaguely suggestive? 😛

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