Are you planning a road trip this year?

If so, there is a good chance you will find yourself stuck in a not-so festive traffic jam. Here’s a mind-hack to help you keep the gas-break-honk blues at bay: imagine the sea of cars is a huddle of penguins.

According to a study published in the New Journal of Physics, emperor penguins use stop-and-go movements similar to dense highway traffic to protect themselves from the harsh Antarctic winter.

Researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute filmed penguin huddles from above, and studied the time-lapse footage looking for patterns. Every minute or so a single penguin waddled about 2 cm causing all the surrounding penguins to waddle 2 cm in response. These small movements sent waves of corresponding waddles through the entire huddle. This pattern is similar to that of cars making their way through dense traffic.

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This is one of the best films I’ve seen in a while…mostly because it’s so well done (and also because the penguins are just so darn cute). In reality, this film is a documentary, but with the way it is structured and told (with perfect narration by Morgan Freeman), this film takes on an epic quality. Like Gone with the Wind, this film is a saga. Gone with the Wind is a fictional saga of one spoiled woman in the Civil War South. March of the Penguins is a saga about the yearly penguin brigade from their home to the place where they mate and raise their young and back home again. The story doesn’t single out any one penguin in particular. Rather, it speaks of them as a group…which is appropriate since as a group huddled together is how they survive the harsh Antarctic winters. The scenery is breathtaking and the cinematography is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. At first, I thought this was going to be another IMAX-esque documentary about penguins at the South Pole. This film, though, is so much more than that. It is an odyssey…about more than just heading from one place to another for mating…it’s a love story of how these creatures bond with their babies to keep the little ones alive and with each other to survive in the harsh elements. The audience becomes so enthralled with these creatures that somehow, their pain and hardship affects us just as much or even more than actors in a feature film.


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