The Secret of Synchronization

The Secret of Synchronization

How does order spontaneously arise out of chaos? This video is sponsored by Kiwico — go to for 50% off your first month of any crate.

An enormous thanks to Prof. Steven Strogatz — this video would not have been possible without him. Much of the script-writing was inspired and informed by his wonderful book Sync, and his 2004 TED talk. He is a giant in this field, and has literally written the book on chaos, complexity, and synchronization. It was hard to find a paper in this field that Steven (or one of his students) didn’t contribute to. His Podcast “The Joy of X” is wonderful — please listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts

Nicky Case’s Amazing Firefly Interactive —

Great Kuramoto Model Interactive —


Strogatz, S. H. (2012). Sync: How order emerges from chaos in the universe, nature, and daily life. Hachette UK. —

Strogatz, S. H. (2000). From Kuramoto to Crawford: exploring the onset of synchronization in populations of coupled oscillators. Physica D: Nonlinear Phenomena, 143(1-4), 1-20. —

Goldsztein, G. H., Nadeau, A. N., & Strogatz, S. H. (2021). Synchronization of clocks and metronomes: A perturbation analysis based on multiple timescales. Chaos: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science, 31(2), 023109. —

The Broughton Suspension Bridge and the Resonance Disaster —

Bennett, M., Schatz, M. F., Rockwood, H., & Wiesenfeld, K. (2002). Huygens’s clocks. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 458(2019), 563-579. —

Pantaleone, J. (2002). Synchronization of metronomes. American Journal of Physics, 70(10), 992-1000. —

Kuramoto, Y. (1975). Self-entrainment of a population of coupled non-linear oscillators. In International symposium on mathematical problems in theoretical physics (pp. 420-422). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. —

Great video by Minute Earth about Tidal Locking and the Moon —

Strogatz, S. H., Abrams, D. M., McRobie, A., Eckhardt, B., & Ott, E. (2005). Crowd synchrony on the Millennium Bridge. Nature, 438(7064), 43-44. —

Zhabotinsky, A. M. (2007). Belousov-zhabotinsky reaction. Scholarpedia, 2(9), 1435. —

Flavio H Fenton et al. (2008) Cardiac arrhythmia. Scholarpedia, 3(7):1665. —

Cherry, E. M., & Fenton, F. H. (2008). Visualization of spiral and scroll waves in simulated and experimental cardiac tissue. New Journal of Physics, 10(12), 125016. —

Tyson, J. J. (1994). What everyone should know about the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction. In Frontiers in mathematical biology (pp. 569-587). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. —

Winfree, A. T. (2001). The geometry of biological time (Vol. 12). Springer Science & Business Media. —

Special thanks to Patreon supporters: Mac Malkawi, Oleksii Leonov, Michael Schneider, Jim Osmun, Tyson McDowell, Ludovic Robillard, jim buckmaster, fanime96, Juan Benet, Ruslan Khroma, Robert Blum, Richard Sundvall, Lee Redden, Vincent, Lyvann Ferrusca, Alfred Wallace, Arjun Chakroborty, Joar Wandborg, Clayton Greenwell, Pindex, Michael Krugman, Cy ‘kkm’ K’Nelson, Sam Lutfi, Ron Neal

Written by Derek Muller and Petr Lebedev
Animation by Fabio Albertelli and Jakub Misiek
GFX and 3D animation by Jonny Hyman
Filmed by Derek Muller and Raquel Nuno
Edited by Derek Muller
Additional video supplied by Getty Images
Thumbnail by Ignat Berbeci

More footage from NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

100 metronome video from

Intro animation by Jorge Cham

Thanks for the BZ footage from SteinbockGroup: and

Animation of waves in the heart from The Virtual Heart/ EM Cherry/ FH Fenton — and

Chemical materials and protocol provided by Mike Morris and the UCI Chemistry Outreach Program

Thanks to Alie Ward for title/thumbnail consultation
Thanks to Dr Juliette Becker and Dr James O’Donoghue for the planetary science help

Music from Jonny Hyman, Epidemic Sound “Seaweed” “Deeper Than The Ocean” “Ripple Effect”
Music also from Artlist “Children of Mystery”

Thumbnail by Ignat Berbeci

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50 Responses

  1. Medlife Crisis says:

    I get a notification every time an inaccurate beating heart animation appears in a YouTube video

    Edit: swinging bridges this was a fascinating and eclectic vid

    • Medlife Crisis says:

      @Shaun Eisner not the depolarisation mapping, that’s great and a similar technique is commonly used for ablations. I meant the 3D animation stock ‘beating heart’. I’ve never seen one get it completely right…but this one was not even close!

    • Althea Unertl says:

      @Medlife Crisis Thanks for clarifying which animation!

    • Shaun Eisner says:

      @Medlife Crisis ahhhh yea that was definitely not a very realistic image, sorry wasn’t sure which one you were referring to!

    • JSB Production says:

      Nobody cares about this particular heart beating animation. Chill out man.

    • Wulfris says:

      Very interesting but who asked

  2. AuthenTech - Ben Schmanke says:

    I learned so much in this one! Thank you for educating us while keeping it very entertaining

  3. Dávid says:

    Im from Hungary, and here it is a tradition to sync applause.

    • Leonard Euler says:

      This happens everywhere, here in Brazil while the church is running and it’s time to play songs, the claps start from a great riot and began to synchronize.

    • Dávid says:

      Probably this tradition originated from the Synchronization phenomena. So i think Derek is right yet again.

    • Dávid says:

      Be it in an unique way.

    • TacticusPrime says:

      Yes, but the point isn’t that people are “accidentally” clapping in sync. It’s that they can get in sync with each other **without** a guide or leader of any kind. People just adjusting their clapping in small steps to be closer to the people directly near them is enough to gradually bring the whole crowd entirely in sync.

    • Gábor Králik says:

      Clapping in unison is a psychological phenomenon, not a physical one. It has nothing to do with metronomes syncing or resonant frequency. I think Derek just found it interesting, so he put it in the video.

  4. PJ Z says:

    I didn’t realize synchronicity was so universal even across all scales. You know it intuitively, but to see the math and animations of so many different applications really makes it clear

    • pvic says:

      what if we started ALL the metronomes on earth and put them on the ground. there _technically_ coupled via earth. would they eventually all sync up?!?!?

    • PJ Z says:

      @pvic Asking the real questions here! (I heard Nikola Tesla actually created an earthquake device using the same science in his New York laboratory, but I’m not sure it’s true)

    • Silikone says:

      You mean synchronization. Synchronicity is a metaphysical concept unrelated to the physical phenomenon.

  5. Roland Turner says:

    This channel is what the Discovery Channel was like to me when I was a child. I love how it brings life to “uninteresting” subjects.

  6. Zsombor Dányi says:

    As a Hungarian I never tought that some people didn’t clap like that, but its apparently a mostly eastern european thing. I always tought of it as a milder form of a standing ovation. And I think its absolutely not as spontaneous as people think, people might do it somewhat subconsciously, but only because its culturally ingrained, everyone did it that way since they were a kid, so they follow along. Like I never suddenly realized “wow we are clapping in sync randomly” more like “ok everyone liked the performance, I guess we are doing the syncing thing”. There is always some guy that starts it by clapping slower and louder, then everyone follows, we speed up until its random again, repeat until we are bored.

    • Jan Negrey says:

      Yeah. From Poland here – I always done that when other people started. It is usually to ask for bis (another short performance) – and there were couple of times when I stopped clapping, because the artist wasn’t that good. I clapped for performance, but no more.

    • Rilian Kenneth Saunders says:

      this happens in usa too.

    • bennib91 says:

      I know this phenomenon from Germany as well. I experienced it in very long applauds, but it kind of alternated with the regular chaotic applause.

    • AdaErika says:

      I think it is a european thing?

    • AdaErika says:

      I always imagined if it syncronices it means performer should continue

  7. B . D says:

    It’s like when you and your friend jump on the trampoline, in the end you will end up synchronizing, because if you don’t do it or stop your rhythm, you will fall.

    • one communist boi says:

      If youre synchronizing youre doing wrong! When jumping together with someone else you gotta boost each other by jumping out of synch:)

    • B . D says:

      @one communist boi No jumping at the same time because someone is gonna fall, like in the video in the opposite direction, one jumps while the other is in the air, and vice versa.
      Thanks for your comment and for correcting me 😁👍

  8. A Glimpse Inside says:

    Those metronomes… At one point were kicking the sickest beat

  9. TheFinalRevelation says:

    Varitasium has gone mad. Two videos in quick succession. I think he set the schedule wrong… by a month or more.

  10. Flammable Maths says:

    Kuramoto intensifies <3

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