The secondary title of “The Living Matrix” is “A Film on the New Science of Healing”. The intent of the filmmakers was to establish a connection between established scientific theories, our health, and healing. How well did they do? As I noted in my review, the filmmakers have failed to provide links to existing science. Neither the DVD nor the website currently provide any links to published scientific papers. In the absence of anything to back it up, the film’s claim that there’s a new “viable scientific theory” is not credible.
One particular claim from the movie came from Dietmar Cimbal, DVM, who the filmmakers label as a “biophysics researcher”. Dr. Cimbal talks about direction shifts of flocks of birds:
“Every one of us has watched a flock of birds in flight and how it changes direction. Instantly, all birds in the flock change direction. So, it seems as if a superior bird-brain controls all the birds simultaneously. That only works with the help of those fields, since the fields are able to transfer, with no information loss, and, above all, instantaneously with no time delay.”
A skeptic would have several questions at this point: Why does Dr. Cimbal presume the shifts are instantaneous? What observations did he make of flocks, and what instruments did he use to measure them? Where did he publish his results? If he was using someone else’s research, where is that research?
Using a combination of high-speed photography and statistical methods, scientists have determined that direction shifts in flocks are not instantaneous. The research is described in this article from Audubon Magzine; an abstract of a formal paper on this research is available here. Here’s my favorite segment of the Audubon article:
“Like drivers on a freeway, starlings don’t appear to mind having neighbors nearby on their sides—or above and below, for that matter—as long as they have open space ahead. That makes sense, since the presence of a clear path in the direction of travel minimizes the likelihood of collisions should the birds need to shift their course abruptly, as is likely when a falcon attacks. But what’s really nifty about this spatial asymmetry is that the researchers have been able to use it to calculate the number of neighbors to which each starling pays close attention—a quantified elaboration of Potts’s chorus line idea. By looking at correlations between the movements of neighboring starlings, they can show that each bird always pays attention to the same number of neighbors, whether they’re closer or farther away. How many neighbors is that? Six or seven, says Cavagna, who points out that starlings in flocks can almost always see many more nearby birds—but the number may be closely tied to birds’ cognitive ability.”
UK resident Mr. Dylan Winter has published a remarkable video of starling flocks near Oxford, England. I recommend watching the video in high quality: click the screen once to start the video playing, then click on the HQ button below the video.
Dr. Cimbal’s claim that birds are communicating instantaneously through some sort of flock-encompassing “field” has been superseded by a far simpler scientific explanation. Each bird is observing the motion of six or seven other birds, and that is sufficient to allow for the coordinated and fluid motion of the flock as a whole. Further, Cimbal’s “instantaneous” claim seems to have been based on pure speculation and not scientific research. It’s part of the bad science in The Living Matrix.
Demonstrating that claims are backed up with scientific research is simple; I showed how earlier in this section. There is no excuse for a science documentary failing to provide links back to real science.
Certain responsibilities come with the creation of a science documentary. How did the filmmakers of The Living Matrix evaluate what information to include in their film? What due diligence did they perform on the claims made by their “experts”? As far as I can tell, little to no fact-checking was done. It took me about five minutes of searching on google to find the Audubon article and the research paper behind it.
Will they now publish an errata page on their website?