Corina Tarnita, professor of ecology and theoretical biology at Princeton University, brings the empirical power of mathematical modeling to the study of biological systems. She explains to host Steven Strogatz how that approach can illuminate the behaviors of social insects like termites — and how it solved the mystery of fairy circles in Namibia. This episode was produced by Dana Bialek. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Production and original music by Story Mechanics.