The year 2011 gets off to a disturbing start. On New Year's Eve, blackbirds die in Beebe, Arkansas by the thousands. Nearby, fish and more birds perish. Then a wave of unsettling animal deaths seems to sweep the globe. Are the deaths connected? A wide-ranging story begins with an investigation of the blackbirds' death and ends by assessing how the human mind is inspired, or derailed, by seeming patterns or coincidences in nature.