The Physics of Mosh Pits at Heavy Metal Concerts (Explained by Cornell Grad Students)

Speaking at the American Physical Society last month, Matthew Bierbaum, a Cornell grad student, presented a talk called “Collective Motion at Heavy Metal Concerts,” where he made the case that physics is everywhere, even in a mosh pit at a heavy metal show. Along with three other Cornell researchers, Bierbaum has analyzed and modeled the collective motions of moshers in various YouTube concert videos (like the one below) and discovered that “dancers collide with each other randomly and at a distribution of speeds that resembles particles in a two-dimensional gas,” writes Lauren Wolfe in Chemical & Engineering News.

To try and understand what’s happening in mosh pits, the researchers used a flocking-based simulation that helps “model living beings as simple particles, reducing complex behavioral dynamics to a few basic rules,” says Itai Cohen, the head of the research team. From this study, the Cornell team hopes to learn more about how seemingly chaotic crowds behave, and how smarter exit routes and evacuation strategies can be designed.

You can learn more about their research by perusing the team’s published paper “Collective Motion of Moshers at Heavy Metal Concerts” or by watching Bierbaum’s aforementioned presentation in the grainy video below below.

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