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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Relat­ed Con­tent: 

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