As promised, today's Physics Central Podcast
is about the physics of mosh pits!
Ever notice when you're walking through a crowded place that people tend to organize themselves into lanes (without anyone telling them to)? You can actually make the comparison between that sort of behavior and the way a bunch of birds manage to form a flock, even when they don't have an exact flight plan.
But organizing yourself into a line with other people makes sense; it could just be that we all see what's happening and make the most logical decision. But data showing the collective behavior of very large crowds of people in more extreme cases (like a mass panic) show that collective behaviors still emerge.
So in the extreme case of a mosh pit, do those same collective behaviors emerge? Do people suddenly act like birds in a flock or particles in a gas? Some early research by Jesse Silverberg and Matthew Bierbaum of Cornell University shows that yes: collective behaviors emerge in mosh pits.
The duo also saw some highly unique collective behaviors: like multiple circle pits colliding, merging and annihilating each other. People behaving like antimatter? Maybe. Furthermore, if mosh pits have similarities to situations where large crowds get out of control, they could provide a valuable source of data (you can find a mosh pit somewhere in the world on any night of the week; but larger, undesirable crowd events are harder to find and observe).
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