February 2013: Physics Graduate Students Study Motion in Mosh Pits
Physics is everywhere . . . including your local heavy metal concert. This is illustrated by a paper recently posted to arXiv by physics PhD students Jesse Silverberg and Matthew Bierbaum.
Silverberg, a student in Prof. Itai Cohen’s group, began wondering about the dynamics of mosh pits while attending a concert as an undergraduate student. When Silverberg took a statistical physics course with Prof. Jim Sethna, he had the opportunity to explore this behavior with Matt Bierbaum, a student in Sethna’s lab. In their free time Silverberg and Bierbaum have continued their research into this type of crowd behavior which was posted to arXiv on February 11.
After watching videos of mosh pits across at different concerts in several countries, Silverberg and Bierbaum found that the motions observed were like those of classical 2D gases. The moshers seemingly random collisions in a mosh pit or circle pit can be predicted by simple models.
This work joins other contributions to the study of collective motion whose applications include designing buildings that mitigate dangers presented by large groups fleeing emergencies. Using concert videos allowed the scientists to study realistic extreme behavior without asking volunteers to risk personal injury that could be incurred recreating the experience.
The article is quickly gaining exposure in the mainstream media. Prof. Itai Cohen’s page contains a complete list of all media coverage. Below find a link to the Cohen Group page as well as a few media highlights:
To read a summary of the students’ work or see all media coverage on Prof. Itai Cohen’s page, click here.
To read the full article, click here.
For additional coverage in:
MIT Technology Review
Radio Interview with Jesse Silverberg on WHCU’s Morning News Watch
Radio Interview with Jesse Silverberg on CBC’s As it Happens
The Huffington Post
The Cornell Chronicle