Physics and heavy metal don’t seem to have a lot in common, but Matt Bierbaum and Jesse Silverberg have found a connection. Both are graduate students at Cornell University. They’re also metal heads who enjoy going to concerts and hurling themselves into mosh pits full of like-minded fans.
About five years ago Silverberg took his girlfriend to her first gig. “Usually I would jump in the mosh pit,” he says. “But this time I wanted her to be safe and have a good time, so we stayed out on the side and watched things from there.”
While he was watching, he realized that the motion of people in a mosh pit looks kind of like molecules moving in a gas.
“It was basically just this random mess of collisions, which is essentially how you want to think about the gas in the air that we breathe,” he says.
Physicists have worked out the basic rules that describe this kind of motion, so Bierbaum and Silverberg decided to look for the rules of motion in moshing. They went to concerts and studied videos from YouTube. Silverberg emphasizes that no tax dollars went toward buying concert tickets — the study is a labor of love.
Note: Video contains profanity
Using just a few variables, like how fast people moved and how dense the crowd was, Bierbaum and Silverberg created a mathematical model that they presented at this week’s March meeting of the American Physical Society. Using a mixture of simulated moshers and standing fans, they could reproduce mosh pits, circle pits and other common collective motions that take place at metal concerts. You can try some simulations for yourself in their mosh pit simulator below.
It’s not just the metal heads that obey these kinds of basic mathematical rules, says Andreas Bausch, a researcher at the Munich Technical University in Germany. Flocks of birds and schools of fish do similar things. So do car drivers. Now concertgoers can be added to the list, he told NPR in an email. “This is indeed cool stuff.”
The new mosh pit research could be interesting for another reason. In emergencies people panic, and the movement rules they follow change. Mosh pits might provide clues about the new rules.
“We hope that this will provide a lens into looking at other extreme situations such as riots and protests and escape panic,” Bierbaum says.
They plan to continue their research, while rocking on.
To play with the Mosh Pit Similator check the original post on NPR Music.
- Sitka author Brendan Jones has won a statewide award for his book “The Alaskan Laundry.” Created in 1994, the Alaskana Award recognizes one work of fiction or nonfiction that gives “significant contributions to the understanding of Alaska, exhibiting originality and depth of research and knowledge.”
- One day after he lost both a book deal and a prominent speaking gig, Yiannopoulos said he was stepping down as technology editor for the website formerly run by President Trump's chief strategist.
- District 38 state Rep. Zach Fansler laid out his position on proposed taxes, the governor’s opioid disaster declaration, changes to oil and gas subsidies, and more Friday during a live KYUK call-in show with constituents.
- Two memos, signed by Secretary John Kelly, greatly expand the number of immigrants prioritized for removal. The rules do not affect "Dreamers" — people brought to the U.S. illegally as children.