60-Second Science

Physicists Model Mosh Moves

Metal-loving researchers analyzed the collective movement of individuals in mosh pits, which could help explain mass movements in other extreme situations. Sophie Bushwick reports

A heavy metal concert might be a tough place to think about physics, especially in the mosh pit, where some audience members dance violently. But the mosh pit itself is actually an interesting place to find physics in action. And not just force equals mass times acceleration.

Metal-loving Cornell researchers analyzed videos of mosh pits and mapped the motion of participants. They found that the collisions of moshers was similar to the motion of molecules in an ideal gas. Mosh dancers can also form what is called a circle pit, where they run collectively in a ring, creating a vortex pattern.

The scientists not only modeled mosh and circle pits, they also found how one type of motion transitions into the other. The presented their ongoing work at the American Physical Society's March Meeting. [Matthew Bierbaum et al., Mosh pits and Circle pits: Collective motion at heavy metal concerts]

But why bother to look at mosh pits in the first place? The physicists think their research may also apply to other extreme situations, which could help us understand collective human movement in panics and riots. So I say, rock on.

—Sophie Bushwick

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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