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Moshers, Heavy Metal and Emergent Behavior

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Dancers in a mosh pit

The apparent chaos of dancers in a mosh pit is actually very similar mathematically to the way a disordered 2D gas behaves, say Cornell University researchers.

Credit: Miqe Erikzen/RocknGraph

Although the collective movement of concert-goers in a mosh pit appears random, it is mathematically similar to a disordered 2-D gas and has the properties of self-organized emergent behavior, say Cornell University researchers.

They studied YouTube videos of mosh pits with crowds from 100 to 100,000 people and corrected for perspective distortions and camera motion. Applying particle image velicometry techniques to study collective movement, the researchers found that mosher speed distribution strongly resembles molecules of a 2D gas at equilibrium.

Wondering why an inherently non-equilibrium system showed equilibrium properties, the researchers used flocking-simulation software to simulate moshers while altering parameters. When noise dominates flocking behavior and self-propulsion parameters, mosher behavior is easily replicated, the researchers found. Furthermore, when flocking terms dominate behavior, highly-ordered vortex-like patterns emerge, as sometimes occur at heavy metal concerts.

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