A study finds seemingly disorderly mosh pits to be quite predictable.

Despite concert-goer’s best efforts to incite chaos, four scientists at Cornell University have released a mathematical study that finds seemingly disorderly mosh pits to be quite predictable.

Titled Collective Motion of Moshers at Heavy Metal Concerts, the study analyzes both the disorganized mosh pit (where participants run into each other from all directions) and the relatively organized circle pit (think swirling toilet bowl) or the wal.

The scientists from Cornell’s Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics and Department of Physics poured over internet video and studied the participants as “self-propelled agents that experience dissipative collisions.” The researchers turned the video into statistical data.

They asked why does a mosh pit that appears to be out of balance actually show characteristics of an otherwise predictable system?

The answer points to “flocking,” the social phenomenon that describes the collective motion of a large number of self-propelled entities (birds, fish, humans). In other words, without direction from a central leader, the group of individuals unknowingly choose to follow a set of rules.


The paper goes on to say, “further studies in this unique environment may enhance our understanding of collective motion in riots, protests, and panicked crowds, leading to new architectural safety design principles that limit the risk of injury at extreme social gatherings.” 

To the guys in the lab coats, good luck figuring out the wall of death.

— Jay Tilles, CBS Local


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