Session W44: Focus Session: The Physics of Behavior

2:30 PM–5:30 PM, Thursday, March 21, 2013
Hilton Baltimore Room: Holiday Ballroom 1

Sponsoring Unit: DBIO
Chair: Greg J. Stephens, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology

Abstract ID: BAPS.2013.MAR.W44.10

Abstract: W44.00010 : Mosh pits and Circle pits: Collective motion at heavy metal concerts

5:06 PM–5:18 PM

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  Matthew Bierbaum
    (Cornell University)

  Jesse L. Silverberg
    (Cornell University)

  James P. Sethna
    (Cornell University)

  Itai Cohen
    (Cornell University)

Heavy metal concerts present an extreme environment in which large crowds ($\sim 10^2- 10^5$) of humans experience very loud music ($\sim130\rm{dB}$) in sync with bright, flashing lights, often while intoxicated. In this setting, we find two types of collective motion: mosh pits, in which participants collide with each other randomly in a manner resembling an ideal gas, and circle pits, in which participants run collectively in a circle forming a vortex of people. We model these two collective behaviors using a flocking model and find qualitative and quantitative agreement with the behaviors found in videos of metal concerts. Futhermore, we find a phase diagram showing the transition from a mosh pit to a circle pit as well as a predicted third phase, lane formation.

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