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Physicists: Music Fans in Mosh Pits Follow Same "Logic" as Gas Particles

If you've recently been a part of a mosh pit in upstate New York, it's possible your movements have been studied by a group of physicists from Cornell University in Ithaca (It's southeast of Rochester, if that helps anyone).

The physicists have determined that the movements of concert-goers who take part in chaotic-looking mosh pits actually follow a certain logic. The moshers' collective behavior is similar to the way particles move in a disordered 2D gas, the new research reveals.

The physicists say their insights could help predict how crowds will behave in emergencies and might even lead to more effective evacuation methods.

As we all know, crowds at metal shows tend to firm circles (mosh pits), where they lunge and bounce off one and other with their arms flaying and legs kicking. "Often resulting in injuries, the collective mood is influenced by the combination of loud, fast music (130 dB, 350 beats per minute), synchronized with bright, flashing lights, and frequent intoxication," the study says.

Check out the Cornell University team's mosh pit simulator below! Note that you can change all the units involved, including the size of the club (the box) and the volume of the music (noise strength).

DIRECTIONS: To make changes, first click on "Show controls." Change the numbers around to your liking, hit "Restart," then hit "Hide controls" to see how your changes affect the mosh pit.

Damian Fanelli

Damian is editor-in-chief of Guitar World magazine. From 1998 to 2014, he was one third of Mister Neutron, an instrumental rock act that toured the universe and elsewhere and released three albums via Austin-based Deep Eddy Records. These days he performs with several New York City-area bands and can often be spotted with one of his many, many, many B-bender-equipped guitars. In past lives he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor – and he still can’t believe he got to write the liner notes for the latest SRV box set.