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Stats Idle Science

Heavy Metal and Emergent Behavior 92

You may think that moshing and disordered 2D gases don't have much in common but Jesse Silverberg of Cornell University contends otherwise. He says that mosh pits act just like disordered gases and people in circle pits act in an ordered vortex-like state. From the article: "Silverberg and co gathered their data by examining videos of mosh pits on You Tube... These crowds contain anything from 100 to 100,000 people. After correcting for camera shake and distortions in perspective, they used particle image velicometry techniques to measure the collective motion of moshers. What they discovered was that the speed distribution of moshers closely matches that of molecules in a 2D gas at equilibrium."
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Heavy Metal and Emergent Behavior

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  • A large group of people in a circle pit resembles a bunch of molecules circling? I'll be damned.
    • by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @05:19AM (#42893601) Journal

      A large group of people in a circle pit resembles a bunch of molecules circling? I'll be damned.

      Who'd have thought being a molecule in a disordered gas reaching equilibrium could be so much fun. It's a pity that many venues want to ban emergent behaviour.

      • A large group of people in a circle pit resembles a bunch of molecules circling? I'll be damned.

        Who'd have thought being a molecule in a disordered gas reaching equilibrium could be so much fun. It's a pity that many venues want to ban emergent behaviour.

        Good Thing Im in sign of anyone wanting to ban natural mosh emergence just yet :D

        • by Basje ( 26968 )

          Wacken Open Air, a German festival and one of the largest metal festivals in the world, banned circle pits in 2010. Luckily they recanted. I'm looking forward to this year's edition.

    • by StripedCow ( 776465 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @05:45AM (#42893715)

      So physics is actually close to psychology, and not really a hard science.

      • I'd mod you up anytime, anyway, anyhow as insightful and funny.
        Don't have points though.

      • Obligatory XKCD reference....
      • by Shinobi ( 19308 )

        I was actually thinking "So, physicists only NOW catch up with psychology?".

        Psychology has used concepts from gas and particle physics for at least 40 years, and in many way follow the same rules: You can generalize a group, but an individual can only be statistically compared with the group traits and not specifically predicted.

        • This is the entire premise of Asimov's Foundation series. A good read.
          • by Shinobi ( 19308 )

            Yeah, I've read them all.

            I know it was suggested early, but it wasn't until the 60's that people actually figured out how to actually make it useful within mathematical psychology, i.e what concepts could be used, which ones needed to be stripped, and what concepts that needed to be put in.

        • by gr8dude ( 832945 )

          This is a conclusion reached by Anatol Rapoport, a fellow who was studying these things (he is the author of tit-for-tat, among other things). He provides some examples in his book "Certainties and doubts", which is a very interesting read. Here is a relevant excerpt [] (this is a public album, you don't need a Facebook account to see the pics)

      • I can only wonder if the stripedkau is also a spherical cow?
        How now, spherical cow,
        physical perfection, here and now!
    • That's Impossible! you see, molecules are brainless items while metal heads are... uhm... nevermind.

  • IG Nobel! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2013 @05:19AM (#42893607)

    A sure candidate.

  • Weird (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Neil Boekend ( 1854906 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @05:23AM (#42893627)
    My experience with smaller mosh pits (guess: up to 50 headbangers) indicates a different pattern, more like a sloshing wave. Most people move in one direction until they get near the edge and then go back.
    Is this a size thing? The mosh pits analyzed in this story are bigger. Changes that the behavior?
    • Not to mention the fun of trying to go the opposite direction with a few friends in the smaller pits. But yeah in the bigger ones the sheer amount of people carries a lot of momentum.
    • My guess is it depends on the number of people present, the size of the venue, and some average measure of how much energy the band imparts to the audience.

      Although wait...that sounds familiar somehow.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Don't be a PerV=NeRT.

    • That's what I thought too.
      But I guess this has something to do with speed of information travel. In gases speed of sound is a barrier to information travel - if a disturbance is slower than speed of sound, it is of the form we can easily identify. Particles ahead of the object "know" that a disturbance is coming and slowly get out of the way, similar to an oar in water causing waves ahead of it.
      If it is supersonic though, there is no warning ahead. You cannot hear a SuperSonic aircraft before it gets to
    • Mosh pits also vary a lot based on musical style. For example the pit in front of a hardcore band is going to have more space between individuals, and more velocity per individual. Music in the hard rock genre is going to have pits that are more squished together but less violent. Lamb of God even has their special Wall of Death move that again changes the whole scenario.
  • Physicists (Score:5, Funny)

    by kid-noodle ( 669957 ) <<ten.peehsonan> <ta> <onoj>> on Thursday February 14, 2013 @05:25AM (#42893637) Homepage
    Consider a spherical heavy metal fan..
  • by Janek Kozicki ( 722688 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @05:31AM (#42893661) Journal
    You might be interested in new kind of science [], where Stephen Wolfram argues that fluid (and gas) movement is a general pehonomena, which can be replicated using only very basic rules. And therefore must occur in very broad range of materials, regardless of their underlying precise rules. And he is right. I am no surprised that this also applies to heavy metal crowds.
    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      It's a pity that fluid flow itself needs more than a few basic rules to model.
      • by garaged ( 579941 )

        you clearly have never performed theoretical science

        • Instead you clearly have a very simplistic view of fluid flow. One very simple laminar flow experiment I saw in the 1980s needed a pipe the length of a reasonable sized University building to ensure that there wasn't turbulent flow at the outlet.
          • A "very simple" laminar flow experiment used a 275mm diameter pipe?

            (entry length of 40m, a "reasonable-sized university building", Reynolds # of 2300 for laminar flow, Lentry/D=~=Re/16 gives D around 275mm)

            Or did I miss something? It's been a while since I did any fluid calcs.

            • by dbIII ( 701233 )
              Something like that, otherwise it's not simple flow. That rig actually had an analogue computer next to it that was adjusted to match the rig and provide an accurate mathematical model. These days you could do a similar job with a "neural net" instead of a pile of amplifiers patched together.
              Another example of why things are not so simple without even touching turbulence is supersonic flow - a subsonic nozzle goes in but a supersonic nozzle (eg. space shuttle main engine nozzles) goes out but both do the
          • Just because reality is complicated doesn't mean that the math of fluids (mostly Navier-Stokes) wouldn't apply to other fields. It may not be as universal as the wave equation, but being emergent from F=ma and some basic conservation laws I could see how it might correlate with other systems.
            • by dbIII ( 701233 )
              Everyone can take their baggage and attach it to a different strawman. All I did is point out that fluid flow needs more than a few basic rules to model.
              • by garaged ( 579941 )

                Most of the time theoretical work is about making a pretty deep simplyfication of the actual problem... Even quantum chemistry does that...

                In other words, sorry for the bad joke!

                • by dbIII ( 701233 )
                  NP, I didn't realise it was a joke. Being an engineer I've never really done any theoretical science, but I did get to play with various types of flow compressing metal powder using a gas gun in the 1990s while watching guys in next room do stuff with helium at mach 6.
    • On page 381, paragraphs 4 and 5, it says that randomness seen in fluid (and gas) movement is almost always generated by the internal system itself and not set by initial conditions. This could have implications on current theories of the big bang which assumes what we see in the universe is based from initial conditions.

      Sorry I don't have an exact quote, but wolframscience didn't make it easy to copy the relevant text over and I got too lazy to do anything else about it.

  • by fantomas ( 94850 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @05:39AM (#42893693)

    "the speed distribution of moshers closely matches that of molecules in a 2D gas at equilibrium"

    I knew all along that metal fans were all airheads, now proven by science!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's merely a hypothesis at this point; proof may or may not be forthcoming.

      On the plus side, you have managed to prove that you are a bigot - no science necessary. Impressive.

  • by voodoo cheesecake ( 1071228 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @06:25AM (#42893863)

    How music fans act as molecules.

    Headbangers + applied energy (awesome riffs & volume) fill a volume as individual particles, do not form products, expand the volume of their "container" as pressure increases and dissipate when applied energy source is removed.

    Country line dancers (extremely soluble in ethanol) + applied energy (twangy vocals and guitars + ethanol) enter solution as a binary compound, form complex molecules and then dissipate as binary compounds (not necessarily with the original conjugate species). However, once the molarity of ethanol diminishes, these binary compounds dissolve and seek higher concentrations of ethanol often showing an affinity for elements with a higher electronegativity (redneck factor). It must be noted that country line dancers become highly volatile for no known reason(s) regardless of the concentration of the ethanol solution.

    If you argue with me, how about we turn this into a peer reviewed article right here on slashdot!

    • Do ravers next! :D

      • by moeinvt ( 851793 )

        I hypothesize that ravers would exhibit more wave-like properties.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Ravers require a catalyst to lower the activation energy. Many effective catalysts are known to exist, but pure ones are desired to eliminate undesired results. So, ravers + activation energy (complex audio range frequencies in the presence of various light sources), begin to exhibit unexplainable quantum effects. These quantum effects vary significantly within the sample. Although some elements may seem to have the required energy and orientation to effectively bond, particle proximity seems sufficient eno

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This will be my PhD

    • wouldn't line dancers act more like a crystalline lattice?
      • Hmmm.

        That's a good point! Perhaps my analogy refers more to square dancers.

        Yes, you are correct - the lattice structures do immediately alternate in form with respect to differences in twang.

        Thank you for your insight.

  • Translation at work (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tagged_84 ( 1144281 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @07:20AM (#42894071)
    This really flows well with the book I'm reading at the moment, The God Problem by Howard Bloom. This is an example of translation causing transformation, the movement of the gas molecules is a recruitment strategy that is dominate enough to cross between different, err things? The same pattern in the gas create a social/group activity when translated to humans. One of the examples given in the book outlines how bacterial colonies in Petri dishes spread out in fractal patterns just like those found in rocks.

    It's a fairly stretched out book, I originally started reading it for his theory of the shape of our universe, a bagel. In theory it replaces dark energy with gravity to explain the accelerated burst and subsequent slow down experienced by the early universe as well as the missing anti-matter. 250 pages in and it's covered the history of science while explaining how we miss what's right under our nose, such as the Egyptians making perfect right angles using the golden ratio and never discovering the concept of angles. Highly recommend it!
    • his theory of the shape of our universe, a bagel

      Alright, back up a minute. In what sense is the shape of the universe like a bagel? If I assume you mean that spacetime is a 4D torus, then you not only have a non-zero Ricci scalar (curvature), which flatly contradicts a lot of experimental evidence, but you have a non-constant curvature throughout the universe, which would mean that spacetime is non-isotropic, which again (via Nöethers theorem) implies that conservation of mass and conservation of momentum are no longer laws of nature. I assume he ha

      • Having looked at the author more thoroughly, I've concluded that while he probably has some good insights into sociology and related things, he knows next to nothing about cosmology, quantum theory or modern physics at all. He goes ahead and bases his claim on knowing these fields on "having published on", which is trivial, since there is no peer review or anything required to get a paper on the arXiv. And then, when you look at said arXiv paper it is just a really convoluted attempt at a hidden v
  • The particles are Sentient, AND listen to Metal!

  • Remember that scene from the first Sherlock Holmes movie where he has those flies in a glass tube and he's plucking a violin?

    Perhaps Slayer is a more pure example of creating order out of chaos: []
  • by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @10:27AM (#42895263)
    s/Mosh Pit/Circle Pit/g;

    They're different things. A mosh pit is where folk charge from the edge to the centre, and is pretty disorganised. Typically you'll find this with Death Metal, Speed Metal, and other very fast beat genres where there is no discernable difference between, say, verse and chorus. Circle Pits are the phenomenom being investigated here, where they start moving in a fairly ordered vortex around the centre, before moving into the centre when the band "drops the bass", then moves back to the circle when there's a "lull" (comparitively).

    Hope this helps, science types.
    • Hi, old punk here: what You Kids These Days call "circle pits" we used to call "mosh pits", and what you call "mosh pits" we used to call "a bunch of jackasses who need to be taken out back and taught the error of their ways."


      • Dude, I remember when the Ramones debuted on SHA NA NA and "fight club" was the status-quo - at home, after school, during class, in the principals office, wherever! Calling somebody puss-puss these days just makes them sad and run away to the grief counselors.

  • Where pray-tell did they find a 100,000 person mosh pit? Most pits I've seen have been more like 1-100 people.
    • Brazil? Rock in Rio draws like 10 million people over several days, wouldn't be surprising if single events in it drew 100K people.

      • I still have trouble believing that number. 100k person in a moshpit sounds more like the biggest riot the earth has ever seen. Surely hundreds of people would be trampled and killed in such a pit.
        • GP apparently doesn't know the difference between a mosh pit and an event.

          Given that fatalities can occur when single digits of thousands are crammed into a confined space and surging (Hillsborough (1989), Heysel (1985), Mecca (Every other year)) a 100k mosh pit would be a massacre.

  • I can see Charlie Epps explaining how they'll model the mosh pit as a disordered gas, with the in it behaving in an ordered vortex-like state, in order to find the location of the killer!
  • by Diamonddavej ( 851495 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @03:22PM (#42899311)

    And this reminds me of the Crowd Quake. Most crowd disasters are not due to Stampedes, where mass panic breaks out and people rush headlong into a choke point and get crushed. Researchers looking into the Love Parade Disaster discovered a hitherto unrecognised crowd dynamical process that can kill people in large crows - the Crowd Quake.

    In normal crowds there's personal space between people, room to breath and move even a little bit. This personal space accommodates and cushions mass movement. However, at a critical point of density there's no personal space left and people are in full body contact. In this situation, mass movement efficiently transmits extreme forces through the crowd - the Crowd Quake. It's like changing a compressible gas into an incompressible solid, but people aren't incompressible. This is why crowd disasters happen so suddenly, it's like crystallisation from a gas.

    See: Crowd Disasters as Systemic Failures: Analysis of the Love Parade Disaster []

    • Stampede? I thought a stampede was when people get knocked down and other people, instead of helping them up, just step on them to get over to the exit. Get stepped on by a couple hundred people and you're going to suffer grievous damage.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.