In Print: Mosh Pit Simulator

In stereotypical high school cafeterias, the physics nerds and metal heads don’t usually mesh. But luckily for Matthew Bierbaum and Jesse L. Silverberg, there’s grad school. The two Cornell physics grad students paid their own way to heavy-metal concerts, studied concert footage from around the world, and took their mosh pit findings back to the lab.

As Associate Editor Lauren Wolf writes in this week’s Newscripts, the pair, along with professors James P. Sethna and Itai Cohen, created a mosh pit simulator and found that the moshers behaved much like an ideal gas. A paper summarizing their results is available here.

For the uninitiated, here’s an example of a mosh pit (Warning: Video contains profanity.):

And here’s an ideal-gas-like simulation of a mosh pit:

The group also studied a subset of mosh pits called circle pits — mosh pits in which people run in a circle, as the name implies (Warning: Video contains profanity.): 

And here’s their simulation:

It turns out that it’s difficult to find a video of a mosh pit without profanity, so we apologize in advance.

When Lauren heard Bierbaum speak about the team’s research at the recent American Physical Society national meeting, he noted that 95% of circle pits move in a counterclockwise direction. He joked that it doesn’t work like toilets—they checked in Australia and other parts of the world—their circle pits go counterclockwise as well. As she writes in the print Newscripts, that’s one of the reasons he thinks the direction is due to humans’ dominant handedness. Why humans behave like an ideal gas, however, is still up in the air.

Check back later this week to hear more from Lauren about her second Newscripts item — flavor-filled New Orleans cocktails at the New Orleans ACS national meeting. 

Author: Sophia Cai

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