Physics explains the mosh pit

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I find physics utterly fascinating as long as it doesn't involve me doing any actual math. (I've never budged from my high school position that MATH SUX.) It's fantastic on a macro scale, where it describes the shapes and movements of formations so huge that the human mind literally can't comprehend it, and it's even more far-out when you go very, very small, where the classical physics that we're familiar with turns into the quantum world, which is so strange that physicists have literally turned their brains inside out with LSD in order to understand it better.

But physics can also be surprisingly interesting on the humble scale of our everyday lives. Did you know that the same kind of fluid dynamics used to predict weather patterns can also model how all the peanuts in your snack mix ended up at the bottom of the bag? Or that when you look at the behavior of individuals in a mosh pit, the thing it most resembles, physics-wise, is the movement of molecules in a gas?

This is what a metal-loving grad student at Cornell, Jesse Silverberg, discovered when he ran video of mosh pits in action through software intended to model the flow of fluids. By tweaking different parameters, Silverberg and his colleagues were even able to get their computer-modeled moshers to spontaneously organize themselves into a circle pit, and they discovered that, given the right conditions, a pit might suddenly coordinate into something called a "lane formation," which has possibly never happened before. Which means that, incredibly, physics has given us entirely theoretical mosh-pit formations, which is currently blowing the fuck out of my mind.

No word yet on whether or not Silverberg's simulation ever made a Wall of Death, but as Carl Sagan once said, "Science is never finished."

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