Friday, 22 February 2013

The science of Mosh Pits

There was an interesting story published in the music press recently about a scientific study on the movement of bodies in a moshpit. This sounds like the kinds of science that the Ig Nobel prize was created for: pointless, useless and utterly mind-boggling things that science wouldn't normally bother with.

The study was conducted by Jesse L. Silverberg, Matthew Bierbaum, James P. Sethna, Itai Cohen from Cornell University in New York.

It's an interesting read and it is only 4 pages long. I had to laugh when they compared the bodies in the mosh pit as similar to molecules in a gas: "this phenomenon resembles the kinetics of gaseous particles, even though moshers are self-propelled agents that experience dissipative collisions."

The thing that makes this study worthy of the science of say, Dr Sheldon Cooper in the "Big Bang Theory" is that none of the participants actually went into a moshpit for the purposes of the study: they only watched a number of YouTube videos. That's a bit like second-hand science to me, although I could imagine Sheldon opting to do likewise...

One of the physicists who conducted the study, Matthew Bierbaum, has created an interactive Java-based simulation of the moshpit which is fun to play with, but I don't know whether I'm any the wiser from playing it! Check it out below, and read the paper here: (Adobe PDF format)


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