Mosh Pits, Science & Crowd Control


Mosh pits, science, and crowd control – one of these things is not like the others, or so you may think. The Atlantic Cities recently published an article titled, “What Mosh Pits Can Teach Us About Crowd Control in Public Spaces.” The story details one physicist’s theory on how the three of these things, in fact, are very related.

Jesse Silverberg, a full-time physicist and part-time mosher took his girlfriend to a metal show, and instead of rocking in the pit like he usually does, he stayed outside of the craziness, in order to keep an eye on his girl.

Approaching the mosh as a spectator, Silverberg started noticing patterns in what he had always thought was complete chaos. He realized, while the moshers as independent subjects seem to move with no apparent order, the group as a whole follows a few simple patterns.

So Jesse and his team created an interactive model “simplify[ing] the complex behavioral dynamics of each human mosher to that of a simple soft-bodied particle.”

mosh pit simulation

In the model (screenshot seen above), the red circles are active “MASHers,” or Mobile Active Simulated Humanoids. Silverberg identifies the MASHers as “self-propelled, experience flocking interactions, subject to random fluctuations in the forces upon them. The black circles are just there enjoying the music.”

The moshers bounce around like the molecules in a gas, and Silverberg says they can be studied in the same way. Using videos of metal concerts has allowed him to study crowd behavior in ways other experiments have not.

Further, he states that the combination of flashing lights, loud music, and various intoxicating substances, makes moshpits comparable to other instances of collective motion, like riots or emergency situations, where chaos often follows.

Silverberg believes his study could be used to improve safety in stadiums, arenas, and other large facilities where people gather. The article from the Atlantic Cities cited one study, stating that 37% of injuries that took place over the course of a four-day music festival were “related to moshing activity.”

Pretty interesting stuff. I’d say Silverberg is onto something here.


Note: A lot of the information for this article came from the story published on, titled “What Mosh Pits Can Teach Us About Crowd Control in Public Spaces” by Lindsay Abrams.