[Photo: Broadway Calls and a rowdy crowd]

A physics/sociology study conducted by Jesse Silverberg and Matt Bierbaum, doctoral students at Cornell University, has found that crowd behaviors at metal shows, deemed “extreme social gatherings,” mirror molecular behaviors, based on video from concerts as well as in-person observation.

“In mosh pits, the participants (moshers) move randomly, colliding with one another in an undirected fashion…Qualitatively, this phenomenon resembles the kinetics of gaseous particles, even though moshers are self-propelled agents that experience dissipative collisions.”

Mosh pits, the study says, are an effective way to study and predict “human collective motion,” which includes behaviors like flocking or escaping in panicked or riotous situations, which could lead to “new architectural safety design principles that limit the risk of injury at extreme social gatherings.”

“We are interested in how humans behave in similar excited states,” Silverberg told National Geographic. “But it's not exactly ethical to start a riot for research.”

Silverberg's personal favorite research subject: Killswitch Engage.