Extreme Human Collective Motion

Observational studies of human collective motion generally rely on volunteers following simple behavioral rules or simulating situations of panic.  While these studies are guided by ethical principles for human studies, extreme forms of collective motion arising in real-world scenarios can occur when the participants are in atypical and highly stressed psychological states.

Observational studies of human collective motion generally rely on volunteers following simple behavioral rules or simulating situations of panic.  While these studies are guided by ethical principles for human studies, extreme forms of collective motion arising in real-world scenarios can occur when the participants are in atypical and highly stressed psychological states.  As a consequence, our empirical understanding of the most dangerous forms of human collective motion are limited by a scarcity of data.  We can begin to address this challenge by studying the audience at heavy metal concerts.  This unique group of people offers an ethical testbed for probing the most extreme forms of human collective motion.  The phenomenology we find in this social context sheds new insights on how groups of people move, and suggests new strategies to minimize genuine harm in situations of riots, protests, or escape panic.

Dr. Jesse Silverberg

The Mount Holyoke Society of Physics Students’ invited speaker for the fall semester is Jesse Silverberg, currently a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. Dr. Silverberg has a diverse collection of research interests that spans the fields of physics, biology, and mathematics and includes topics ranging from structures found in cartilage and bone to the mechanics of origami. Dr. Silverberg graduated from Northeastern University in 2009 with bachelors of science degrees in Physics, Math, and Philosophy, and received a PhD from Cornell in 2014. Conducted primarily as a side project, his research on the collective motion of crowds at heavy metal concerts won a Mental Floss Platypus Award for innovations in sound in 2014 and was the subject of a a TEDx given by Dr. Silverberg in 2015.