Simulate Your Own Mosh Pit in This Scientific Study

Music has been recognized as one of the higher art forms for centuries. In modern pop music, its most recognizable tool has been the guitar. I find the guitar fascinating. I could spend hours poring over photos of guitars and learning about the intricate construction process behind how to make each one sound a particular way. (I'd love to be face to face with the beautiful creature up there, the Rock Ock, designed by Gerard Huerto for the National Guitar Museum.)

Now, I don't even play guitar -- I'm a pianist. But if there's any metal lover who doesn't drool over something like Pop Chart Lab's poster above, which indexes 64 famed guitars from more than 70 years of music, then something is just wrong with you. It's so damn sexy that I can barely take it.

So when it comes to art and heavy metal, they're basically interchangeable: composition, album covers (check out the 50 greatest heavy metal album covers), posters, stage sets, light shows.

And when it comes to revealing the science behind music, particularly heavy metal, well, that research is less-explored. Take the science behind a mosh pit, for example. It can be a vicious or a moderate workout, depending on the show. I've been to a Cannibal Corpse show where chicks were lucky to get out of there conscious, and then I've been to a Testament show where the majority of the crowd was too old to be throwing out their backs anymore, content to calmly listen. But there are physics behind the movement of how metalheads respond to the music, and flow of energy of the vortex. What do we do when we are curious about something that other people don't really give a shit about?

We Google it.

Apparently, others do care. Cornell student Jesse L. Silverberg came up with an argument explaining the physics and science behind a mosh pit. Here is an excerpt:

"Being a physicist first and a mosher second ("fieldwork was independently funded"), the student, Jesse Silverberg, can't help but notice curious patterns in what had always felt like the epitome of chaos. "Being on the outside for the first time, I was absolutely amazed at what I saw -- there were all sorts of collective behaviors emerging that I never would have noticed from the inside." So for an even better perspective, he turns to YouTube, to figure out what happens to people under the "extreme conditions" borne of a combination of "loud, fast music (130 dB, 350 beats per minute) . . . bright, flashing lights, and frequent intoxication."

He noted that moshers are comparable to gas particles in the way they move and run into each other at random. He also talks about two "species" at metal concerts -- those who mosh and those who stand outside the mosh pit -- as well as the science behind different types of pits, such as circle, self-propulsion, etc. The four-page paper includes formulas, charts, and other stuff that metalheads usually avoid.

But the most awesome thing about this study? You get to simulate your own mosh pit.

It's almost almost cool enough that I'd paid more attention in science class, rather than play with the Bunsen burner and listen to Black Label Society on my iPod.

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Lauren Wise has worked as a rock/heavy metal journalist for 15 years. She contributes to Noisey and LA Weekly, edits books, and drinks whiskey.
Contact: Lauren Wise