Using Math to Analize Chaos in Crowds

by Christopher Paul on August 24, 2010


Interesting research coming from Manchester University where they were able to predict crush conditions in chaotic crowd situations like the fire in a Rhode Island nightclub that killed 96. Scientists are very convinced the fire did not kill the majority of patrons that night and used the data from that night to help determine how one might survive a similar event else where. From the article:

Think of a crowd of people like a wave pool, where choppy waters represent crush conditions. When individuals are facing in similar directions to their neighbors, the crowd moves together—much like a single wave moving through the pool. But if people move in different directions they start pushing against each other, and that’s when things get choppy. So by detecting when movements in the crowd start to fall out of sync, the researchers can predict the development of dangerous conditions.

The one drawback thus far is that the formula was derived from the data collected meaning they know the outcome and its possible to generate false positives in other applications. But they can still apply their findings to calculate the forces possible in other disasters. And until then, its your collective obligation to stay as calm as possible in uncertain situations otherwise more deadly stampedes like the one that took place in Germany will continue to happen.

How to Avoid Being Crushed to Death at a Concert – Mother Jones via The Awl

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