Dynamic response and hydrodynamics of polarized crowds

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Science  04 Jan 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6422, pp. 46-49
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat9891

A crowd that flows like water

The behavior of large numbers of insects, animals, and other flocks is often based on rules about individual interactions. Bain and Bartolo applied a fluid-like model to the behavior of marathon runners as they walked up to the start line of the Chicago Marathon (see the Perspective by Ouellette). They observed nondamping linear waves with the same speed for different starting corrals of runners and at different races around the world. Their model should apply both to this type of polarized crowd as well as to other groups, which may help guide crowd management.

Science, this issue p. 46; see also p. 27


Modeling crowd motion is central to situations as diverse as risk prevention in mass events and visual effects rendering in the motion picture industry. The difficulty of performing quantitative measurements in model experiments has limited our ability to model pedestrian flows. We use tens of thousands of road-race participants in starting corrals to elucidate the flowing behavior of polarized crowds by probing its response to boundary motion. We establish that speed information propagates over system-spanning scales through polarized crowds, whereas orientational fluctuations are locally suppressed. Building on these observations, we lay out a hydrodynamic theory of polarized crowds and demonstrate its predictive power. We expect this description of human groups as active continua to provide quantitative guidelines for crowd management.

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