The Person Particle?

We all value our individuality, so it might be disconcerting to know that in new research about crowd behavior, some physicists have improved understanding of human behavior by thinking of people as particles.  Using cameras and analyses of big data sets containing the resulting visual data, a physicist at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois and computer scientists at the University of Minnesota have found that they could describe “the underlying dynamic present in every kind of crowd situation, be it a jumble of fans exiting a stadium or a loose constellation of pedestrians strolling through the park.”  These “different kinds of flows follow this same kind of energy law.” They suggest several practical applications of this finding.

Does this research make sense to you?  Can you imagine that people in crowds have predictable patterns of behavior in relation to each other?  Are you interested in pursuing such research as visual data from public places becomes more common?  If so, see the section in Chapter 11 on Visual Sociology.  How does this approach compare to other uses of “big data” described in chapter 14 of Investigating the Social World? 

Read more about it at:

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