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Virtual stampede sees faces in crowd

How can you stop a panicked crowd from stampeding? A team of physicists has developed an unusual computer model to make some suggestions.

While other models of crowd behavior typically treat a group as a homogeneous fluid, this new simulation views each person as an individual particle. It assumes that these people-particles vary in their willingness to follow others, and it includes the pushing and rubbing forces that can generate pressures strong enough to bend steel barriers.

It's a "dramatically different and potentially far more realistic modeling approach," says civil engineer David J. Low of Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh in a commentary on the report, both of which appear in the Sept. 28 Nature.

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