Prof. Dirk Helbing

Chair of Sociology, in particular of Modeling and Simulation, ETHZ

November 09, 2007, 11:15, Room GC B3 424 (click here for the map)

Crowd Turbulence: The Dynamics of Crowd Disasters

<p>In the past, physicists have discovered various self-organized phenomena in pedestrian crowds such as the formation of lanes of uniform walking direction, oscillations at bottlenecks in bi-directional flows, the formation of stripes in cross-flows, or "freezing-by-heating" and "faster-is-slower" effects in panicking crowds. These phenomena have all been successfully described by driven many-particle models, as will be demonstrated by animated computer simulations and video recordings of real crowds. </p> <p> Panic stampedes are a serious concern during mass events. However, despite huge numbers of security forces and crowd control measures, hundreds of lives are lost in crowd disasters each year. A high-performance tracking analysis of unique video recordings of the Muslim pilgrimage in Mina/Makkah, Saudi Arabia, has now revealed that high-density flows can even turn "turbulent", which causes people to fall. The occuring eruptions of pressure release bear analogies with earthquakes and are de facto uncontrollable. This talk presents an analysis and interpretation of our recent discoveries and shows that the measurement of the gas-kinetic "pressure" is suitable for an advance warning of critical crowd conditions.</p>


Since June 1st, 2007, Dirk Helbing (born January 19, 1965) is Professor of Sociology, in particular of Modeling and Simulation at ETH Zurich. Before, he worked as Managing Director of the Institute for Transport & Economics at Dresden University of Technology, where he was appointed full professor in 2000. Having studied Physics and Mathematics in Gļæ½ttingen, his master thesis dealt with the nonlinear modelling and multi-agent simulation of observed self-organization phenomena in pedestrian crowds. Two years later, he finished his Ph.D. at Stuttgart University on modelling social interaction processes by means of game-theoretical approaches, stochastic methods and complex systems theory, which was awarded two research prizes. After having completed his habilitation on traffic dynamics and optimization in 1996, he received a Heisenberg scholarship. Both theses were printed by international publishers. Apart from this, Helbing has (co-)organized several international conferences and (co-)edited proceedings or special issues on material flows in networks and cooperative dynamics in socio-economic and traffic systems. He has given 220 talks and published more than 200 papers, including several contributions to journals like Nature, Science, or PNAS, which were discussed by the public media (newspapers, radio, and TV) more than 200 times. He collaborates closely with international scientists. For example, he worked at the Weizmann Institute in Israel, at Xerox PARC in Silicon Valley, at INRETS in Paris and the Collegium Budapest - Institute for Advanced Study in Hungary, where he is now a member of the external faculty.