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As senior year comes to a close, brain space previously reserved for memorizing lists of vocab or challenging physics concepts has been filled with plots for senior pranks, senior runs, and so on. As of now, our senior runs have been quite brief, but I remember the senior runs of the past being both long and successful. As a freshman, I remember being caught in the hallway as I heard the shouts and footsteps of hundreds of seniors coming my way. Senior runs, or more like senior stampedes, can be heard from far away which is good so that small, tiny freshmen have time to hide in the bathrooms and not get trampled. Potentially, one caught in the middle of a senior run could get seriously bruised and battered. Stampedes are dangerous. I touched a bit upon stampede physics in my Black Friday post a very long time ago, but I found some more information about how physicists are studying crowd dynamics.

Physicists look at fluids to help them understand crowd dynamics. Physicists have found that crowds behave as fluids with three different types of flows. The first type of flow is laminar flow. Laminar flow is a steady flow which resembles crowd dynamics when an area is undersaturated with people. The next type of flow is stop-and-go. Stop-and-go flow causes spurts of people to leave an area at a time. Waves are created in the crowd. The worst flow type is turbulent flow. Turbulent flow is the result of pressure buildups. Turbulent flow leads to "shock waves" which can push people up to 3 meters forward.

I'd say that most senior runs do not reach the turbulent flow stage. However, given the velocity of the crowd, and the combined mass of the people in the crowd, these runs can definitely cause damage. The momentum of the stampede is enormous, and tiny freshmen are wise to seek shelter in nearby restrooms.

http://physicsbuzz.physicscentral.com/2013/01/brazil-nightclub-stampede-trampling.html

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