Stadium stampedes have caused deaths in Morocco, Cote d’Ivoire, Bangkok and Egypt, and that’s just since 2009. The cause of stampedes is largely a result of human nature: we’ve evolved to seek safety in groups (it’s easier to fight off an enemy and also easier to hide in a group), and when we gather in groups, sometimes we can’t exist a building fast enough.
One group of scientists at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, led by Nirajan Shiwakoti, is trying to use human behavior to prevent fatal stampedes. But instead of using actual humans, Shiwakoti studied ants.
As Nautilis magazine reports:
“Shiwakoti recognized an opportunity: He could make an animal model, not for human disease, but for human panic. So he began to experiment with the location and nature of exits that his ants would face, and discovered something surprising. Creatively obstructing the flow of the panicked ant crowd sped its escape.”
Through his research, Shiwakoti found that ants vacated dangerous, enclosed areas when there was an obstruction in front of the exist. This happens because the obstruction causes people to take turns to pass, rather than just push and shove. A video demonstration can be seen in this video:
And here’s how the concept plays out among humans in a computer animation:
Shiwakoti is experimenting with installing obstructions at a Melbourne football stadium. Perhaps, if his idea plays out well, it could be implemented in more places in teh future.