Brief Communications

Nature 419, 131-132 (12 September 2002) | doi:10.1038/419131a

Social behaviour: Mexican waves in an excitable medium

I. Farkas1, D. Helbing2 & T. Vicsek1

The Mexican wave, or La Ola, which rose to fame during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, surges through the rows of spectators in a stadium as those in one section leap to their feet with their arms up, and then sit down again as the next section rises to repeat the motion. To interpret and quantify this collective human behaviour, we have used a variant of models that were originally developed to describe excitable media such as cardiac tissue. Modelling the reaction of the crowd to attempts to trigger the wave reveals how this phenomenon is stimulated, and may prove useful in controlling events that involve groups of excited people.

  1. Department of Biological Physics, Eötvös University Budapest, 1117 Budapest, Hungary
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  2. Institute for Economics and Traffic, Dresden University of Technology, 01062 Dresden, Germany