Sparse Game Changers Restore Collective Motion in Panicked Human Crowds
Using a dynamic variant of the Vicsek model, we show that the emergence of disorder from an orderly moving human crowd is a nonequilibrium first-order phase transition. We also show that this transition can be reversed by modifying the dynamics of a few agents, deemed as game changers. Surprisingly, the optimal placement of these game changers is found to be in regions of maximum local crowd speed. The presence of such game changers is effective owing to the discontinuous nature of the underlying phase transition. Thus our generic approach provides strategies to (i) delay crowd crush and (ii) design safe evacuation procedures, two aspects that are of paramount importance in maintaining safety of mass gatherings of people.