29/02: Scientists from Dresden University saved hundreds of lives at this year's Hajj

I got this via email and it is refreshing to see such positive interaction between Muslims and non-Muslims. It is certainly more appreciated than the t-e-r-r-o-r-i-s-m rhetoric which is mostly ignored now - kind of like banner ads which are ignored since people browsing the internet have become impervious to them.

The article, as I got it, is posted below.


One of the phases of the Hajj is a walk across the Jamarat Bridge, from which people throw rocks at pillars said to represent the devil. The bridge is too narrow-in 1997 and 1998 people were killed when the crowd surged. In 2004, 251 pilgrims were trampled to death, and in 2006, another 362 died.

This year: 3.8 million pilgrims showed up, and everyone's okay. Why?


This was in part because the Saudi government implemented some crowd control recommendations from Dirk Helbing and Anders Johansson at the Dresden University Institute of Technology. Helbing and Anders looked at surveillance imagery from the 2006 trampling incident as if every person was a particle in fluid-dynamical flow. The stampedes, they reasoned, happen when laminar flow (smooth flow) transitions to stop-and-go and turbulent flow.

As the crowd got heavier, it slowed down on the Jamarat Bridge-stop and go. But then as even more people walked on, the crowd clumped into turbulent nodes that spread shock waves forward and back. Nobody had ever seen turbulence develop in human crowds before (obviously it's tough to test this kind of thing in human beings).

"At occupancies of about 7 persons per square meter the crowd becomes almost a fluid mass. Shock waves can be propagated through the mass, sufficient to...propel them distances of 3 meters or more....People may be literally lifted out of their shoes, and have clothing torn off. Intense crowd pressures, exacerbated by anxiety, make it difficult to breathe, which may finally cause compressive asphyxia. The heat and the thermal insulation of surrounding bodies cause some to be weakened and faint. Access to those who
fall is impossible. Removal of those in distress can only be accomplished by lifting them up and passing them overhead to the exterior of the crowd."

Helbing's group found that if the number of people passing a given spot in a given amount of time falls too low, the transition to turbulence was about a half hour away. They suggested to the Saudis-who followed up-that they change the shape of the Jamarat Bridge and its approaches, institute automated counting to head off the turbulence transition, and make a few alterations in the schedule of the Hajj.

"Could I feel comfortable if people had died and I'd declined to help?" Helbing told Nature's Philip Ball. "It was a matter of responsibility."

That's science in the public interest, folks.

Link to Helbing's web site: here
Link to abstract of Helbing's paper: here
Link to awesome article about this from Nature: here
Link to description of plans to add seven more floors to the two-story Jamarat Bridge: here
Asad  Technology 
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Comments made

ooooo...I was really very scared when my parents were going to Hajj, the recent one. But Alhamdolillah, they told us, they didn't see or hear anyone dying in the Jamrat.
03/03 02:50:09
@ Dinky Mind:

Glad to know that your parents were safe during Hajj. Convey my congratulations. :)
03/03 03:37:17

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