Last year I had the opportunity to be involved in an excellent production of Merrily We Roll Along at Imperial College. Our director, Izzy, was a mathematician, and introduced us to the idea of chaotic attractors through a fun physical warmup.

The 30 or so of us in the cast would stand in the room, and the idea was that you had to pick 2 other random people and try and move into a position such that you formed the three corners of an equilateral triangle.

What was interesting was that although sometimes this could go on for minutes, with no one showing any sign of reaching their ideal formation, other times we would end up in a steady state, where no one would need to move any further.

I have no idea of the maths behind what determines a deadlock vs an unending whirl of people, but being a computer scientist and not a mathematician I thought I’d try and create a simulation of the event for kicks.