2000
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Statistical Physics

The sound of many hands clapping

Abstract
An audience expresses appreciation for a good performance by the strength and nature of its applause. The thunder of applause at the start often turns quite suddenly into synchronized clapping, and this synchronization can disappear and reappear several times during the applause. The phenomenon is a delightful expression of social self-organization that provides an example on a human scale of the synchronization processes that occur in numerous natural systems, ranging from flashing Asian fireflies to oscillating chemical reactions 1–3. Here we explain the dynamics of this rhythmic applause.

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