Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jam On It

Just a few weeks ago, driving home on the Jersey Turnpike, also known as Satan's Roadway, I got stuck in a traffic jam. It lasted for a while, and when it finally broke up, it was clear that there was no accident or construction to blame. It just . . . happened. And in my best observational stand-up comedian accent, I turned to my fellow travelers and asked, "What is the deal with traffic jams like that one?"

Now I know. Sort of:
Key to the new study is the realization that the mathematics of such jams, which the researchers call “jamitons,” are strikingly similar to the equations that describe detonation waves produced by explosions, said Aslan Kasimov, lecturer in MITs Department of Mathematics.
Hmm. Tell me more:
These phantom jams can form when there is a heavy volume of cars on the road. In that high density of traffic, small disturbances (a driver hitting the brake too hard, or getting too close to another car) can quickly become amplified into a full-blown, self-sustaining traffic jam. A team of MIT mathematicians has developed a model that describes how and under what conditions such jams form, which could help road designers minimize the odds of their formation.
Nice to know that an end to this long national nightmare might be in sight.

(Via The Browser)



Blogger Dezmond said...

I have long argued that we could get rid of traffic jams altogether if drivers would all just agree to hit the accelerator simultaneously. We should all be able to agree on that, shouldn't we?

6:41 PM  

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