Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Traffic Comes To A Halt When The Volume Of Traffic Reaches A Critical Value

Traffic Comes To A Halt When The Volume Of Traffic Reaches A Critical Value

Here is a article that describes a traffic model that has been developed that explains what I, and I'm sure many other drivers along crowded interstate highways have noticed many times.

Here is the LINK

I recall some years ago explaining to my kids as we travelled Interstate highway 85 in North Carolina that when the 'carrying-capacity' of a highway reaches a certain critical value a car could just tap it's breaks and cause a backward traveling wave in the traffic that would result in all traffic coming to a halt some miles behind the offending car.

I noticed this phenomena many times when returning home along I85 in North Carolina just after passing Greensboro NC heading toward Raleigh.

You could 'feel' the traffic load on the highway and you would know that there was no accident ahead but just the overloading of traffic.

Now this highway has been expanded to 4-6 lanes in each direction and this event rarely happens.

The solution to this problem is to equip all cars with GPS and proximity sensors and to equip highways with traffic volume sensors that would relay that information to onboard computers in cars to allow them to drive 'smartly' so the highway would not become so crowded. On a holiday weekend it would be the case that you would need to 'reserve' a space in the traffic flow for a certain time. You would not actually do this but your on-board computer would do it for you.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

An Interesting Example "Gotcha Capitalism"

An Interesting Example

This morning I listened to Terry Gross's NPR show Fresh Air and she interviewed the author of the book, Cheats Fees and Gotcha Capitalism by Bob Sullivan .

Here is a link to that episode of Fresh Air.

Mr Sullivan is also a columnist on MSNBC's "The Red Tape Chronicles" which specializes in internet scams and consumer fraud. Here is the link on Amazon.COM to the book Cheats, Fees and Gotcha Capitalism

Everyone runs into this sort of thing all the time. We understand Internet scams and Consumer fraud but what Mr. Sullivan talks about are 'legal' scams and fraud that are built into our market economy.

The long and short of it is that we must maintain constant villigence or the folks we do business will 'nickle-and-dime' us to death.

This also confirms some behaviors that I beleive govern how complex systems evolve. That is, they, the complex systems, always evolve into monocultures which naturally cause the emergence of opportunistic strategies that compromise the monoculture. Why this happens is connected with game theory and optimal strategies.

The reaction of the monoculture to the opportunistic strategy causes it to evolve and become more robust (it could also go extinct).

In the case of hidden fees imposed on the population by Banks, Merchants, and Credit Card Companies the 'reaction' that makes the culture more robust is driven by the Federal Trade Commission. Interestingly enough the FTC manpower has decreased by almost 1/2 since 1979. Mr Sullivan, in the interview, gave the connection to the FTC and its changes.

This does not bode well, and is at a fundamental level why folks should, in their own self interest support candidates like John Edwards and other liberal, progressive candidates.

This is not to say that Democrats are totally immune to the lobbying of industry who are quite happy for the FTC to be way overworked and understaffed but they, the progressives, are light years ahead of their Republican colleagues in being sensitive to such issues.