Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How Traffic Jams Happen

Driving around in Seattle, I often wonder why traffic backs up for no reason whatsoever. You're driving along in a nice flow of traffic checkin' out some tunes and suddenly things just grind to a painful crawl. And then you creep along for the next mile or two, waiting to come up on some blood-curdling traffic accident that just has to be up ahead somewhere. But nothing ever shows up and just as quickly as the jam started, traffic speeds up again just as quickly as it slowed down.

So what's the deal? Is there some psychological effect going on here or what? Well, our friends at the Mathematical Society of Traffic Flow in Japan (great name!) have created a simulation to show you how it happens. So what can people do to un-jam themselves in a traffic jam? NewScientist has a more extensive article on the study HERE.

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