Monday, June 22, 2009

The science behind phantom traffic jams:
Phantom jams are born of a lot of cars using the road. No surprise there. But when traffic gets too heavy, it takes the smallest disturbance in the flow - a driver laying on the brakes, someone tailgating too closely or some moron picking pickles off his burger - to ripple through traffic and create a self-sustaining traffic jam.

...The mathematics of such traffic jams are strikingly similar to the equations that describe detonation waves produced by explosions, said Aslan Kasimov, a lecturer in MIT’s Department of Mathematics. Realizing this allowed the reseachers to solve traffic jam equations that were first theorized in the 1950s. The MIT researchers even came up with a name for this kind of gridlock - "jamiton."