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MIT mathematicians model traffic jams like detonation waves

Most drivers have been stuck in a traffic jam at one point or another. Some of the jams are caused by an accident or closed lanes. Other traffic jams crop up with seemingly no reason.

A group of mathematicians at MIT is working on the development of a new model to explain how and why these so-call phantom traffic jams form. According to the researchers, these types of phantom traffic jams form when there are a lot of cars on the road and small disturbances like a driver hitting the brakes too hard or getting too close to another car. These little disturbances can escalate into a self-sustaining traffic jam.

The model developed by the team of researchers may help road designers build roads to minimize the possibility of phantom traffic jams. The key to the study is the discovery that the mathematics of these jams called jamitons are very similar to the equations used to describe the detonation waves produced by explosions.

The discovery of the jamitons allowed the researchers to solve traffic jam equations first theorized in the 1950's. The equations are reportedly similar to those used in fluid mechanics and model traffic jams as self-sustaining waves. The equations allowed the researchers to calculate the conditions that case a jamitons to form and how fast the jamiton will spread.

According to the researchers, once this type of jamiton forms it is nearly impossible to break up and a driver’s only choice is to wait the jamiton out. The researchers say that the new model can help road designers to determine speed limits that are safer and find stretches of road where accidents are more likely.

One of the researchers, Aslan Kasimov, said, "We wanted to describe this using a mathematical model similar to that of fluid flow." Kasimov and his team say that they discovered that jamitons have a sonic point that separates traffic flow into upstream and downstream components. Communication of the cause of the jamiton to drivers it the downstream segment of traffic is impossible say the researchers.

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Can't fix stupid
By cecilbaron on 6/10/2009 11:37:15 AM , Rating: 2
Rubber-necking at accidents on the opposite side of the road seem to cause most of the senseless traffic jams. If you can change human nature or allow computer-driven vehicles on the road, that'll take care of the problem.

Otherwise, we're just going to spend an enormous amount of tax-payer dollars to find out the hard way, that you just can't fix stupid.

RE: Can't fix stupid
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 6/10/2009 11:49:45 AM , Rating: 2
Overhead signs that change messages to warn of traffic are the worst. Traffic slows to the speed of the slowest reader as a new message comes up telling of traffic 30 miles ahead. And when it takes up two alternating panels, just park.

What we need are screens that rescue workers can put up that people learn they are never going to be able to gawk around so they forget it. Alternatively, a mobile jumbo tron parked 1/4 mile upstream of the accident so everyone gets a good look while at speed and passes it by. Dolts.

RE: Can't fix stupid
By mdogs444 on 6/10/2009 11:49:39 AM , Rating: 1
Otherwise, we're just going to spend an enormous amount of tax-payer dollars to find out the hard way, that you just can't fix stupid.

We've been doing that for decades....but look at this year alone! Bailouts, stimu...i mean "pork-ulus" bills, and a wealth of social programs like the recent "studying how gays react in South American bars" and "how to help hookers in China".

They don't fix anything, they just show how stupid our elected officials really are - and they think the masses are stupid.

RE: Can't fix stupid
By ClownPuncher on 6/10/2009 12:46:29 PM , Rating: 4
Yay, overpoliticized comments on every article!

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