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Mathematics of Traffic Flow


We’ve all been in a traffic jam and given at least some passing thought to why traffic is such a problem and what we can do to fix it. (This Seattle-ite even has a website dedicated to his traffic-related musings.) Perhaps not surprisingly then, the mathematical study of traffic is a well established pursuit, dating back to at least the 1920s. However it may surprise some that it remains a very big problem in engineering, with whole research groups being dedicated to modeling and solving traffic flow problems.


Indeed, the study of traffic requires tools from many areas in mathematics, engineering, and physics: partial differential equations and fluid dynamics, statistical mechanics, and queuing theory, to name a few. A brief glance at the Wikipedia page on Traffic Flow will convince anyone of the complexity of the mathematics required to model traffic.


Obviously, traffic is still a problem that we haven’t solved yet. But we can be sure that any major improvement in the design of traffic systems will be the direct result of the hard work of mathematicians and engineers.

(Source: not-realworldmath)

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