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[P]
Traffic Zoology

By CheeseburgerBrown in Culture
Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 05:40:13 AM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)
Technology

There is a secret zoo that runs encaged along the roads.

They are liquid, semi-visible goliaths that rage through the streams and chunks of ordinary traffic, with the effervescent tendrils of mile-long tails whipping behind them like Chinese dragons. Though composed of hundreds of pounds of steel, glass and plastic, they are able to pass through solid objects. They are bound by the laws of the highway, but not by any conventional notion of time or space.

They are Aggregate Traffic Animals: a menagerie of emergent beasts drawn from the interacting behaviours of many individual human beings driving many individual cars with many individual goals, their collective activity giving rise to something with greater presence, power and purpose than the sum of its constituents. They take on a host of different forms, each to serve a different end.

They are real, and they drive among us.


Preamble

In his introduction to The Extended Phenotype (Oxford University Press, 1982) enthusiastic evolutionary biology cheerleader and Commodore-hacking pop-science guru Richard Dawkins invites us to consider the Necker Cube Illusion: a two-dimensional image representing two interlocked three-dimensional blocks in which the foreground and background can seem to flip back and forth as the brain fruitlessly seeks the "true" interpretation of the depicted space. This is Dawkins' starting point for a thought experiment in which he blurs the lines between species, their genes and the environment, calling into question the traditional boundaries drawn through biological systems to identify the relevant level of study. To wit, to wank:
We look at life and begin by seeing a collection of interacting individual organisms. We know that they contain smaller units, and we know that they are, in turn, parts of larger composite units, but we fix our gaze on the whole organisms. Then suddenly the image flips. The individual bodies are still there; they have not moved, but they seem to have gone transparent...
In other words, if you are able to de-emphasise the organism itself you are free to appreciate the idea of beaver ponds as artificial lakes generated by beaver genes, or to see a spider's web as an arrangement of silk drawn by DNA. By extending the lines with which we bound the traditional phenotype, we define new organisms, merging technology and individuals into communities the same way that ancient micro-organisms interacting inside bilipid membranes fell into symbiotic lockstep dances to found the first stable cells.

Organelles, cells, bodies, herds: at which level we discern the animal is purely a matter of focus.

This idea of the emergent animal or "super-organism" is hardly particular to Dawkins: William Morton Wheeler remarked on the idea in his 1911 paper "The Ant Colony as an Organism" in a treatment that is every bit as cogent but with considerably less otaku chic than Kevin Kelly's printed-soundbyte manifesto on hive complexity, Out of Control (Perseus Books, 1994). In the words of Kelly:
There is nothing to be found in a beehive that is not submerged in a bee. And yet you can search a bee forever with cyclotron and fluoroscope, and you will never find a hive.
So too can you examine a driver in a car and know nothing about the greater animal in which they both participate when the circumstances are right. Some of the applicable forces can be seen most clearly in the rarified environment of the professional race course, as explored by David Ronfeldt, a senior social scientist at RAND, in his 2002 paper Social Science at 190 MPH on NASCAR's Biggest Superspeedways, where fleeting moments of co-operation between rivals are necessary in order to win. Ronfeldt focuses in particular on the phenomenon of draft line formation, which is similar to the way flocking birds can share aerodynamic advantage. Like iron filings in a magnetic field, the large-scale distribution of opportunistically partnering cars are drawn into predictable macro-scale patterns across the speedway:
Once the racers sort themselves out - after ten to twenty laps - it is common to see a single draft line of four to seven cars running in front, pursued a hundred or so yards back by a second line of cars, all another hundred or so yards ahead of a large pack of cars that may still be running in parallel lines but are doing more dicing than drafting...Cars that run alone, often stuck dangerously between two draft lines, will appear to drift irrevocably backward.
Freed of the bonds of racing's formalism, the Aggregate Traffic Animals are born, rooted in transient symbioses between individual patches of drivers that will crystalise into the organs of the beast. But the circumstances have to be just right for one to emerge. The unholy Hieronymus Bosch-style concert of homicidal applied-shadenfreude that may characterise your urban, intra-urban or sub-urban driving experience is not ripe ground for ATA growth: too frothy.

The sociological and scatological dances of the megalopolis rushhour, too, are beyond the scope of this article, and are at any rate most likely best explored with deep computer simulations using high-tech cellular automata tools with average driver profiles linked to real-world statistics of roadway usage coupled with an army of ten thousand angry ax-wielding orcs battling an equal number of obedient clonetroopers.

Rather, this field is perfect fodder for the amateur ethologist, observing phenomena with a keen eye, an open mind and a sharp pencil. And while much has been written about manipulating traffic waves, the dynamics of traffic jams and phase-transitions in traffic density, very little time has been devoted to the observation and cataloguing of persistent multi-car zoomorphia.


Early Observations

The author first became aware of the existence of ATAs while making his way through the hinterland of Canada on a long, mid-winter solo drive in a decrepit Dodge Charger with no functioning radio. Due to his dangerous penchant for immersive daydreaming in the absence of external stimuli, he began to parasite his driving decisions by locking in behind another car with comparable speed ambitions. By reserving a sliver of awareness for tracking the red brake lights of the "lead" car for changes in speed or direction, the author was able to comfortably enjoy his trance while a hefty burden of road awareness was outsourced to the other driver, causing the front car to function as a sort of early warning mechanism for changing conditions (including the Mounties' speed-traps).

The notion resurfaced while the author was wrestling a dented Volkswagen Rabbit rental down a twisting, pot-holed two-lane jungle highway through the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. As the journey began he found himself hedged inside a short parade of other tourists, all driving their rental cars out of the airport at around the same time at a hesitant pace, breaking frequently to process the unfamiliar leafy darkness ahead. Fearing injury, the author laterally-leapfrogged the indecisive parade and drove on into the murk alone. Remembering his success in the far north, he latched onto the back of a local vehicle (a home-modded convertible Beetle carrying ten people, standing room only), using its varying speed as an indicator of road conditions. Unexpectedly, this move was noticed by several of the other tourists, who began to fight to separate themselves from the melee and join the newer, more surefooted pack that was rapidly pulling ahead...

By the time the author had reached his exit the impromptu fleet of vehicles had become a persistent, homeostatic phenomenon. The fleet had quickly learned to manipulate the spacing between its components in order to remain permeable to faster moving local traffic while defending its integrity against more disruptive external vehicles. Pulses of communication signifying when the passing lane was clear rippled down the chain through a conscientious leaning into the gravel shoulder, assisting in the process of expectorating invaders. Several of the original tourist vehicles ended up being swapped out for other vehicles without rocking the boat. Later on, even the leader was swapped out for another experienced local car.

It was a fetching game, contributing to the welfare of all of its players in an interesting way, but it was not a true ATA. It was too conscious a contrivance to be anything more than a delightful spontaneous social event.

You see, a distributed animal with human components can be very sensitive to perturbations from within. It is only when the conflicting threads of goals, reasoning and competition between individual human minds are quietened into the background noise that the soil can truly be ripe to raise a complex beast. When drivers can fall into a semi-hypnotic state and their herd instincts take over, the seeds are laid for something greater.


Habitat

While there are thousands of traffic animal breeding grounds along the paved networks of the world, only one driving region has been extensively explored at this time, largely due to budgetary considerations.

The TransCanada Highway is a nearly ideal environment for the production of large-scale ATA phenomena, due in great part to the simplicity of its shape: all cars are moving either westbound or eastbound, streamlining the goals of the drivers in much the same way as the shape of the Daytona superspeedway encourages drafting partnerships (see above). Also, because there are long stretches through lonely wilderness and semi-tundra, nascent traffic animals have a long period in which to mature before coming against obstacles like influxes of new cars or navigating around towns; and because the highway wends its way directly through most of Canada's major cities, it provides a handy litmus test for the homeostatic integrity of a given specimen simply by observing whether or not it makes it through to the other side of the urban area intact.

While daytime ATA formation is not rare, it is under the cover of darkness that development can proceed in a comparatively unfettered fashion. This is due in large part to the more abstract, disconnected experience of interacting with other vehicles merely as points of coloured light. Familiar prejudices and stereotypes -- potential sources of destructive competition -- are smoothed out by the shadows. At least on the basis of visual impressions, a Volvo and a Camaro can enter a system as peers.

Diminished visibility resulting from mild to moderate weather conditions can have a similar equalising effect, but when conditions become too severe drivers tend to clump into packs for safety, leading to pseudo-ATA fleets that are all too conscious social events (as in the Quintana Roo experience).

Show me an autumn stretch of prairie transcontinental highway at twilight, and I will show you the secret zoo of the road.


Typical Morphologies

The most basic form of multi-car life is the Asipetal Caterpillar, also known as a worm. Worms begin when a stable solo vehicle spawns a linear, single-lane chain of vehicles composed of loose monomers joining at the rear (a closely related, but dysfunctional, construct known as an Acropetal Caterpillar grows by adding vehicles to the front of the chain, generally leading to destructive diffusion or autolysis). Short, lithe worms are the fundamental building blocks of healthy ATA tissue. Perverse, long-form worms are the seeds of congestion and death.

The second atomic element of ATA tissue stands in stark contrast to the worm, for it is a fleeting thing, and when it takes concrete form at all it is often manifested as a single car. The Apparent Coxswain is a vehicle that appears, to the conscious or semi-conscious mind of one or more drivers, to be a leader of the worm. When the Apparent Coxswain changes lanes, there is a higher probability that a majority of the worm will follow suit than if the change were initiated by a less trusted vehicle. In many cases each car in a worm perceives the car immediately ahead of it to be the Apparent Coxswain, leading to domino-effect lane-transitions; such formations have high homeostatic integrity because of the worm's ability to "find a new head" should one Apparent Coxswain be lost to the currents. (Please note: the Apparent Coxswain should not be confused with the Virtual Coxswain or the Napoleonic Coxswain, discussed below.)

Formations that achieve such integration become Cholingers: Asipetal Caterpillars with tightly-integrated internal feedback systems of Apparent Coxswains, capable of transmitting information from tip to tail with high fidelity. Cholingers can slither to avoid torn tyres on the road, twitch around slow-moving vehicles, and even slip through packs of alien worms, wild axenes and other traffic froth to arrive on the other side intact.

Of course, not all Cholingers slip through the strangers: sometimes they interact.

Every Cholinger is either benthic or pelagic. Benthic Cholingers travel at a similar rate to the currents of the road, while Pelagic Cholingers travel at a dissimilar rate when compared to other traffic (typically a faster rate). It is possible, however, for a benthic line to be picked up and carried along by a pelagic cousin, leading to a coupled form. This is the first real Aggregate Traffic Animal we will meet tonight: a bilaterally asymmetrical diageotrope known as the Epiphysian Cyclosalp.

Within the body of the Cyclosalp the individual Cholingers are transmuted into a pair of Librigenates -- stretchy, free-flowing tissue that is bounded in space by the relationship with its partner, the accelerating pelagic lobe sliding forward and the steady benthic lobe catching up in a slow-motion slingshot, compressing and expanding between the loose, senseless clumps of other cars. This accordion-like effect might initially seem to be a force tearing the animal apart, rending pelagic from benthic -- and this is indeed what might happen in too rarified an atmosphere -- but when presented with obstacles of any kind, the Librigenates that comprise the Cyclosalp fall back on their Cholinger heritage of local integrity, crystallising en masse to navigate the hazard.

Unfettered, the Epiphysian Cyclosalp is like half a butterfly, its riparian body gilded by a slowly flapping wing of accelerating, gliding Librigenates ebbing and flowing in a stately round. Its insides whorl as partners switch places, benthic turning briefly pelagic, pacer cars joining a rippling pulse of local inertia forward, headlights cross-sweeping.

It is beyond the scope of this article to detail the myriad circumstances that provide seed for the profitable entanglement of multiple Cyclosalpic streams. So diverse are the possibilities that we could fill a Biblical tome without scratching the surface, without revealing the common thread of simplicity upon which the complexity hinges. Suffice to say the larger clade includes such varied forms as the whiplashing Epinastic Tricyclosalp, the many-fingered Dicyclosalp Fimbriatum, and the diaphanous, fleeting wonder of the mile-long Merosporangic Super-Cyclosalp...

Of course, not all Asipetal Caterpillars grow up to become stately Cholingers; instead, they lock into Lego-like bricks of uniform properties called Pycnoblastoids. While short-lived Apiculate Pycnoblastoids (in which the Apparent Coxswain is always the most forward car) are more common, it is the more flexible Laxiflorous Pycnoblastoid (in which the Apparent Coxswain is any car except that most forward) that lives a more fruitful life.

For instance, consider the case of a typical composite entity like a Tripycnoblastic Oomycotum, in which independent pycnoblasts jockey for position internally directly or by proxy through one or more Napoleonic Coxswains (that is, drivers who suffer from the delusion that they are single-handedly responsible for steering/leading their local sub-structure). The domino-line behaviour of an Apiculate Pycnoblastoid makes it too brittle to survive the stresses of being permeated by a competing pycnoblast, whereas the comparatively elastic structure of the Laxifloroid -- imparted due to the inherent time delay involved in co-ordinating with a mid-fleet Apparent Coxswain -- retains a perfect balance of rigidity and looseness, riding a line between orchestration and dissolution that makes composite forms like Oomycota possible.

Pycnoblastic tissue is unusual in that it makes use of some level of awareness on the part of the driver that they are participating in a formation (though drivers are only likely to be aware of the local level of structure). When this awareness reaches a certain level the composite entity is usually destroyed by internal stresses, but occasionally a dissolving multi-pycnoblast will emit a stream of highly energised vehicles -- the Apheresoid Lirellate, a concentrated apiculatoid pycnoblast flung free from the miasma of death to rocket away, using for a coxswain the abandoned carcass itself.

...These are but the fringes of the zoo, the tip of the iceberg.

We have not even touched on the sensitive antennae of the Stipitate Phototaxites fringed with Virtual Coxswains, pseudo-lead cars ready to be sacrificed to trip any trap, the chaotic wrath of the Biflagellate Ableptic Figmo and the fate of the cystidial flotsam locked within them; the weird rhythms of the Cacospysic Super-Barbicanoids and their elaborate dance of shifting coxswains, the majesty of the motorcycle-based Raging Fallaxoid; the menagerie of endless cancers that can grow from unexpectorated papillic granulomae, from cataracts of geriatric nektons, or from service-stations with badly planned driveways.


Further Study

The study of a new order of life is not without its risks, both professional (in terms of reputation) and practical (in terms of being maimed by mis-navigated vehicles). The amateur automotive ethologist must not only have keen skills of observation, but also the fortitude to persevere despite the slings and arrows of dubious dissenters. Like Leeuwenhoek's controversial animalcules and Pasteur's superstition-defying microbes, there will always exist a certain testudinal resistance to new ideas among older quarters. There will be those who doubt the very existence of aggregate vehicular life, or who insist that the zoo of the road dwells in metaphor alone.

The opinions of such sceptics could be changed by a single night spent on a grassy hill overlooking a well-travelled country highway, watching the streams of red and silver lights merge and split, compress and attenuate, roil and interact, fatten and reproduce...

Watch the roads, and see the zoo for yourself. There is no denying its patterns of insectile purpose, its myriad variations in anatomy and configuration, or the orchestrated madness of the low-cost petroleum feeding frenzy. Your own mind, honed by thousands of generations of natural selection to recognise life from non-life, will tell you it is true; the disciplines of careful observation and meticulous classification will tell you how, and why.

Open your eyes, and witness an untapped world.

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Poll
Aggregate Traffic Animals?
o Real, and Important 27%
o Real, but Unimportant 8%
o Entertaining Nonsense 30%
o Useful Nonsense 11%
o Useless Nonsense 10%
o Worse than Hitler 11%

Votes: 59
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o The Extended Phenotype
o evolutiona ry biology
o Richard Dawkins
o Necker Cube Illusion
o micro-orga nisms interacting inside bilipid membranes
o William Morton Wheeler
o Kevin Kelly
o Out of Control
o David Ronfeldt
o Social Science at 190 MPH on NASCAR's Biggest Superspeedways
o flocking birds can share aerodynamic advantage
o Hieronymus Bosch
o computer simulations
o cellular automata
o ax-wieldin g orcs
o obedient clonetroopers
o ethologist
o manipulati ng traffic waves
o the dynamics of traffic jams
o phase-tran sitions in traffic density
o Dodge Charger
o Mounties'
o Volkswagen Rabbit
o Beetle
o homeostati c
o herd instincts
o TransCanad a Highway
o above
o Familiar prejudices and stereotypes
o Volvo
o Camaro
o Lego
o Leeuwenhoe k
o controvers ial animalcules
o Pasteur
o superstiti on-defying microbes
o Also by CheeseburgerBrown


Display: Sort:
Traffic Zoology | 148 comments (124 topical, 24 editorial, 2 hidden)
the end is near. (2.76 / 17) (#3)
by ninja rmg on Tue Sep 02, 2003 at 08:12:39 PM EST





Confess your sins (2.71 / 7) (#4)
by tranx on Tue Sep 02, 2003 at 08:21:35 PM EST

Repent everybody!

"World War III is a guerrilla information war, with no division between military and civilian participation." -- Marshall McLuhan
[ Parent ]

AHAHAHAHA, (1.60 / 5) (#5)
by e polytarp on Tue Sep 02, 2003 at 08:28:25 PM EST

LEAVE THE TRANX FOR THE CATS YOU ADDICT!


º
My buddies


[ Parent ]
Uh? (5.00 / 2) (#101)
by tranx on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 04:01:38 PM EST

Cats riding honda bikes? I don't get it...

"World War III is a guerrilla information war, with no division between military and civilian participation." -- Marshall McLuhan
[ Parent ]

Your Sins, Confess (yes-yes) (4.00 / 4) (#44)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 07:54:06 AM EST

Repent everybody!

Shouldn't that read "everybody repent"? Since repent in a literal sense means to crawl along the ground, haven't you just issued a directive that we should push our neighbours' faces into the dirt?

(See what kind of trouble your backasswards talking will fetch you?)


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
Thanks (5.00 / 4) (#99)
by tranx on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 04:00:11 PM EST

you probably guessed by now me not native english speaker, me trying my best though.

Oh well, at least I refrain from posting articles... obviously if I could do that in italian the s/n ratio would benefit enormously, putting the end a bit farther...

Hope I didn't offend anybody, sorry Mr Foster.

"World War III is a guerrilla information war, with no division between military and civilian participation." -- Marshall McLuhan
[ Parent ]

I am soryr (1.80 / 21) (#7)
by davedean on Tue Sep 02, 2003 at 08:52:41 PM EST

but I have nbeen having to drin kteh coke becayuse I have the workfortehdole today, and I didnt get much sleep because I was at a gig last night where FluffyT played wicked beats all night.

We then went for hot chocolate (a great before bed drink), but the FluffyT was apparnetly much more interesting than me to the girl I am stalking at the cafe. She talked to him for well over thirty seconds abuot his sampler (which we took for coffee with us) whereas I didnt get much of a look in, which is unusua;.

Because I was so heartbroken I had to stay up for an hour or two and thin kabout other ways I could have improved the converdsation, and also, ways in which I could appear to be the alpha male next time I see her/ I suspect my chance has passed. Stalking girls at their place of work is stupid, as I jhave told my obsessive "one at a time" friend, but it appears that I ahve not stalked hard enough.

My casual drop-in approach has yeilded poor results. However, I am confident that new CafeGirl will succumb to my charms.

I am quite tired, but I had to appear at :work" today, so I have drink teh coke. I cannot read veyr well, be cause everythign appears to be dancing around.

I still liked your article. Perhaps I will rread it again later when I have come down from my sugar high.

COKE IS EVIL.

Maybe you could do an addendum on driving under the influence of sugar and caffeine,e I whitnk that I could maybe read that OK.

Your Pal,
-Dave
--
Dave Dean
Google loves me again! New Formula!

This is a great example (1.86 / 15) (#13)
by debacle on Tue Sep 02, 2003 at 09:37:47 PM EST

Of why you're not supposed to be fucking stupid and also have a kuro5hin account.

Even if you are CheeseburgerBrown and your fiction did get voted to section and it was really great and the writer of this comment just feels really bad because he's driven 12 hours out of the past 24 and the last thing he wants to think about is cars and highways.

-1

It tastes sweet.

The who in the what now? (4.25 / 4) (#40)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 07:35:20 AM EST

This is a great example of why you're not supposed to be fucking stupid and also have a kuro5hin account.

I'm not quite sure how to take that. Er -- thanks for coming out.

...Sorry about your shitty drive.


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
+1FP MY DOGMA RAN OVER GARY GNU!!! (1.91 / 12) (#16)
by RandomLiegh on Tue Sep 02, 2003 at 10:12:55 PM EST

ehn tee

---
Thought of the week: There is no thought this week.
---
-1, WTF? (1.18 / 11) (#27)
by debillitatus on Tue Sep 02, 2003 at 11:50:31 PM EST


Damn you and your daily doubles, you brigand!

Can You Expand On That? (3.80 / 5) (#45)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 08:00:45 AM EST

I find your question inarticulate and imprecise in the extreme.


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
CheeseburgerBrown (2.00 / 12) (#30)
by circletimessquare on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 12:11:59 AM EST

i love you, marry me

people like you and kpaul make this site worth visiting

thank you


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

About kpaul... (5.00 / 2) (#96)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 03:34:18 PM EST

...kpaul is inspiring in his use of the K5 queue as a sort of anvil for his writing forge. Bang, bang, bang. Sometimes sparks fly.

kpaul's example has me half-convinced to try submitting another piece of the dreaded fiction to the queue. (It will go down in flames, naturally. Last time was a fluke.)


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
i actually never read fiction (none / 1) (#108)
by circletimessquare on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 01:58:02 AM EST

i was talking about his google dance and ranking stuff lol


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
Think of the children (none / 0) (#112)
by rmb303 on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 05:15:55 AM EST

If you two get married and have kids, I'll babysit for free.

Just to watch the freaks !

[ Parent ]

Sock Zoology (2.16 / 12) (#32)
by antichrist stormtrooper on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 12:51:08 AM EST

There are biological entities everywhere!!!1!

For instance, did you know that if you take a sock and sew a bunch of crap on it, you can make a dog or a turtle?

!!!1!!IT'S FUN!!!!!!!@


"I hate cats almost as much as I hate Italians" -Albert Einstein
another fine example of seeing patterns (3.10 / 10) (#33)
by semaphore on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 01:33:45 AM EST

where there are none.

at best, this is about the derivatives of various random movements by vehicles constrained within the boundaries of the road. analagous to fractals.

yet another example of knowing more about less, or in this case, so little that it's imaginary.

which is ok as long as you had fun doing this.

(btw +1, a wonderful example of detailed but pointless minutiae, much like fractals when you think of it.)


-
"you want enlightenment? stare into the sun."


Pollock's Lesson (4.00 / 4) (#39)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 07:31:04 AM EST

another fine example of seeing patterns...at best, this is about the derivatives of various random movements by vehicles constrained within the boundaries of the road. analagous to fractals.

Interesting you mention fractals. As I've mentioned before (under the heading "Pattern"), there was an article last year in SciAm about the patterns in Jackson Pollock's "splatter" paintings...

Apparently, Pollock's method was refined through intuition to the point where his paintings contained layers of deep fractal structure. Viewers responded to this, and hailed the paintings as genius, leaving millions around the world to scratch their head and wonder why "paint drooled and splashed randomly" had any appeal to anyone other than a tripping hippy.

The moral of the story? People thought they are saw things in Pollock's paintings. Other said there was nothing there -- they were wrong. The pattern recognition routines of the first group had worked perfectly, even if they were at a loss to explain what exactly they saw. Their pattern recognition was not too enthusiastic...the explanation of the kind of order simply didn't exist in science yet.

My science is new. Your faith will come.

[ Winks. ]


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
A load of Pollock's (none / 1) (#135)
by Julian Morrison on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 10:46:09 PM EST

Apparently, Pollock's method was refined through intuition to the point where his paintings contained layers of deep fractal structure.

I have a supicion that the experimenters merely over-engineered their detection technique. Probably all they've detected is "turbulent viscous liquid passing through turbulent air and splatting onto uneven canvas reveals intricate whorly patterns (caused by turbulence)".

[ Parent ]

IIRC.... (4.00 / 2) (#137)
by dennis on Fri Sep 05, 2003 at 05:26:11 PM EST

...they compared to similar works by lesser mortals, and found that those did not have the fractal patterns.

[ Parent ]
Flocking (4.66 / 6) (#58)
by dennis on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 10:37:42 AM EST

This would be a good argument if traffic patterns were random. Actually, they're analogous to flocking behavior.

People used to think that every flock of birds had a leader. Then somebody figured out that you could explain flocking with three simple rules...I don't remember the exact rules, it was something like 1) don't get too close to another bird, 2) don't get too far from the center of the flock, and 3) something else. Each was a rule that each bird could easily obey, based on its own local observations. The guy who figured it out wrote a computer simulation, and got very realistic flocking. (Doesn't prove that these are the rules the birds use, but then again, Popper says you can't prove any theory.)

Traffic is the same way. Each driver tries to maintain a minimum distance from other cars, and move forward as quickly as possible, up to some maximum speed depending on the driver. As with flocking, you can observe global behavior patterns that emerge from a bunch of independent agents all following similar rules, based on their own local observations.

Another analogy: Conway's Game of Life. There you have just a bunch of squares in a grid, turning on and off based on how many neighboring squares are turned on. Patterns emerge, and people have compiled taxonomies of these patterns. The most famous is the "glider," a pattern of half a dozen or so cells that moves across the grid, maintaining its structure until it hits something.

Are these flocks and patterns actually organisms? Maybe that's just a metaphor. But it's a pretty good one, because the immune system is also a bunch of independent agents following rules, without any overall controller directing them. The brain is a bunch of independent neurons, communicating with their neighbors. For organisms with more independent units, just look at slime molds and bacterial colonies. And while a glider is probably too simple to count as an organism, mathematicians have proven that a bunch of colliding gliders can build a Turing-complete, self-reproducing computer. Maybe traffic is smarter than we think.

[ Parent ]

Boids (5.00 / 1) (#143)
by CwazyWabbit on Thu Sep 11, 2003 at 07:54:53 AM EST

I think this is the simulation of birds you were talking about, with pretty graphics showing the three rules.

http://www.red3d.com/cwr/boids/
--
"But here's the thing: if people hand me ammunition, what kind of misanthrope would I be if I didn't use it?" - Sarah-Katherine
[ Parent ]

I like my Cheeseburger (1.28 / 7) (#34)
by TubeShoot on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 02:48:34 AM EST

like I like my coffee. Brown.

Huzzah to you sir, well done.


"Quote thyself..........I do."--TubeShoot '03

this is great (4.00 / 3) (#36)
by illuzion on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 04:53:15 AM EST

Although it goes on too long, endging into becoming slightly boring... Still, it's a masterpiece. One I suspect might well have a grain of truth in it, although the reality would be nothing like what's expressed here :)

Driver / road dynamics are fascinating, and I often watch how people behave. Good (stupid / funny / weird / clever troll) article, thanks for posting.

much as I like having a 5-rated comment (4.25 / 4) (#51)
by illuzion on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 09:23:51 AM EST

... I don't think it's good etiquette to give a 5 to comments on your own story that agree with you, is it? I notice you've done it on some other comments as well. In fact, I thought K5 etiquette (such as I know it to be) was to stay away from rating comments on your own stories, because of the bias that gives?

[ Parent ]
Bad Form? (4.50 / 4) (#57)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 10:33:55 AM EST

I don't think it's good etiquette to give a 5 to comments on your own story that agree with you, is it?

Colour me ashamed by my social better.

Actually, don't. Comment modding is a pretty loose science, and I'm sure there's no agreement on the etiquette of positive modding. Sure, it's bad form to negative (or low) mod people who disagree with you, or to negative mod comments to your own stories, but I feel perfectly justified trying to encourage good discussion by scoring comments with some content higher than comments with none.

Besideswhich, for most people (often myself included) modding a comment is just a friendly thing to do, like smiling when you say "hello." Modding such as I've done has no serious consequences.


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
Pish-Posh. (4.00 / 3) (#97)
by Dr Caleb on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 03:35:33 PM EST

It's worse K5 etiquette to see a well formed and well argued position deserving of a good mod, and NOT give it a 5. What should it matter that CBB is the author of the story? It's the antithesis of karma mod bombing.


Vive Le Canada - For Canadians who give a shit about their country.

There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

This Is My 5s_For_Everyone Imitation! (5.00 / 2) (#102)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 04:02:52 PM EST

Take a swig, pass the mojo jug around.


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
Traffic, statistical phenomena, beasts (5.00 / 2) (#37)
by tetsuwan on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 05:17:02 AM EST

And no mentioning of percolation?

I'm baffled.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance

Mmmm...Coffee... (5.00 / 1) (#46)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 08:04:12 AM EST

"Beah?"
"No, coffee."
"Beah?"
"Cof-fee."
"Be-ah?"
"Sea, Oh..."
"Bea, ea..."

(Actual Reply: More of this article ended up deleted than posted. I cut out maybe 2 050 words just last night, before submitting. Much ended on the floor for the sake of brevity. (Did I mention percolation? No. This is all just a dodge, really.)


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
The I guess it's up to me (5.00 / 2) (#66)
by tetsuwan on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 11:15:15 AM EST

to give an account of zoology of wildfires, including the word percolation.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Please do! (5.00 / 1) (#72)
by dennis on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 12:30:12 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Animism for Geeks (5.00 / 1) (#76)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 12:59:04 PM EST

I have previously mentioned here my suspicion that some fires are monsters. I would like to know about the rest of the zoo, too.

Animism is usually the province of flakey wiccans and superstitious goofs -- I say we take it back for the geeks!

The world is alive, and it's not pure romanticism -- it's a serious way of thinking about complex systems. Teach us about fire, tetsuwan!


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
The fact that (4.00 / 8) (#38)
by daragh on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 06:14:07 AM EST

You managed to get the phrase "To wit, to wank:" in (paragraph 4) and still managed to make this sound serious impresses me no end.

No work.

Well (5.00 / 1) (#41)
by nebbish on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 07:37:22 AM EST

I didn't like it. It seemed a silly thing to say in an otherwise good article.

---------
Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

I'm Sorry (5.00 / 1) (#42)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 07:46:17 AM EST

It simply isn't possible not to mention "Richard Dawkins" and "wanking" in the same breath -- they're like yin and yang, Abbot and Costello, sluttery and burning while you pee...


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
Fair enough (none / 0) (#43)
by nebbish on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 07:51:46 AM EST

You have your reasons.

---------
Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

This is a reply to myself (none / 1) (#145)
by daragh on Tue Oct 21, 2003 at 12:07:37 PM EST

For no apparent reason.

No work.
[ Parent ]

There is something I don't like... (2.57 / 7) (#47)
by Rasman on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 08:21:10 AM EST

...about articles that are so thorough and over everyone's heads that they generate zero discussion like this.

After the intro I briefly skimmed a bit, but words like "Asipetal Caterpillar" disinterested me.

Did anyone actually read and comprehend the entire article? And after doing so, was there nothing to add or comment on?

Or did people just decide after the first paragraph that the article seemed intelligent and informative and then voted "+1 FP"?

---
Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
And Your Golden Contribution Is... (4.00 / 2) (#49)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 09:05:19 AM EST

Did anyone actually read and comprehend the entire article?

Did you?

This sounds like an elaborate way of whining that your ADD is a barrier to your enjoyment of dense prose.


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
I have no contribution to this topic (3.00 / 3) (#52)
by Rasman on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 09:30:55 AM EST

I found the article uninteresting and voted "Useless Nonsense". But oftentimes when an article is uninteresting, some of the comments are, so I rode the scrollbar down to the bottom of the article. But I was surprised to find absolutely no "on topic" comments.

I'm just expressing my amazement that no one other than you has anything to say about a topic that made it to the front page.

---
Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]
Subject of Parent Comment Says It All [nt] (3.33 / 3) (#56)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 10:29:44 AM EST


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I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
Just because my comment isn't about the topic... (none / 1) (#65)
by Rasman on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 11:14:57 AM EST

...doesn't mean that it's not about the story.

It's a valid comment. I'm asking voters (that would not be you, the author, Mr. Brown) why they voted so (relatively) unanimously for this story when, judging from the comments received so far, there is very little interest in discussing the topic.

---
Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]
Well, Okay Then. (4.00 / 2) (#74)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 12:52:21 PM EST

I'm asking voters...why they voted so (relatively) unanimously for this story when, judging from the comments received so far, there is very little interest in discussing the topic.

Well, I guess we'll see if anyone answers you. I doubt it, though. But time will tell if there are any takers.

Meanwhile, some limited discussion is burbling on topic, which erodes your point a bit. I'm interested in your theories of why this article won't generate tons of discussion though (because it surely won't). What do you think?


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
The type of appeal (none / 1) (#82)
by Alhazred on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 01:54:27 PM EST

I think the story appeals more due to its writing style and evocative atmosphere. In terms of substance there certainly is some and has been some discussion of it, but I think its appeal is far more literary/artistic than intellectual.

At least thats the way I found it. Were I interested in seriously studying the traffic phenomena mentioned I'd want a far more precise terminology and a lot more looking into the PROCESSES by which traffic forms evolve.

Anyway, it was entertaining reading to me, thats really all I care about at the moment.
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
[ Parent ]

I Think That Nails It. (5.00 / 1) (#83)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 02:03:28 PM EST

I think you've taken it just the right way, Alhazred. As I've mentioned earlier, I did set out to write a more...specific and structured article, but the approach exhausted me quickly due to the enormity of the topic.

As it is, it's just an idea piece.


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
Discussion (4.00 / 2) (#84)
by Rasman on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 02:07:45 PM EST

My extreme reaction is partially a mistake on my part. It's just so rare for a story to shoot out of the queue so fast. There just wasn't any time for much discussion. There were only 2 hours and 40 minutes between when you submitted the story and when I wrote my first comment.

However, it is still rare for a story to make it to the front page without any topical comments, lightning fast or not.
"Meanwhile, some limited discussion is burbling on topic, which erodes your point a bit."
Indeed. And I'm glad to finally see some!

I never meant to imply that I have "theories [on] why this article won't generate tons of discussion"; I was mainly showing surprise and curiosity that it hadn't. However, since you asked, I'll take a shot.

We've all noticed that there are patterns to how people drive on highways, and we've all used different strategies depending on our mood or energy levels. But that's about as far as it goes. The rest of us drop it at that. Your abstract idea of "traffic animals" is a huge leap of creativity (bordering on insanity) that, almost certainly, none of the readers will have thought of before. So most readers will probably think something along the lines of, "Hmm...that's a strange way to think of it," and no more. Because we haven't made the "animal" connection before while were were experiencing it on the roads, it's hard to add anything like, "Once I saw these five SUVs that were behaving like an amoeba and they completely enveloped this minivan!" Those kind of comments just won't happen. Most likely, however, in future highway experiences the readers will think, "Hey, that blue car is the head of the worm," or those with more photographic memories might even remember the word "coxswain".

One thing you can be certain of, however, is that I will never speak or think the word "pycnoblastoids" after this discussion thread dies.

Just curious...did you really do all this thinking and writing only for K5 or did you submit this story somewhere else as well?

As you can tell, I've read a little more of the article now. I still find it boring and a difficult read because of all the large words. It's nice to see an article with such "flowery" (as you put it) vocabulary, but when I'm struggling to stay interested, all the extra work just makes it not worth it.

---
Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]
Amplification (& on typing for K5) (none / 1) (#94)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 03:18:17 PM EST

I see your point. Maybe it should have hung around in editing for longer, as the exclusive play-toy of the kabal. You know all the snootiest members of the kabal won't touch a story once it's out in the wilds of the front page.

I never leave stuff in editing long enough. I get impatient. It's always a mistake (or at least, nine times so far I've gone "damn it!").

One thing you can be certain of, however, is that I will never speak or think the word "pycnoblastoids" after this discussion thread dies.

No shit. That's one of my less inspired names. At that point it just becomes a kind of science-babble beat poetry, I think (at best). As I've mentioned elsewhere in these threads, I really struggled with the approach to that part of the story.

Just curious...did you really do all this thinking and writing only for K5 or did you submit this story somewhere else as well?

I'll submit it elsewhere, too. It will go on my own site, to suck PageRank off K5. But it was submitted to K5 first, because K5 is great gauntlet to run in order to write better stuff, I think. Attention spans are short, and clicking away is easy, but the general audience is very intelligent. As a typist, you're forced to ask yourself over and over again, "Why would a busy, read-well geek bother to continue to the next paragraph, or even the end of this line?"

In these circumstances, I consider it a qualified success if somebody just reads to end. (With this story, I'm pretty sure most people, even the interested ones, didn't. Ultimately, not a very successful submission, and a shadow of what I'd intended.)

At any rate, I just like to write stuff down that occurs to me, because my memory forgets. I think it's presto-neato that living as we do in the gleaming future things like that can so easily be shared without getting mucked up in money.

(I whore my other magicks enough as it is, to put bread on my family's table. Writing is free. Give up the dream of being paid, typists. Your IP dream is a bitch goddess with ink-stained claws.)


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
You must have heard of this before (4.00 / 1) (#114)
by yag on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 07:01:10 AM EST

>Your abstract idea of "traffic animals" is a huge
>leap of creativity (bordering on insanity) that,
>almost certainly, none of the readers will have
>thought of before.

No no no! It's a real-world variation of Game of Life, where patterns emerge from complex interactions between simple organisms.

Lots of people much sharper than you or I have spent a dauntingly long time thinking about this. For examples, start reading at http://hensel.lifepatterns.net/

I've never heard of the concept being applied to traffic in quite this depth before, but it makes so much sense! Bravo!

[ Parent ]

Of course I have... (none / 0) (#117)
by Rasman on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 08:19:19 AM EST

...heard of Conway's Game of Life (my sig links to some multiagent code I've written). And now that I've given it some thought, I can see how if I were to attempt to model traffic flow, cellular automata would be an obvious choice.

However, it's still nothing that I would think about while I was driving, but I suppose "sharper" minds might...

And you're right. The few sites I've found linking the Game of Life to traffic aren't nearly as in-depth as this article.

---
Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]
Why is a golden contribution necessary? (3.50 / 2) (#71)
by fluxrad on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 12:08:48 PM EST

This sounds like an elaborate way of whining that your ADD is a barrier to your enjoyment of dense prose.

Seems to me the story was a self-gratifying method of saying simply: "People like to drive in groups for a few reasons, some of which include avoiding speeding tickets, getting around in crappy weather, and expediting trips through unknown locales."

That's not to say the story was entirely uninteresting, but for the most part, I found it to be a rather complex way of aproaching a relatively simple subject-matter.

--
"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
[ Parent ]
Synopsis-Compulsive (none / 0) (#73)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 12:49:05 PM EST

Romeo and Juliet is an elaborate way of saying "sometimes love and hate comingle and become tragedy for all." Hamlet is an elaborate way of saying that being indecisive can suck.

What's your point? All prose should be reduced to bullet-form?

In response to your question, "Why is a golden contribution necessary?" my answer would be: "Because he or she is whining about there being insufficient contributions to the discussion, despite an (apparently) interesting topic."

In other words: put up, put out, or shut up. If you feel a subject isn't worthy of discussion, just vote -1 or don't post comments.


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
I paid little attention to the subject matter (5.00 / 1) (#103)
by TomV on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 04:09:19 PM EST

The story may, or may not, have some scientific merit.

Like I care.

Come on, anyone who can so clearly describe the distinction between apiculate and laxiflorous pyncnoblastoids, and get away with it, is either a literary genius, or suffering from acute thiotimoline toxicosis and deserving of public sympathy.

The fact that I spent most of my journey home tonight in a recognisable asipetal caterpillar only makes it better.

[ Parent ]

HURRRR I voted +1 FP (2.28 / 7) (#48)
by Tex Bigballs on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 08:54:37 AM EST

The other people in the voting for list will think I'm a genius!@#@$#$@!#! HURRRRRRrrrrrrRRRRRRR

Now what in the fuck is all this mishmash about?

Duh... (3.16 / 6) (#50)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 09:07:17 AM EST

Now what in the fuck is all this mishmash about?

Iraq.


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
I don't understand the Laxiflorous Pycnoblastoid. (4.00 / 2) (#53)
by nowan on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 09:32:43 AM EST

I found your discussion of cholingers & cyclosalps fascinating. I've seen cholingers, at least, myself. I'll have to keep my eyes open and see if I can find a cyclosalp, as I'm not entirely clear how one would hang together. Do they actually stretch out long enough for vehicles to be out of sight of each other? Or are they strictly line-of-site limited?

But you didn't go into nearly enough detail on the pycnoblanstoids. For example, how can the Apparent Coxswain for a vehicle be behind that vehicle?

Some Expansion, But Not Enough (4.33 / 3) (#61)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 10:59:33 AM EST

I'll have to keep my eyes open and see if I can find a cyclosalp, as I'm not entirely clear how one would hang together...

From what I can tell, most Cyclosalpic forms hang together on the principle that the benthic (follows the apparent "currents" of traffic) components measure their benthicity against the pelagic stream. The pelagic (travelling faster than the apparent current) stream, for its part, tends to measure its pelagicity against the benthic stream. Of course, if the relationship stayed perfectly constant the two streams would quickly split (this often happens, in fact -- Cyclosalps are delicate!). However, a loop is created in the feedback because cars in formation rarely remain in a locked state, especially when a high enough percentage of the drivers are fuelled by testosterone. Males tend to view multi-car formations as a hierarchy (even if they can only see the local level of structure), and ego demands that they attempt to climb. This motivational factors keeps a slow, but steady mix of cars swapping back and forth from the pelagic to the benthic streams (in the chaos of raw traffic, such swaps would tear the thing apart, but these are drivers already selected for stability by their participation in the founding Cholingers). It is this aspect which in a time-lapse movie would appear as swirls or whorls in the structure of the beast as its internal parts realign, giving the creature its name, and helping to glue it together. And, while it possible for a Cyclosalp to stretch out of the line-of-site, it is rare. If parts of a beast are frequently invisible to the rest, the body tends to split in two.

But you didn't go into nearly enough detail on the pycnoblanstoids. For example, how can the Apparent Coxswain for a vehicle be behind that vehicle?

I didn't go into nearly enough detail about anything, because I feared the article was becoming too dense and too long for these ADD-addled times. But, I'm glad you asked the question:

Part of the answer lies in the ego mechanism described above (in which a car switching to the passing lane is a threat to the car ahead, for it suggests to them that they're not driving fast enough, or that their penis is too small), but the real answer lies in the way we as human beings semi- or unconsciously process herd data. Watch a pack of sheep cavorting through a pasture: you'll quickly notice how the leader-of-the-moment is not necessarily the one in front. Watch a crowd navigating a pile or barf on a subway platform, or a throng of Calcuttites parting to avoid a cow in the road...

Sometimes drivers are aware that they are in a local fleet, and will change lanes to preserve a good-thing-going, no matter who initiates the change. That's the anti-egotistically inspired co-operativeness that we shan't be naive enough to assign to a particular gender (for gender-based driving stereotypes are a whole other kettle of fish).

...Shit, I guess I could write a whole article just on the phenomenon of the Road Coxswains, apparent, virtual and otherwise. But now I have to stop farting around and do some actual paying work, so it won't be this morning.



___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
Book (none / 0) (#134)
by Julian Morrison on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 10:31:44 PM EST

I didn't go into nearly enough detail about anything, because I feared the article was becoming too dense and too long for these ADD-addled times.

Write a small book. People will pay you money. I kid you not. You could earn yourself a place upon the light/pop/wierd science shelves at bookstores everywhere. This is exacly the sort of amusing + intriguing stuff that readership eats up.

[ Parent ]

In awe (3.00 / 2) (#54)
by jonsg on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 10:25:19 AM EST

I'm not sure that all of these vermiform megalovehicula are indigenous to the UK (we simply don't have long enough stretches of wide enough empty road), but I'll keep an eye out for 'em! You never know, I might post a British taxonomy later...



I would think (none / 0) (#62)
by djotto on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 10:59:46 AM EST

the most obvious pattern on UK roads is the truck train. Comparatively slow moving, hugging the left-hand lane, and very stable because the drivers consciously co-operate with each other.

I wonder if a roundabout would count - there's certainly form there, and co-operation, but it's forced on the pattern by the structure of the road around it.

(An aside: you can model traffic flow by imagining a line of bowling balls with springs joining their centres of gravity.)

[ Parent ]

Training d^Htrucks to qu^H^Htrack (5.00 / 3) (#70)
by jonsg on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 12:04:23 PM EST

the most obvious pattern on UK roads is the truck train. Comparatively slow moving, hugging the left-hand lane, and very stable because the drivers consciously co-operate with each other.
The truck train's closest to an amoeboid lifeform. The whole thing is travelling at exactly 592/3 MPH. The fascinating thing, though, is the relative movement, and this is best observed on roads with only two carriageways in each direction.

This train moves (relatively) by taking the truck at the back, and sliding it to the front of the train. The moving truck travels no more than 1/3 MPH faster than the other trucks in the train, and and may take as many as 20 miles to perform the overtaking manoeuvre. At any given time, about a quarter of the overall number of trucks in the train are overtaking.

A lucky motorist can nip in between two overtaking trucks, and benefit from their tiny additional speed over those in lane one, at the risk of missing their turning because two hundred tonnes or so of freight, tightly slipstreaming, is a most effective barricade.

The most remarkable effect of the truck train (we must find a more appropriate name for this creature) is the memetic effects on other traffic. The maximum speed that any other motorist can achieve is precisely that of the fastest truck, and no more. The minimum speed that that motorist can achieve is precisely that of the slowest truck. Thus, the truck train's behaviour is propagated through the whole highway ecology.

[ Parent ]

Truck Trainery (4.00 / 1) (#80)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 01:18:13 PM EST

The most remarkable effect of the truck train...is the memetic effects on other traffic. The maximum speed that any other motorist can achieve is precisely that of the fastest truck, and no more. The minimum speed that that motorist can achieve is precisely that of the slowest truck. Thus, the truck train's behaviour is propagated through the whole highway ecology.

That's very interesting. It sounds like a video game.

What happens to the dim drivers who don't pick up on the conventions? Do they end up gathering like dust in corners between multi-truck segments?

...Personally, I've always used trucks as my early warning system for big trouble. If the trucks ahead of you put on their brakes of a sudden, it doesn't matter if there's no apparent reason. I trust the trucks, even if there is a free passing lane to get around the cataract.

This has always served me well. When all the truckers agree to slow down, it means the next curve is deadly, there is invisible ice on the road, a power-line is about to fall into traffic, an accident is happening or about to happen, or there is a speed-trap ahead.

As far as I'm concerned, trucks on the highway are the real-world equivalent of The Force.


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
The minimum speed that that motorist can achieve.. (none / 0) (#90)
by RandomAction on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 02:57:00 PM EST

..is precisely that of the slowest truck.
The maximum speed as you say is set by the faster truck train, of course the minimum speed isn't set in this fashion, you could always drive slower. Me thinks?

[ Parent ]
Perhaps, But... (none / 0) (#92)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 03:01:52 PM EST

...How long would you last as the crest of a wave of bleating tractor-trailers? Those horns are loud.


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
Minimising confusion (none / 0) (#113)
by jonsg on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 06:36:27 AM EST

The maximum speed as you say is set by the faster truck train, of course the minimum speed isn't set in this fashion, you could always drive slower. Me thinks?
Consider this: on a two-lane-each-way highway, a train of trucks going at 592/3 MPH occupies lane 1. A more sparse train of trucks going at 60 MPH occupies lane 2. Where are you going to go to travel at less than 592/3 MPH? Can't do it between the trucks in lane 1, because trucks won't slow down for anything other than an accident in progress or a police car (sometimes). Certainly can't do it in lane 2.

I s'pose there's always the hard shoulder...

[ Parent ]

It all depends on if your behind or in front of.. (none / 0) (#119)
by RandomAction on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 08:48:23 AM EST

..the truck train. Setting a maximum on the basis of the truck tracks necessitates being behind them.

[ Parent ]
Ever Seen a Canadian Roundabout? (5.00 / 1) (#81)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 01:22:09 PM EST

It's pathetic. That's the only word for it.

I've seen "roundabouts" in Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto that all share a common trait: stop signs every few metres, defeating the basic purpose of the roundabout in the first place. (Actually, in Edmonton they had "yield" signs, but that's because Edmonton is cool that way.)

Why? Because Canadians are too fucking ignorant to figure out the roundabout. So, when it's first installed, we merrily crash into one another until the police are forced to put up stop signs to control the road-ragin', confused and bewildered madness.

They told us how to use a roundabout at driving school, but then again they also told us about using turn-signals and that doesn't seem to help most people around here.


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
Don't forget the best one... (5.00 / 1) (#85)
by Dr Caleb on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 02:12:14 PM EST

St. Albert Trail and 118th St. 'Traffic Circle' or 'Roundabout' actually has traffic lights. WTF is the purpose of that?? Why didn't they just remove the traffic circle like they have so many others and replace it with a normal intersection...

As for turn signals...that isn't a big deal. It's those people who think that their car is my trailer that bug me. I wouldn't park that close to you, let alone drive at highway speed that close...


Vive Le Canada - For Canadians who give a shit about their country.

There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

Vobabulary Gloss (4.42 / 7) (#55)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 10:27:50 AM EST

It seems that some people are a bit troubled by the density of the flowery prose in this article, so for posterity I've whipped up a quick gloss as a study aid:

Effervescent - Gently boiling, bubbling, releasing gas
Aggregate - To gather into a mass, sum, or whole
Menagerie - A collection of wild or exotic animals
Otaku - Extreme geekery
Chic - French coolness
Rarified - Having low density, or being unique and exalted
Macro - Opposite of "micro"
Shadenfreude - Taking delight in the suffering of others
Scatological - Relating to poo
Megalopolis - A super-sized city (with fries)
Hinterland - A region remote from urban areas; backcountry
Melee - Cavalry exercise in which riders cut paper plumes off helmets
Impromptu - Composed without preparation
Expectorate - To spit out
Tundra - Treeless subarctic terrain
Autolysis - Self-digestion
Lithe - Supple, effortless grace
Riparian - Related to the edges of streams or rivers
Testudinal - Comparable to one or more qualities of a tortoise

...Did I miss anything else obscure or hoity-toity?



___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
Ennui (3.66 / 3) (#59)
by Big Dogs Cock on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 10:46:00 AM EST

What I experienced reading it.
People say that anal sex is unhealthy. Well it cured my hiccups.
[ Parent ]
Apathy (5.00 / 3) (#63)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 11:00:53 AM EST

...What I experienced reading your whine.


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
Snigger . . . (5.00 / 1) (#110)
by rmb303 on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 04:59:54 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Rampant neologism (5.00 / 2) (#124)
by Julian Morrison on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 10:40:55 AM EST

Methinks the interlocutor is inebriated by the exuberance of his own verbosity.

Mmm. Greekoid babblelingo - tastes great, more filling.

This is not a criticism. I like stuff that stretches my vocabulary.

[ Parent ]

My study of other drivers (3.50 / 4) (#60)
by lookout on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 10:53:48 AM EST

On highways I nearly always drive on cruise control. My german car has a pretty accurate one that keeps the speed of my car to within 1 km/h. It allows me to precisely maintain the maximum unpenalized speed in light traffic.

Under these conditions I've been able to study the speedal behaviour of other drivers. The results of the study reveal six categories:

  • Slowies: drive consistently slower than me. I pass them asap. Nothing much to add here.
  • Scaries: seem to be scared of me closing in from behind and accelerate, as if trying to escape. However they become exhausted eventually and I'll pass them.
  • Flaky Competitors: maintain their lower speed just until I start to pass them. At that time their competitiveness causes them to accelerate, making it impossible to pass them quickly or at all. In the latter case a temporarily speed boost is required to pass them. Once passed they deem the competition over and slow down immediately.
  • Leapfroggers: After I've passed them they speed up and pass me. After passing me they slow down again. I've had a leapfrogger leapfrog me 8 times over 20km.
  • Analysts: try to drive consistently faster than me. If unable to pass me immediately, they cling to my rear.
  • Overlords: want to drive faster than me, but if unable to pass me due to traffic conditions, politely keep their distance.


Also... (4.50 / 4) (#64)
by iheartzelda on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 11:01:45 AM EST

Lost Sheep: Divers without a coxswain who's speed oscillates, sometimes as much as +/- 10mph, until a suitable leader appears. The Lost Sheep then keep pace with the newly arrived leader.

[ Parent ]
I've Noticed Them, Too (none / 1) (#75)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 12:54:18 PM EST

I call 'em nektons. Why? Because a name, any name, makes discussion easier than saying them-what-slows-down-and-speeds-up-in-absence-of-a-perceived-leader...

Lost Sheep is fine appelation, too. And much more clearly descriptive.


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
Also known as: (none / 1) (#125)
by jw32767 on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 10:54:18 AM EST

People without cruise control that have small engines.

--
Krups, not only can they shell Paris from the Alsace, they make good coffee. - georgeha

These views are my own and may or may not reflect the views of my employer.
[ Parent ]
Lost Sheep (none / 1) (#111)
by lookout on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 05:03:26 AM EST

Thanks for the input. I'll add them to my list. Having Seven Categories is nice too.

[ Parent ]
Vector drivers (4.00 / 2) (#122)
by PigleT on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 09:57:11 AM EST

I too have a semi-german (spanish sensible-priced rebadged ;) automobile with fairly accurate cruise-con, and GPS for that matter too; wouldn't be without them on the motorways.

The above is all fine and well from the single point of view of speed. But in assessing some magical "best" way of getting from A to B, there's the matter of lane discipline to consider as well. Someone who hogs the middle lane doing =70 all the way despite having got past all the "slowies" is going to cause severe disruption as legally anyone else approaching must overtake on the right (here in the UK) - but there'll come a point at which this cretinous middle-lane hog will be both undertaken and overtaken simultaneously, with subsequent knock-on effects behind. In fact, the whole middle lane seems to be a create of its own, to me - full of hogs and hangers-on and twits who pull out and join a queue to overtake someone a mile away in the distance when there's a lot of traffic behind wanting to get past.

There's yet another phenomenon: what do you call it when, on a normal A (trunk) road, you've got a lorry doing 40 in a 60 limit with a queue forming behind it, the front of which is some tiny little Peugot so far up the lorry's ass that he can see the driver's lower-intenstine but nothing past the lorry, therefore all overtaking manoeuvres have to get past *two* vehicles instead of one? Amusing biological answers apart from "bloody idiotic" would be appreciated...

I find your "Leap-froggers" really are mad, myself. In the name of all that's sane, don't they realise that jerking the gas-pedal around to such extents is highly uneconomical, and causing me to think "but I only just passed you!" is a waste of my concentration that could better be spent on something else?

I find one of the best attitudes to adopt is *anticipation*, myself; looking half- to a mile ahead and behind to see what's going off. If you don't adopt that, you end up lurching from one rear-bumper to the next.
~Tim -- We stood in the moonlight and the river flowed
[ Parent ]

I'm a leapfrogger of a diifferent color... (4.00 / 2) (#126)
by func on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 11:45:57 AM EST

Spent last summer commuting back and forth on the Trans-Canada just east of the Rockies. One of my favorite tricks was to pass someone in a fast car, race with them for a bit, then let them win. I'd follow along, a couple of hundred meters back, radar on and let them scare up any speedtraps for me. Twice that summer I watched the "leader" get nailed for a 180 kph ticket. Lots of fun, but I also blew 2 engines, a turbo, one tranny and two 5th gears, a 4wd transfer case, a couple driveshafts and a set of tires that summer too. Note to self - stay away from overboosted Mitsubishi's in the future.

[ Parent ]
interesting article (3.50 / 2) (#67)
by shrubbery on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 11:27:51 AM EST

A bit on the wordy side but definately has some nice literary flair to it. Its like reading all those philosophy texts back in college.

I'm not sure how or why these patterns occur though for myself, I usually follow the fastest driver for a good reason: he'll get caught first. Its the first rule of speeding, make sure someone else is faster than you. Usually by doing this and using my Valentine One, I can drive safely at a good clip.

"Pass through solid objects" ? (none / 0) (#68)
by rujith on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 11:40:57 AM EST

Very entertaining post! But can ATAs really "pass through solid objects," as you claim in the second paragraph? - Rujith.

Fursh! (5.00 / 2) (#78)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 01:10:04 PM EST

What I mean to indicate by the highly wanky turn of phrase "passing through solid objects" is the way an ATA is not necessarily disrupted by moving through clumps of less cohesive traffic.

If I could send a fleet of red marbles rolling, head right into and strike an undifferentiated pool of multicoloured marbles, and still get only red marbles on the far side, it would seem very much like red marbles could "pass through" solid objects (like yellow and blue marbles), even though it is an illusion caused by a complex set of interactions between marbles within the clump.

I admit to stretching the analogy, to be sure. (Definitely there, perhaps elsewhere -- depending on who you ask).


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
What is solid matter anyway? (none / 0) (#86)
by rujith on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 02:12:33 PM EST

Okay, very good, I understand. "Solid" matter is anyway composed of molecules, similar to the marbles you describe. - Rujith.

[ Parent ]
Here in britain (4.20 / 5) (#69)
by whazat on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 11:57:04 AM EST

We only have one form of traffic beast, and that is Auto Staticus or as it it commonly know the traffic jam.

This has a variety of forms, including being stuck behind a Tractor or other farm machinery, stuck in road works, stuck in rush hour and the great Oroborous of all traffic jams the M25.

Stop&Go Cruise Control (none / 0) (#77)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 01:03:56 PM EST

I wish somebody would hurry up and sell us a cruise-control system that can handle stop-and-go traffic. If it worked, it would cut down enormously on the kind of minor fender-benders that can compound a simple jam into a parked nightmare.

I hear Toyota's new Prius can park itself (non-parallel). That's close. What we need is intermittant self-parking mixed with forward jaunts accelerating along a pre-designed curve to minimise inertia. Yeah, that's the ticket.


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
half-way there? (none / 0) (#121)
by PigleT on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 09:45:07 AM EST

I thought more advanced BMWs and Mercs had cruise-con with radar, so's to keep a fixed distance between them and the twerp in front, regardless of the speed they're doing?

Still doesn't help if you get someone's granny doing 45 in the fast lane of the A12 in a 1980s Ford escort, though.
~Tim -- We stood in the moonlight and the river flowed
[ Parent ]

Laser-guided cruise (none / 0) (#131)
by kindall on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 05:36:31 PM EST

Lexus and Infiniti definitely offer laser-guided cruise control. A co-worker just got an Infiniti FX45 with this feature.

[ Parent ]
Sometimes what I want... (none / 0) (#133)
by mcgrew on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 07:10:53 PM EST

is a laser guided cruise missle

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

this is one wordy fucking article.. -nt- (2.16 / 6) (#79)
by Suppafly on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 01:17:03 PM EST


---
Playstation Sucks.
Speechless (3.25 / 4) (#87)
by RevLoveJoy on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 02:20:43 PM EST

I can only borrow the words of George Carlin, who said it best, "Did you ever notice that when you're dring, anyone going slower than you is a moron and anyone driving faster than you is a crazy person?"

Yes, I am paraphrasing,
- RLJ

Every political force in the U.S. that seeks to get past the Constitution by sophistry or technicality is little more than a wannabe king. -- pyro9

Hmm.. (4.33 / 3) (#88)
by RandomAction on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 02:36:12 PM EST

parasite his driving decisions by locking in behind another car with comparable speed ambitions.
Does he have any idea how annoying that is, drives me bloody mad when some arse is driving up my arse.

By reserving a sliver of awareness for tracking the red brake lights of the "lead" car for changes in speed or direction, the author was able to comfortably enjoy his trance while a hefty burden of road awareness was outsourced to the other driver, causing the front car to function as a sort of early warning mechanism for changing conditions
OMG, not exactly a safe way to drive now is it?

Nice article btw (none / 1) (#89)
by RandomAction on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 02:40:18 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Tail-Gaters Are Accident-Baiters (3.00 / 3) (#91)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 03:00:21 PM EST

I don't tailgate. Seriously. It drives me nuts.

As for the second point: it's a helluva lot safer than my driving with my awareness entirely elsewhere (like thinking up some wordy-assed K5 article).


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
No one said... (none / 1) (#141)
by DavidTC on Mon Sep 08, 2003 at 12:15:08 PM EST

...he was tailgating. It's possible to follow someone mindlessly at a distance of 50 feet or more.

There is, however, a good reason not to do this. while you've outsourced your awareness to someone else, be aware that you've also outsourced your accident-avoidence to them, also. That sounds obvious, but think about it...if this driver, who you have no idea how responsible they are, has a traffic accident, you have a pretty damn good chance of plowing into them before you realize what's going on.

When I'm not in a hurry, I pace myself off another car up the road, but I make sure they're way up the road, like 150 feet, and I don't let them do my driving for me, just my pacing. Letting them do my driving for me lets them do my 'crashing my car' for me, too.

-David T. C.
Yes, my email address is real.
[ Parent ]

Distance between cars... (none / 0) (#146)
by partykidd on Thu Nov 11, 2004 at 05:47:22 PM EST

When I'm not in a hurry, I pace myself off another car up the road, but I make sure they're way up the road, like 150 feet...
150 feet at what speed? It's better to measure it in time.

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle


[ Parent ]

Lyric :-D n/t (none / 1) (#93)
by poopi on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 03:14:03 PM EST


-----

"It's always nice to see USA set the edgy standards. First for freedom, then for the police state." -

Thoughts from a semi Napoleanic Apparent Coxswain (4.33 / 3) (#95)
by Dr Caleb on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 03:31:48 PM EST

I too have noticed these trends in driving habits, but never related them to an organism. These organisms are not limited to the east/west TransCanada, but also follow North/South migratory routes. Highway 93a through BC, 2, 49 and 63 through Alberta, 427 in Ontairo etc.

I have a simple rule while driving long distances. I pick a speed that is safe for the conditions, and fast enough to get me where I want to be without running out of fuel during the voyage, and without the likelyhood of a ticket reducing the cost savings of my time. 19 km/h over a 5 hour drive can reduce travel time by 45 minutes, and be acceptable to some police on the open highway; too fast, but not enough to chase you down and give you a ticket for. A simple 5 second red-and-blue light serenade warning is all that's needed. But if road conditions are bad, reducing speed by 30 km/h may actually get you there a hour or two later, but you'll actually arrive instead of spending the night in a ditch waiting for rescue...

Due to my agressive nature, I usually end up as the Coxswain of my Pelagic Cholinger. I've noticed a complete state of hypnosis on the part of other Animicules. After several hours, I can speed up, slow down and change lanes and my convoy will do exactally the same thing, at the same road position. Emergency road maneuvers for no particular reason are quite effective in waking these hypnotized drivers up. You're piloting a 2 tonne vehicle at over 120km/h with 200+KW of energy behind it, not watching the damn tube! Wake The Fuck up!

I am the Napoleonic sort, again depending on road conditions. If a car has been behind me for an hour or two, then they voted me leader. Passing me is not an option. Unless I suspect a radar trap or unmarked vehicle ahead, in which case I will regain the lead after the Mounties cull the herd.

I will also give command over if it is in my best interest. In spring and summer, large bees make a mess of my vehicle and are time consuming to remove from the cars finish. There are less bees behind someone elses car, because there are more bees on the front of someone elses car.

In winter, rocks are a hazard. Being behind someone else is a bad place to get hit with rocks of varying classifications, so ethier in front or really far behind is a good spot. This also gives the advantage of telegraphing slippery conditions ahead, and warns any wildlife in the area of the impending horde stampeding through their habitat.

Happy motoring!


Vive Le Canada - For Canadians who give a shit about their country.

There is no K5 cabal.

Excellent! (3.66 / 3) (#98)
by toganet on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 03:48:44 PM EST

I wish you had written this a year ago, when I was trying to describe the traffic patterns on route 66W in Northern Virginia to my boss, who did not like the fact that I arrived for work 2 hours late every day, on purpose, and refused to do otherwise.

Due to her level of sophistication, I was unable to use any words with more than 2 syllables, so I was reduced to drawing a picture of a huge boa constrictor (might have been a python) swallowing a pig.  I explained that I had to either enter the snake's mouth before the pig, or after -- I was not willing to join the mass of cars making up the pig.  

And, since the pig entered the snake's mouth at about 5:00 am, there was no way in hell I was going to get there before it.  So, I had to wait for the pig to pass by me, give it a little head start, and then following it into the reptilian asshole that is Washington, DC.

Johnson's law: Systems resemble the organizations that create them.


Oink (3.50 / 2) (#100)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 04:00:18 PM EST

And, since the pig entered the snake's mouth at about 5:00 am, there was no way in hell I was going to get there before it.  So, I had to wait for the pig to pass by me, give it a little head start, and then following it into the reptilian asshole that is Washington, DC.

That's brilliant. And that's exactly why I telecommute.

Bless the cyber future that staves off the road pig! I'll toss it a few couriers, to appease the gods.


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
*Sniff* I miss DC [nt] (1.50 / 2) (#104)
by pugfantus on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 05:18:09 PM EST



[ Parent ]
No need for long dissertations. (3.00 / 1) (#105)
by Pig Hogger on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 06:34:22 PM EST

Just watch the movie Koyaanisqatsi.
--

Somewhere in Texas, a village is missing it's idiot

Baraka (none / 0) (#106)
by drivers on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 07:25:53 PM EST

I haven't seen Koyaanisqatsi but the trilogy is now in my netflix queue. However I have seen Baraka and there is a scene with traffic in a city along with a breathing sound that went along with the traffic flow. It was a view down a city street where all the lights turned red and green at the same time. It was a time lapse, not realtime. The street would fill and empty along with the inhale/exhale. It looked a lot like red blood cells in a capillary. Does Koya[...] have something similar then?

[ Parent ]
Speaking of Dawkins... (2.60 / 5) (#107)
by UserGoogol on Wed Sep 03, 2003 at 10:00:31 PM EST

Here's a mildly relavent quote by an author who was friends with him until he died. Douglas Adams:

"My own strategy is to find a car, or the nearest equivalent, which looks as if it knows where it's going and follow it. I rarely end up where I was intending to go, but often I end up somewhere that I needed to be." ~~ Dirk Gently

A for imagination C- for Analysis (2.00 / 2) (#109)
by CoolName on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 02:25:00 AM EST

By and large one follows a car only for a very short while before some one turns off, which more or less rules out a lot of the 'emergent behaviour' described. Clearly there are different ways of individual driving but cars emergently organizing is I think a bit of a reach. 'The Extended Phenotype' is Dawkin's best book though.

"What does your conscience say? -- 'You shall become the person you are.'" Friedrich Nietzsche


You must not have travelled long stretches (none / 1) (#148)
by partykidd on Thu Nov 11, 2004 at 06:41:03 PM EST

If you have, you'd see the travelling herd behavior.
By and large one follows a car only for a very short while before some one turns off, which more or less rules out a lot of the 'emergent behaviour' described.
By and large, yes. But he's talking about highway driving. Travelling tens of miles or even hundreds of miles together in a group.
Clearly there are different ways of individual driving but cars emergently organizing is I think a bit of a reach.
Why is it a bit of a reach? We are a herding species.

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle


[ Parent ]

What do you call someone like me (none / 1) (#115)
by Cackmobile on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 07:46:04 AM EST

I like to get out ahead and be by myself. I prefer to have no one around. Then only I am responsible for my safety and won't have some moron rear end me or something. Especially ture in oz on the narrow country roads where u drive down the middle. If i am forced to be in a group I like to be in front. I guess thats a napoleon coxswain but I ahve no probs with people passing.

an antipode (none / 1) (#116)
by livus on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 08:11:43 AM EST

I could tell from your first sentence that you were an aussie or something.

---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]
A ricer. (nt) (none / 1) (#118)
by McMasters on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 08:27:58 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Wild Axene [nt] (none / 1) (#120)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 09:35:23 AM EST


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
Nifty (none / 1) (#123)
by Julian Morrison on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 10:21:31 AM EST

...but needs
  • a glossary
  • an etymology
  • a taxonomy? An immediate candidate for toplevel "kingdom" is intentional / coincidental / unwilling. Or size: one / two / multiple vehicles. Or life-like / particle-like / obstacle-like.


Wow, I Can't Believe I Didn't Hear A Single... (2.00 / 3) (#127)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 01:26:03 PM EST

..."-1 Fiction!"

Truly, a proud day for the queue.


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
Oh goodness. . . (3.40 / 5) (#129)
by Fantastic Lad on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 03:31:24 PM EST

This essay reminds me of the times when Bill Waterson making fun of pretentious art criticism through Calvin & Hobbes.

If this isn't a joke article, then the author needs to be taken out back and thoroughly worked over. --Or sent back in time (in a cardboard box?) to a period when windy blather with lots of made-up words was in vogue. --Though, I believe some of those authors were also beaten periodically.

ALL of the crap I read of this sort which has actually been written in earnest, has one prime objective, which is NOT communication. --If real communiction was the goal, then such writers would make an effort to be clear rather than clever.

Selfish bullshit.

As to the topic itself. . .

An organism needs to be rather more complex than a few simple patterns emerging from the chaos before a soul can be imprinted. --If we were to take the example of cells grouping to form more complex life forms, we would note that each stage up tends to result in a more complex being. In the case of traffic patterns, the 'animals' the author talks about are far less impressive than the individual components.

I'd have a slightly easier time looking at corporations as being 'alive' than I do traffic patterns. But I don't think that Nike and Sony are alive or self-aware any more than are the daily activities on the New Jersey Turnpike.

If we absolutely had to look for organisms in which humans are the leggo bricks, then I think starting on a planetary scale might be a step in the right direction, with corporations and traffic patterns being more akin to the activities of nerve cells or something.

All in all, a fairly annoying article. --Or a pretty good Andy Kaufman style joke. I can't tell which.

-FL

Sponge (3.50 / 2) (#130)
by Julian Morrison on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 04:51:07 PM EST

Is a sponge (sea creature not bath accessory) more complex than the colony cells which comprise it? Not really. Complexity is not a requirement for macrolife.

Personally I'd put the "organism" label at the level which makes the decisions. Which puts beehives as a single lifeform, but leaves traffic pattens more ambiguous (may be human directed (non-organism) or semisubconscious/feedback directed (maybe-organism)).

[ Parent ]

The same could probably be argued. . . (2.00 / 2) (#136)
by Fantastic Lad on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 10:51:57 PM EST

about most plant life as well, I suppose.

Still, even a sponge's level of complexity doesn't actually diminish beneath that of the constituent building blocks which make it up!

This is what seems off to me about the whole 'Traffic is an Animal' thing. --Pretty lame animal when the component parts are enormously more perceptive and aware than the larger 'organism'.

I don't beleive life strives in reverse. Death strives to decay, to return to the womb of the universe. Interesting that the author, who strikes me as being in a state of decay himself, seeking selfishness over communication and the lower path and all, should find himself resonating with such an idea. . .

-FL

[ Parent ]

Good article... but the style is too pretentious (none / 1) (#139)
by cribeiro on Sun Sep 07, 2003 at 04:09:34 PM EST

I had some trouble following the article from start to finish. Maybe that's because I'm sweating with fever since yesterday night, but anyway...

I've read a lot of Dawkins, and also Kelly's "Out of Control". I've read also other works in this field, including some scientific papers. And I can say that any of these books is much easier to read and understand than this single article, despite the fact that some of the books are big and filled with technicalities. I'm sure that the author could do a much better job had he stopped trying to be so clever, and instead focusing on clarity and simplicity.

Now back to bed...

[ Parent ]

You're a stupid arrogant idiot (none / 1) (#140)
by tlhf on Sun Sep 07, 2003 at 04:19:32 PM EST

Being self aware is not a requirement for being an organism. Or being 'alive'. Forgot that, huh?

And just because you'd start thinking on a "planetary scale" does not mean shit. Organisms make up bigger organisms. (Okay, in the general sense one wouldn't consider a nerve cell an organism - but it does follow the rules of what we define as an organism - so for now I'll consider it one). More importantly, the author never suggests that these traffic organisms are the end game. In the same way that the existence of people doesn't invalidate the study of nerve cells, the existence of larger and seemingly more abstract organisms does not invalidate the study of traffic organisms.

You think you're great, but I'm a stupid sod, and I've seen through you.

xxx

[ Parent ]

Moo (2.66 / 3) (#132)
by mcgrew on Thu Sep 04, 2003 at 06:34:08 PM EST

Good article, had I seen the que I would have voted FP.

Although I don't consider a herd of homos (Homo Sapiens, although in this situation they are quite less than "sapien") a new life form, any more than I consider a group of cows a separate life form, I have seen the phenomenon.

I always attempt to travel alone, and it seems that the herds always try to join me. If I slow down, they slow down. If I speed up, they speed up.

Cruise control helps- after several miles of following me (or attempting to lead me), someone will inevetably pass, and they will soon be gone.

When traveling, I notice strings of traffic in the opposite direction, separated by miles and miles of empty highway. As I travel down the road, I often travel alone for tens of minutes without seeing another vehicle, and then traffic catches up, passes, and is gone. Occasionally I will catch up to a slower moving herd, and its denizens will seemingly do what they can to prevent my passing, followed by them following me for miles and miles.

Moo. People are incredibly stupid. There is little more dangerous than traveling side by side with another car- one car has a blowout, and there WILL be a collision. Even with a catastrophic eqipment malfunction it is difficult to have a one car accident, unless one is heavily intoxicated (by drink, drugs, or inferior IQ) or incredibly unlucky (as in driving a Ford SUV with Firestone tyres).

What's worse, these morons in the human herds often travel less than a car length apart. Madness!

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie

Future Speciation (4.50 / 4) (#138)
by theogeek on Sun Sep 07, 2003 at 02:39:48 PM EST

I find myself wondering about the future of traffic organisms. As envisioned by years of science fiction, automobiles may eventually drive themselves. Millions of vehicles, guided by sensors and programming, could soon convey inebriated partygoers safely home. With the absence of a human navigator the ecology of the road would drastically change.

In the film, Minority Report, self-guided vehicles smoothly interact. The Spielberg future assumes a well regulated system, each car using the same program. If this were to happen, extremely predictable collective organisms would evolve. The fauna of the road would become stable.

But what if each manufacturer developed their own programming. Toyota cars may be more cautious than Fords. Chevys may be more likely to change lanes. Each difference would add to the potential for interesting speciation. Would a certain brand of vehicle become the reigning Apparent Coxswain? Will advertising agencies instruct programmers to design vehicles to prefer "their own kind", intentionally creating brand based Cholingers in order to visually reinforcing brand loyalty? The future of traffic zoology will be radically effected by such innovations. Perhaps the researchers should become proactive and influence the decisions that have yet to be made.

Lila (none / 0) (#142)
by Zulq on Wed Sep 10, 2003 at 07:28:25 PM EST

Organelles, cells, bodies, herds: at which level we discern the animal is purely a matter of focus.

A similar concept is applied in Lila by Robert Pirsig the follow on from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance.

He comes at this from a different angle which makes it all seem perfectly tangible (more so if you read both books).

Of interest with regards to this article is his description of a city as an organism.

Z x.

i want a traffic pet! -nt- (none / 1) (#144)
by ItchyNell on Fri Sep 12, 2003 at 03:53:35 PM EST



Good article... (none / 0) (#147)
by partykidd on Thu Nov 11, 2004 at 06:36:23 PM EST

I've noticed the traffic patterns since early childhood on long 1000+ mile trips with my family. Oftentimes we'd travel in a pack for a couple of hundred miles or so. All highway travel of course. My dad was usually the driver and we'd always be in the middle of the pack. Sometimes it would be a small worm like procession with a definite leader and somewhat constant swapping going on in the middle. Sometimes it would be a more complex procession of two lanes (never seemed to be more than two lanes). Oftentimes another worm like procession would come along and intermingle with the other procession before reorganizing and then seperating. I've even witnessed the breakaway procession that gets carried for some time at a higher speed. All of this becomes quite obvious to anybody who has travelled for hundreds of miles on one stretch of highway without stopping. So obvious that sometimes others would give a small honk and a nod as one of us would get off of the highway.

I personally noticed the traffic herd phenomena again in my early 20's travelling alone at night. I used to speed on I-94 E, north of 23 Mile, up to Port Huron in Michigan. Travelling 95 miles an hour on a 70 mile per hour highway, you tend to catch up to and pass the herds. In the middle of the night I'd pass an average of three or four herds of a small group of cars, seperated by six or seven miles between the herds. 30 miles of highway and sparse post midnight traffic was all it took for me to notice the herds. I tend to consciously stay away from the herds because I believe it to be just a bit dangerous to travel 70 miles an hour in a group when one can just as easily drive alone.

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle


Traffic Zoology | 148 comments (124 topical, 24 editorial, 2 hidden)
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