Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

The Science Behind Why UPS Trucks Avoid Making Left Turns

UPS avoids left-hand turns because SCIENCE, also increased risk of accidents and delays.

(MICHAEL GIL)

The United Parcel Service, UPS, is a massive operation, delivering an average of 18.3 million packages every day. They also have a tremendous amount of computing power at their disposal, with seven mainframes chugging away at data centers in Mahwah, NY and Atlanta, GA. That's on top of their 231,588 laptops and workstations, and 130,452 DIADs, those handheld devices drivers carry.

Very little of UPS's methodology escapes analysis by all this computing power. And one thing those computers have taught UPS is: Don't turn left across traffic unless you really have to.

Mathematician George Dantzig introduced the vehicle routing problem in 1959. It's a way of using data analysis to find the optimal way to get from one point to another. Many businesses, er, traffic in it. It helps make them more efficient, whether they're delivering packages like UPS or rounding up chickens on a farm. Obviously, it's one kind of problem with a few vehicles (or chickens), and another one altogether for a company like UPS, with 104,926 cars, vans, tractors, and motorcycles making multiple stops.

En route (DAVID GUO)

According to IFLS, UPS began with the assumption that the most direct route was the best route. But when they factored-in accident risks, travel time, and fuel use, it became clear that left-hand turns across traffic were a problem: They come with a higher risk of accident, and waiting for a break in oncoming traffic wastes time and idling fuel.

By keeping left-hand turns to a minimum, UPS says it's saved 10 million gallons of fuel, avoided the emission of 20,000 tons of CO2, and delivered 350,000 more packages a year. UPS senior vice president Bob Stoffel told Fortune, “We'll never have a person turn left to deliver on that side. We'll have someone go down the right-hand side and someone coming back down the right-hand side to avoid those left-hand turns. And that's where you get stuck in traffic trying to come back across."

(GRENDELKHAN)

The company will still authorize a left about 10% of the time if it's the most efficient way to go., maybe in a residential area with light traffic or if a right turn takes the driver too far out of the way.

UPS isn't the only proponent of avoiding left-hand turns. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 53.1 % of traffic-crossing accidents occur with left-hand turns, compared to only 5.7% involving right turns. New York city transportation scientists have found that vehicle vs. pedestrian deaths are three times as likely with a left-hand turn.

Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic, wrote a piece in Slate in which he explained why traffic engineers hate lefts:

Left turns are the bane of traffic engineers. Their idea of utopia runs clockwise. The left-turning vehicle presents not only the aforementioned safety hazard, but a coagulation in the smooth flow of traffic. It's either a car stopped in an active traffic lane, waiting to turn; or, even worse, it's cars in a dedicated left-turn lane that, when traffic is heavy enough, requires its own "dedicated signal phase," lengthening the delay for through traffic as well as cross traffic. And when traffic volumes really increase, as in the junction of two suburban arterials, multiple left-turn lanes are required, costing even more in space and money.

So does this mean you should avoid making left-hand turns when you can? It may not matter in a residential area or out in the country, but if you're in a congested area, the answer is clearly yes. Unless you have a death wish and lots of time.

Hulu's original movie "Palm Springs" is the comedy we needed this summer

Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti get stuck in an infinite wedding time loop.

Gear
  • Two wedding guests discover they're trapped in an infinite time loop, waking up in Palm Springs over and over and over.
  • As the reality of their situation sets in, Nyles and Sarah decide to enjoy the repetitive awakenings.
  • The film is perfectly timed for a world sheltering at home during a pandemic.
Keep reading Show less

Two MIT students just solved Richard Feynman’s famed physics puzzle

Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.

Surprising Science

Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.

Keep reading Show less

Our ‘little brain’ turns out to be pretty big

The multifaceted cerebellum is large — it's just tightly folded.

Image source: Sereno, et al
Mind & Brain
  • A powerful MRI combined with modeling software results in a totally new view of the human cerebellum.
  • The so-called 'little brain' is nearly 80% the size of the cerebral cortex when it's unfolded.
  • This part of the brain is associated with a lot of things, and a new virtual map is suitably chaotic and complex.

Just under our brain's cortex and close to our brain stem sits the cerebellum, also known as the "little brain." It's an organ many animals have, and we're still learning what it does in humans. It's long been thought to be involved in sensory input and motor control, but recent studies suggests it also plays a role in a lot of other things, including emotion, thought, and pain. After all, about half of the brain's neurons reside there. But it's so small. Except it's not, according to a new study from San Diego State University (SDSU) published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

A neural crêpe

A new imaging study led by psychology professor and cognitive neuroscientist Martin Sereno of the SDSU MRI Imaging Center reveals that the cerebellum is actually an intricately folded organ that has a surface area equal in size to 78 percent of the cerebral cortex. Sereno, a pioneer in MRI brain imaging, collaborated with other experts from the U.K., Canada, and the Netherlands.

So what does it look like? Unfolded, the cerebellum is reminiscent of a crêpe, according to Sereno, about four inches wide and three feet long.

The team didn't physically unfold a cerebellum in their research. Instead, they worked with brain scans from a 9.4 Tesla MRI machine, and virtually unfolded and mapped the organ. Custom software was developed for the project, based on the open-source FreeSurfer app developed by Sereno and others. Their model allowed the scientists to unpack the virtual cerebellum down to each individual fold, or "folia."

Study's cross-sections of a folded cerebellum

Image source: Sereno, et al.

A complicated map

Sereno tells SDSU NewsCenter that "Until now we only had crude models of what it looked like. We now have a complete map or surface representation of the cerebellum, much like cities, counties, and states."

That map is a bit surprising, too, in that regions associated with different functions are scattered across the organ in peculiar ways, unlike the cortex where it's all pretty orderly. "You get a little chunk of the lip, next to a chunk of the shoulder or face, like jumbled puzzle pieces," says Sereno. This may have to do with the fact that when the cerebellum is folded, its elements line up differently than they do when the organ is unfolded.

It seems the folded structure of the cerebellum is a configuration that facilitates access to information coming from places all over the body. Sereno says, "Now that we have the first high resolution base map of the human cerebellum, there are many possibilities for researchers to start filling in what is certain to be a complex quilt of inputs, from many different parts of the cerebral cortex in more detail than ever before."

This makes sense if the cerebellum is involved in highly complex, advanced cognitive functions, such as handling language or performing abstract reasoning as scientists suspect. "When you think of the cognition required to write a scientific paper or explain a concept," says Sereno, "you have to pull in information from many different sources. And that's just how the cerebellum is set up."

Bigger and bigger

The study also suggests that the large size of their virtual human cerebellum is likely to be related to the sheer number of tasks with which the organ is involved in the complex human brain. The macaque cerebellum that the team analyzed, for example, amounts to just 30 percent the size of the animal's cortex.

"The fact that [the cerebellum] has such a large surface area speaks to the evolution of distinctively human behaviors and cognition," says Sereno. "It has expanded so much that the folding patterns are very complex."

As the study says, "Rather than coordinating sensory signals to execute expert physical movements, parts of the cerebellum may have been extended in humans to help coordinate fictive 'conceptual movements,' such as rapidly mentally rearranging a movement plan — or, in the fullness of time, perhaps even a mathematical equation."

Sereno concludes, "The 'little brain' is quite the jack of all trades. Mapping the cerebellum will be an interesting new frontier for the next decade."

Economists show how welfare programs can turn a "profit"

What happens if we consider welfare programs as investments?

A homeless man faces Wall Street

Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A recently published study suggests that some welfare programs more than pay for themselves.
  • It is one of the first major reviews of welfare programs to measure so many by a single metric.
  • The findings will likely inform future welfare reform and encourage debate on how to grade success.
Keep reading Show less
Videos

Unhappy at work? How to find meaning and maintain your mental health

Finding a balance between job satisfaction, money, and lifestyle is not easy.

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast