We Don't Have to Wait for Driverless Cars to Fix Traffic

Most traffic is the result of extremely subtle changes in the flow of traffic, caused, for instance, be drivers speeding up or slowing down ever so slightly. This has a ripple effect.

How is most traffic caused?


It's not from car accidents, as one might expect. Rather, most traffic is the result of extremely subtle changes in the flow of traffic, caused, for instance, be drivers speeding up or slowing down ever so slightly. This has a ripple effect. That is why you have probably noticed traffic mysteriously tightening up or easing up for no apparent reason.

So how can this be fixed. If we take drivers out of the equation, and put computers in charge, that could do wonders to reduce traffic. But we are still a long way off from everyone owning a driverless car.

Many cars, however, do have adaptive cruise-control systems, and an MIT researcher has presented a new algorithm for utilizing these systems to alleviate so-called "traffic flow instabilities." How does it work?

Sensors would monitor the speed and distance of cars in front of and behind a moving car. If the car maintains an optimum distance between the other cars, it "won't have to slow down as precipitously if the car in front of it brakes; but it will also be less likely to pass on any unavoidable disruptions to the car behind it."

Read more here

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Keep reading Show less
Big Think Edge
  • In some fundamental ways, humans haven't changed all that much since the days when we were sitting around communal fires, telling tales.
  • Although we don't always recognize them as such, stories, symbols, and rituals still have tremendous, primal power to move us and shape our lives.
  • This is no less true in the workplace than it is in our personal lives.

Has a black hole made of sound confirmed Hawking radiation?

One of Stephen Hawking's predictions seems to have been borne out in a man-made "black hole".

Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Surprising Science
  • Stephen Hawking predicted virtual particles splitting in two from the gravitational pull of black holes.
  • Black holes, he also said, would eventually evaporate due to the absorption of negatively charged virtual particles.
  • A scientist has built a black hole analogue based on sound instead of light.
Keep reading Show less
Big Think Edge
  • The word "creative" is sometimes waved around like a badge of honor. We speak of creativity in hushed tones, as the special province of the "talented". In reality, the creative process is messy, open, and vulnerable.
  • For this reason, creativity is often at its best in a group setting like brainstorming. But in order to work, the group creative process needs to be led by someone who understands it.
  • This sense of deep trust—that no idea is too silly, that every creative impulse is worth voicing and considering—is essential to producing great work.