Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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Losing Roads and Lights

I’ve clearly got traffic on the brain. This time in the form of an article from Scientific American about Braess’s Paradox. It explains, “The brainchild of mathematician Dietrich Braess of Ruhr University Bochum in Germany, the eponymous paradox unfolds as an abstraction: it states that in a network in which all the moving entities rationally seek the most efficient route, adding extra capacity can actually reduce the network’s overall efficiency. The Seoul project inverts this dynamic: closing a highway–that is, reducing network capacity–improves the system’s effectiveness.”

The article doesn’t stop there, though, it also mentions a phenomena similar to something I wrote about a few months ago, “Another kind of anarchy could actually speed travel as well–namely, a counterintuitive traffic design strategy known as shared streets. The practice encourages driver anarchy by removing traffic lights, street markings, and boundaries between the street and sidewalk. Studies conducted in northern Europe, where shared streets are common, point to improved safety and traffic flow. … The idea is that the absence of traffic regulation forces drivers to take more responsibility for their actions.”

Generally I love reading about this sort of stuff as it’s a nice intersection between design, psychology, culture and economics.

March 13, 2009