Video: the mathematics of where to park your car

Are you the driver in the lot who parks in the first spot you see? Or do you circle around and around looking for a spot by the door? Physicists Paul Krapivsky of Boston University and Sidney Redner of the Santa Fe Institute explored the mathematics of parking. The research required different equations and simulations to model the benefits of the various parking approaches. From EurkeAlert!:

In their paper, Krapivsky and Redner map three simple parking strategies onto an idealized, single row parking lot. Drivers who grab the first space available follow what the authors call a "meek" strategy. They "waste no time looking for a parking spot," leaving spots near the entrance unfilled. Those who gamble on finding a space right next to the entrance are "optimistic." They drive all the way to the entrance, then backtrack to the closest vacancy. "Prudent" drivers take the middle path. They drive past the first available space, betting on the availability of at least one other space further in. When they find the closest space between cars, they take it. If no spaces exist between the furthest parked car and the entrance, prudent drivers backtrack to the space a meek driver would have claimed straightaway.

So which strategy is best? As the name suggests, the prudent strategy. Overall, it costs drivers the least amount of time, followed closely by the optimistic strategy. The meek strategy was "risibly inefficient," to quote the paper, as the many spaces it left empty created a lengthy walk to the entrance.

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Diorama so detailed it includes tiny raindrops

Facebook page Modelismo BCN posted this remarkable example of a French diorama that is so lifelike it even has raindrops suspended midair. See the close-up below: Read the rest

Insanely detailed model tree made of wire

Luke Towan makes a lot of gorgeous model railroad items, but his tutorial on making tiny trees using wire, latex, glue, and paint is especially cool to watch from start to finish. Read the rest

WATCH: How to be a totally awesome 80s model

The Found Footage Festival has unearthed a 1980s-era modeling instructional video so tubular "you'll probably watch it several times over before you understand it all completely." Read the rest

Model Nykhor Paul calls out makeup artists for not being prepared to work with her skin tone

South Sudanese model Nykhor Paul is tired of professional makeup artists being unprepared to work with darker skin tones. Read the rest

Head shots of hand models (with banana for scale)

Ad executive Alex Holder teamed with photographer Oli Kellett to show the faces behind prominent hand models. Federico Hewson (above) said: Read the rest

The climate of Middle Earth

Mordor has an inhospitable climate, according to Radagast the Brown (aka climate scientist Dan Lunt) who created a climate model for Middle Earth based on geography as outlined by Tolkien and climate modeling software from our world. Read the rest

Can we ever model sociology like we model climate?

Earlier today, in a feature on the science behind gun policies, I told you about how difficult it is to get reliable answers that pinpoint exactly what helps society and what hurts it. Models — computer algorithms that help us understand how complex systems work — play a role in this, but the ones used for gun research aren't very good yet. In fact, that's true about a lot of sociology fields, write the editors of the Get Stats blog. In general, our knowledge of how society works lags far behind our knowledge of the natural world. Can that ever be fixed? Some scientists think so. Read the rest

More accurate, but less reliable

This is a fascinating problem that affects a lot of scientific modeling (in fact, I'll be talking about this in the second part of my series on gun violence research) — the more specific and accurate your predictions, the less reliable they sometimes become. Think about climate science. When you read the IPCC reports, what you see are predictions about what is likely to happen on a global basis, and those predictions come in the form of a range of possible outcomes. Results like that are reliable — i.e, they've matched up with observed changes. But they aren't super accurate — i.e., they don't tell you exactly what will happen, and they generally don't tell you much about what might happen in your city or your state. We have tools that can increase the specificity and accuracy, but those same tools also seem to reduce the reliability of the outcomes. At The Curious Wavefunction, Ashutosh Jogalekar explains the problem in more detail and talks about how it affects scientist's ability to give politicians and the public the kind of absolute, detailed, specific answers they really want. Read the rest