How To Optimize Summer Travel And Not Get Blown Up

The only thing more fun than traveling to a math conference is optimizing the route you'll take to get to it. Photo Jo@net via Flickr

The only thing more fun than traveling to a math conference is optimizing the route you’ll take to get there. Photo: Jo@net via Flickr

Every year I promise myself that I’ll just stay in one place for the summer, and every year that simply doesn’t happen. Today I’m posting from CIRM in Marseille, France. Next week I’m headed to Hong Kong to visit with a collaborator, and eventually will make my way back to the US for an IBL workshop in San Luis Obispo, CA, a conference to work on the LMFDB in Portland, OR, and MAA MathFest in Washington, D.C.. (I know, so many acronyms, life is tough.) All of this has gotten me thinking about the fun mathematical questions that come up in transportation and travel.

For travel by car, Laura McLay has some great posts on her blog Punk Rock Operations Research. She talks about the some statistics behind traffic jams, and why women are more likely to cause congestion (it’s not because we’re worse drivers, so wipe that smirk off your face). How to use Operations Research to optimize your search for a parking space. And in one post she answers that question we’ve all had at some point: how likely are you to actually blow yourself up pumping gas? (Not very.)

In OR By the Beach, Tallys Yunes blogs about traveling by air, discussing the apparent strategy behind the unrelenting and seemingly arbitrary gate changes at airports. Is there a better way to do this? In a similar turn, Michael Trick’s Operations Research Blog laments the annoying practice of overbooking hotels and discusses a more quantified approach to accommodating guests.

One undeniable downside of so much travel is the resulting carbon footprint. Particia Randall, who blogs for Reflections on Operations Research, writes about optimizing carbon emissions for her corporate clients. And while you are likely not bringing any sort of payload with you to your summer conferences, it is a good way to think about your own carbon footprint.

Do you have some favorite OR or transportation math blogs? Tweet them at me @extremefriday, I’d love to hear what you’ve got.

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