Conferences and Laptops

I just attended NetSci 2006 , which was an interesting conference with physicists and social networks people claiming the title “Network Science” (I believe I was the sole representative of physical networks: transportation, electricity, telecommunications, etc.).
What was most remarkable about the conference was the especially large number of audience members who used laptops while someone was speaking, especially if the speaker was not a “name” or an especially experienced. Why bother showing up if you are going to pay more attention to your computer screen than the speaker?
One can understand the next speaker reviewing their powerpoint perhaps, but I think for something like this more communications channels (free wireless) is less, diminishing the effectiveness of the conference by having less common ground among the audience to discuss common issues (i.e. the presentations in the last session).
— dml

NetSci 2006

I will be at NetSci 2006 in Bloomington, Indiana over the next few days. This should be an interesting interdisciplinary conference. I will be presenting The Evolution of Transportation Networks written with my former student Lei Zhang.

Fast bus, slow train?

From today’s Strib … “Proposed light rail slower than express bus”.
Of course the comparison should not be with the express bus (with no local stops), nor should it be with today’s locals, which stop every block, but with a similarly designed local bus with just as many local stops (and just as good a signal prioritization).

DC Commuter Tax

The Washington Post notes Supreme Court Declines D.C. Commuter Tax Case. I am sure the court is right that the framers gave Congess full authority over the district. It is just too bad DC cannot exploit its monopoly power as national capital to tax those who live outside the district to pay for District services. This notion of “taxing foreigners living abroad” is a politically elegant way of off-loading costs in the toll-road context.
— dml

Traffic control for molecules

An interesting article at ZDNet: A traffic control system for molecules. I don’t know if there are practical applications for transportation any time soon, but neat nonetheless.
(link courtesy Slashdot).
– dml

Having fun with roadside alert signs

For your amusement: Boing Boing: Having fun with roadside alert signs

Network Neutrality and Quality of Service

There has been a lot of discussion about “network neutrality” as being a core property of internet service. This discussion includes a number of inter-related concepts, which not every advocate agrees to. In particular, the wikipedia article on the subject identifies:
“* Non-discrimination means that all traffic over the network (typically or exclusively digital packets or bits) is treated the same by the network, including the traffic originating with the network operator. This principle of ‘bit parity’ means that all bits are treated as ‘just bits’, and no bit traffic is prioritized over other bits, and none is hampered or disabled.
* Interconnection means that network operators have both a duty of interconnection and a right of interconnection to any other network operator. Networks must be constructed so that there are a reasonable number of accessible interconnect points; that traffic is carried to and from rival networks at reasonable rates; and that the network is built with sufficient excess capacity to accomodate the reasonably foreseeable traffic that may be presented at the head-ends or peering points. Without a right of interconnection, there is no network.
* Access means that any end user can connect to any other end-user. End users may be people, but the term could also mean devices (modems, routers, switches) or even other networks. Access means that a piece of content, say, an email message, has a right to enter the network, and if properly addressed, be received by the other end user, even if said user is on another network. In other words, traffic can begin at any point on the network and be delivered to any other point.”

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What would someone less simplistic say

I wrote to my friends that Andrew Sullivan is right about conservative govt. being dead, but being quite simplistic about gas taxes (and sounds just like Thomas Friedman).
To which my friend Phil Goetz asked “What would someone less simplistic say?”

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Randall Crane on Accessibility

Randall Crane’s Urban Planning Research discusses accessibility vs. mobility. He seems to be searching for a definition.
Accessibility is nicely defined as the ease of reaching particular destinations. That can be operationalized (and easily communicated) as how much stuff you can get to in a particular amount of time (e.g. number of jobs within 20 minutes). Our book from the conference is now out. The first of many reports on methods for measuring accessibility will be out soon.
Randall rightly notes that the importance of different things varies for different people. Accessibility measured as above is clearly a supply (or opportunities) measure, and makes no account of demand. No one measure encapsulates the entire economy.
Choices have costs. Increasing acccessibility is not free. Enabling someone to access 101 grocery stores in 30 minutes travel by auto instead of 100 will likely not be noticed unless that grocery is somehow distinct, and valuable, to an individual consumer.
— dml