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Fluid Crowds

Train people in groups to behave like water.
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Whenever you're in the middle of a slow-moving crowd pressing towards a common goal, you always find everyone filing through a single door, out of a possible six or eight, at the end of it. Likewise, wherever the path everyone must follow narrows, everyone strolls along slowly, and the crowd slows to the pace of the slowest. This is because there is little advantage to any individual who is actually at the doors to move out of line and try to open another one, or to anyone who is actually on the narrow staircase to move more quickly, and so on. It's a common-goods sort of problem in which everyone is inconvenienced because everyone behaves selfishly, if civilly.

So: As part of public school physed classes, or some such thing, train people in the art of efficient movement in a crowd. This means seeking out all possible safe exits and, especially, moving more quickly -- not less -- through bottlenecks, so that those behind can maintain a reasonable pace.

Monkfish, Nov 04 2000

queueing http://www.halfbakery.com/idea/queueing
Remarkably similar idea (especially the common-goods observation). [egnor, Nov 04 2000, last modified Oct 04 2004]

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       Well, water cuts its own channel.
reensure, Nov 06 2000
  

       Jamie's right: we should teach "schooling" in schools.
centauri, Jan 16 2001
  

       If you teach people to behave like water, you'll have many people producing water;--and that will slow down the crowd.   

       Then again, if you teach people to behave like air, they will definitely produce air, which will make the crowd less pleasant but should actually speed it up a bit.   

       Thus, teach people to behave like air.
Vance, Jan 29 2001
  

       Water produces water?
Monkfish, Jan 29 2001
  

       Right: if you drink water, you produce water. Get it?
Vance, Jan 30 2001
  

       No.
Monkfish, Jan 30 2001
  

       A little self education and alertness can overcome this problem. My high school is seriously overcrowded, and it takes a fair amount of skill to get to my next class before the bell rings. The secret is to detect ahead of time which groups of people are likely to suddenly stop (to talk to one another, perform various acrobatic stunts, to void themselves in the garbage cans, ad hoc genus omne) and move so that your progress will not be halted when they do. Also, leaving class before the bell has rung while the teacher is filing something or washing the blackboard doesn't hurt, but I guess that doesn't apply to most situations.
oooga, Feb 18 2001
  

       Hmm, We're not fish though. We are human beings with more creativity and individuality then you're average scale wearing fish.   

       Selfishness is a primal behavior, that can only be burned out of one's psyche by Religion and/or Patriotism.   

       I'll take the petty bickering and selfishness over that anyway, and it makes those stupid reality shows sort of comical.
AntHill, Jul 13 2001
  

       Baked. Scientist chaps have actually studied the flow dynamics of crowds moving through bottlenecks like doorways using computer modelling, and applied this in places like train stations, sports stadiums and suchlike. They found that by simply placing a barrier half-way across the door at a right-angle to it, people approaching the door split into two "streams", left and right, which move faster than the usual mixture of people coming in from all angles and getting in each other's way - i.e. causing turbulence. It's useful to know. If you want to get on board a train quicker, stand to one side or the other of the doorway. You can be three people away from the door and still get on quicker than the schmucks who stand directly facing it, with only one or two people in front, who end up getting get caught in the confluence. Works like a treat on the underground.
Guy Fox, Jul 13 2001
  

       Water takes the path of least resistance. Which is cool as long as there's nothing in your way. I forsee many stagnant areas resulting in longer waiting times for those on the outskirts of a crowd. On the other hand, if they're also thinking like water they may reach a high state of zen thereby becoming one with the universe while waiting to leave the rock concert. hmm.....
Ezeldorph, Mar 01 2002
  

       I think Guy Fox has it here. When I'm on the subway, I often remark to myself how people function as a liquid: when there's an obstacle, a flow will move around it; the dynamics of heavy traffic up and down the same staircase; the give and take, ebb and flow of streams of people, etc. etc. I'd have to say - - de facto baked.
snarfyguy, Mar 01 2002
  

       Not baked really... I think he is really refering to the practice of teaching this in school? Which is a good idea - I did a Theatre degree, and we were forced to do dance (which I originally resented.) However, something very similar to the suggestion was taught in physical group dynamics, how to convey ideas and images through a physical group. The physical, non-poncy side of dance should be taught in schools - its trust building, relaxing, mind opening, strengthening and intelligent lesson. Croissant for the suggestion of improved dynamics - might prevent some of the team leader/business types from ever becoming fully fledged doofus'.
Danzarak, Mar 01 2002
  
      
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