Post's "Extra Credits: The Power of Incentives" thumbnail

Often politicians and other big world “shakers” make obvious or crude choices. Afterwards they are shocked by the unforeseen consequences.

One of the simplest examples is the car pollution problem. We are all well aware that gasoline powered cars produce a lot of CO2 and that electric cars do not. Thus it appears straightforward to encourage the usage of electric cars. But in some countries this approach does not solve the pollution problem. Why? Because electricity used to charge electric cars is still produced by burning coal, which also produces pollutants. So the pollution problem is simply moved from the transportation sector to the electric power industry.

Mexico city took different approach to the same problem. They banned driving cars with certain plate numbers from driving on certain days of the week. E.g., if your car plate number ends in 3 or 5, then on Tuesday you would be banned to drive it. So the air pollution should decrease by 1/7th, but it did not. In fact the air pollution rose. Why? Because people saw other problem – the plate number. So they solved it by buying cheap old cars, which would have different plate number. Thus these cars served as a replacement for the “main” car on the “banned” days.

These problems could be foreseen by using computer games! Seeing how people act in virtual environments. Understanding what incentives do our regulations create.

We invite you to watch a video by Extra Credits on this topic.

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Vygintas Gontis, currently working in Boston, was invited to give a talk to a students of Boston Lithuanian School. Though slides are based on the previous talk, but the narrative is completely new and aimed at younger viewer (though once again it was given in Lithuanian).

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Probably everyone has at least once have been stuck in the traffic jam. But most probably not everyone had thought about the possible relationship between the complexity science and traffic. For quite a long time it was thought that traffic jams can be caused by noticeable events on the road – car crashes, road works and etc. But in the recent decades number of cars in the streets grew rapidly and it was noticed that sometimes traffic jams form without any obvious reasons. In this text we present a simple traffic model by Nagel and Schreckenberg, which predicts traffic jams occurring due to small errors made by drivers themselves. Continue reading “Stop-and-go waves”

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Physics of Risk is becoming more and more popular and gaining more attention from the media. This time our permanent contributor Aleksejus Kononovicius gave an interview to a journalist Marija Rudzevičiūtė from Bzn start. The original article was published in Lithuanian language, but here you can find its free form translation to English.

“Probably most of us were stuck in a traffic jam for at least once in our life. Some of us were certainly stuck in a traffic jam, though there were no car crash, no road works or no other apparent reason for the road to be jammed. Yet all cars move in a jerky motion – they suddenly accelerate, move a bit and then suddenly stop. The reason lies in a small errors made by the drivers themselves”, everyday situation in a large city is reviewed by Aleksejus Kononovicius, younger research fellow at Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astronomy, Vilnius University. He is also a current contributor to the “Physics of Risk”, a website which presents an idea that “more physics – less risk” for a broader society. Continue reading “Not that good at physics? Your business might be at risk…”

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Originally I have written this article back in the end of 2013 and submitted it to a pop-science article contest organized by three locally well-known pop-science blogs “Mokslo sriuba” (en. Science soup; online pop-science web-show), (en. technology; general science news portal) and (en. constant; very popular blog dedicated to astronomy and astrophysics). The article was rather successful and won the scientific jury prize in the contest!

Now, after the contest has ended, I can publish this article (and its English translation) on “Physics of Risk”. So… read on! Continue reading “Statistical physics – a key to understanding of the social and economic complexity”

Recently while zapping over TV channels one program on the Discovery Science channel caught my attention. So have started watching “Weird connections” episode “Law of the Urinal” out of pure general interest. Yet after finishing watching it I thought that it should prove to be very interesting in a context of Physics of Risk. Thus I would like to encourage you to watch it on the Discovery Science channel (as far as I know it is being shown again from time to time) or on the website.

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So Cafe Scientifique event has happened. Everything went rather smooth and it seems, by listening to the live comments and from the impressions on the blogosphere, that it was fun.

For the first time in history of the Cafe Scientifique organized by Student’s Scientific Association of Faculty of Physics of Vilnius University the event was recorded on the video (special thanks to the team)! Which very useful to us as we can now share for all people who are interested in the popular side of Physics of Risk. We invite everyone interested to view the video (though note that everything is presented in Lithuanian) Continue reading “Cafe Scientifique “Physics of Risk: the more physics, the less risk” video recording”