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Corridor currents

Corridor currents

Believe it or not, the science of corridors is a rather funky subject. Ok, if you heard that as a chat-up line at your local bar, you may seriously rethink your social status, but it’s true!

Scientists in Germany have been studying corridors for years to see how people move about in tight spaces or what they do when obstructions appear in front of them.

The team watched and recorded two groups of people walking in opposite directions through a corridor, measuring passing times, walking speeds, fluxes and lane formation – particularly if scoundrels broke ranks and got in peoples’ way.

The hours of film footage they shot made humans look rather like ants in that, when someone crossed into the oncoming lane, those behind them almost always did the same regardless of whether it was the right thing to do or not! Perhaps headless chickens would be a more appropriate analogy than ants?!

The discussion about flow and counterflow may get rather complicated, but essentially, it’s a rather interesting socio-psychological experiment.

Next time you’re walking down a corridor full of people, why not try stepping across someone and into the head-on traffic! You may get some funny (and maybe irate) looks, but then turn round and see how many people followed your lead*.

[Kretz, T., Grünebohm, A., Kaufman, M., Mazur, F., and Schreckenberg, M. (2006). Experimental study of pedestrian counterflow in a corridor. Journal of Statistical Mechanics, P10001.]

*The Null takes no responsibility for trampling injuries caused as a result of this experiment.

Photo: SimonP

Corridor Trivia:

The longest interior corridor in the world is at Munich airport, and is more than half a kilometer long.

The Infinite Corridor is the 251-meter-long hallway that runs through the main buildings of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Many pranksters have installed traffic lights and lane markings because of its length.

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13 Feb 2011
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