The Conspiracy

Game Theory and Transportation: Dr. Nicole Adler

Advanced mathematics does have some real world application, even though I like to tell myself it doesn’t (how else can I justify my ineptitude in the subject?). But despite my distaste for anything harder than basic algebra, I was able to appreciate a recent lecture I attended at the University of British Columbia Hillel House. Vancouver Hillel has teamed up with the Vancouver chapter of Canadian Friends of Hebrew University to host four Hebrew U professors over the course of a few months. Last Tuesday’s speaker: Dr. Nicole Adler, who applies game theory to transportation networks.

It was a fairly short lecture, in which the audience saw what she jokingly called “three years of my life condensed in to a few slides.” Dr. Adler presented fascinating work. Some of the math related stuff went right over my head, but the gist was that game theory can help determine the most efficient transportation networks. The idea got put the test in a project funded by the European Union. Dr. Adler partnered with professors in Europe to assess the feasibility of installing high speed railroad networks all across the continent. The EU is interested in a modern, comprehensive railway system because they feel that transportation can help increase the cohesiveness of their member countries.

Could the same strategy one day be used in the Middle East? Given security concerns, Dr. Adler herself admitted that the idea was little more than a dream. But just as a thought experiment, she showed a map of what the Middle East air transportation network would look like in “conditions of peace.” Virtually no demand currently exists for flights between Israel and the rest of the Middle East. But if such demand did exist, she calculated that air travel in the region would increase by 50 percent. I guess this means we can add airline industry executives to the long list of people who would love to see Middle East conflict resolved.

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