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The Science of Traffic and How it Could End

The Science of Traffic and How it Could End

Sitting in traffic is an unavoidable part of life. Even if you live out in the country, commute during odd hours in the day, or opt to take the bus, you’re still bound to find yourself stuck in commuter traffic sooner or later. Some estimates report the modern driver will spend up to three months of their lives sitting in traffic. That means you likely have plenty of time to sit and think about traffic.

A common thought during these times of boredom and frustration is: if only everyone drove just like me, then we wouldn’t have these issues. While that’s not exactly the truth, it’s not exactly far off either. Dr. Eddie Wilson of Bristol University cracked the code after becoming increasingly fascinated with the traffic jams he was subjected to on his daily drive home from work. Wilson’s research found that indeed if we all drove at a uniform pace, the common traffic jam would simply not exist.

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In part, it’s the speed demons weaving out in and out of traffic that are to blame. But they share the blame equally with the timid drivers that are too quick to tap the brakes at the slightest of surprises. Some research suggests that one vehicle’s sudden braking on a moderately populated highway can send waves of slow traffic as far back as twenty miles. So now we know the secret to traffic-free highways, and yet it seems like heavy congestion on roadways is here to stay. There’s just no realistic way to ensure every motorist will keep the same constant speed.

One of Dr. Wilson’s experiments involved 15 cars driving around in one connected circle with the instructions of keeping a pace of 15 MPH. He found that even in this controlled environment some drivers would inevitably go a mile or two over the “limit”, and then compensate by hitting the brakes. After just a few minutes, one side of the circle had cars coming to a complete stop while they waited for the vehicles ahead to catch up. To see it in action, it almost defies logic. It’s human nature, and human nature doesn’t always make sense.

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So what can you do to reduce the risk of traffic jamming? Don’t hit the brakes prematurely, and try to keep yourself moving at a standard pace. The easiest way to do this is by staying in the right lane until you’re ready to pass people on the left. Once you’ve passed, simply pull right back into the right lane until the time comes for you to pass again. Unfortunately, that’s the best you can do as an individual. Otherwise we have to rely on the tactics of other drivers to keep things moving, which to many feels like a long shot.

And yet, life without congested roadways may be possible someday. If self-driving vehicles become the standard, freeways that look like parking lots could quickly become a relic of the past. Many researchers agree that if every car were self-driving, even stop lights would become unnecessary. Instead, slight variations in speed could allow every car on the roadway to sail through intersections at the same time, whizzing right by each other without ever touching.

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Beyond relieving the annoyance and tediousness of rush hour commutes and construction back-ups, a world without traffic congestion would drastically reduce emissions. In addition, it would also reduce individual fuel consumption. Without any significant difference between ‘highway miles’ and ‘city miles’ vehicle lifetimes would likely see radical improvements. Traffic-free cities would also allow firetrucks, ambulances, and other emergency vehicles to ride easy without ever facing the risk of an unclearable congested road.

While the implementation of a regulated speed for every driver is impractical and unfeasible, the resulting un-jammed roads are likely coming regardless. Most experts and futurists agree self-driving cars are the wave of the future, and in my state of Illinois, so-called “Smart Highways” (which communicate traffic information to smart phones and vehicles) are already being implemented. So to many, it’s not a question of if we’ll see the end of traffic, it’s just a question of when.

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Featured photo credit: pixaoppa via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on June 21, 2018

Science Says Screaming Is Good For You

Science Says Screaming Is Good For You

There are many reasons why people might scream – they’re angry, scared, or in pain (or maybe they’re in a metal band!). Some might say that screaming is bad, but here’s why science says it’s good for you.

“For the first time in the history of psychology there is a way to access feelings, hidden away, in a safe way and thus to reduce human suffering. It is, in essence, the first science of psychotherapy.” — Dr. Arthur Janov

Primal Therapy

Dr. Arthur Janov invented Primal Therapy in the late 1960’s. It is a practice that allows the patient to face their repressed emotions from past trauma head on and let those emotions go. This treatment is intended to cure any mental illness the patient may have that surfaced from this past trauma. In most cases, Primal Therapy has lead Dr. Janov’s patients to scream towards the end of their session, though it was not part of the original procedure. During a group therapy session that was at a standstill, Dr. Janov says that one of his patients, a student he called Danny, told a story that inspired him to implement a technique that he never would have thought of on his own.

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How it Started

“During a lull in our group therapy session, he told us a story about a man named Ortiz who was currently doing an act on the London stage in which he paraded around in diapers drinking bottles of milk. Throughout his number, Ortiz is shouting, ‘Mommy! Daddy! Mommy! Daddy!’ at the top of his lungs. At the end of his act he vomits. Plastic bags are passed out, and the audience is requested to follow suit.”

It doesn’t end there, though. Dr. Janov said that his patient was quite fascinated with that story, and that alone moved him to suggest something even he believed to be a little elementary.

“I asked him to call out, ‘Mommy! Daddy!’ Danny refused, saying that he couldn’t see the sense in such a childish act, and frankly, neither could I. But I persisted, and finally, he gave in. As he began, he became noticeably upset. Suddenly he was writhing on the floor in agony. His breathing was rapid, spasmodic. ‘Mommy! Daddy!’ came out of his mouth almost involuntarily in loud screeches. He appeared to be in a coma or hypnotic state. The writhing gave way to small convulsions, and finally, he released a piercing, deathlike scream that rattled the walls of my office. The entire episode lasted only a few minutes, and neither Danny nor I had any idea what had happened. All he could say afterward was: ‘I made it! I don’t know what, but I can feel.’”

Delving deeper

Dr. Janov says he was baffled for months, but then he decided to experiment with another patient with the same method, which lead to a similar result as before. The patient started out calling “Mommy! Daddy!” then experienced convulsions, heavy breathing, and then eventually screamed. After the session, Dr. Janov says his patient was transformed and became “virtually another human being. He became alert… he seemed to understand himself.”

Although the initial intention of this particular practice wasn’t to get the patient to scream, more than once did his Primal Therapy sessions end with the patient screaming and feeling lighter, revived, and relieved of stresses that were holding them down in life.

Some Methods To Practice Screaming

If you want to try it out for yourself, keep reading!

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  • Step 1: Be Alone — Be alone. If you live in a place that you can’t be alone, it might be a good idea to talk to your family or roommates and explain to them what you’re about to do and make sure they’re okay with it. If you’re good to go, move on to step 2.
  • Step 2: Lie Down — Lie down on a yoga mat on your back and place a pillow underneath your head. If you don’t own a yoga mat, you can use a rug or even a soft blanket.
  • Step 3: Think — Think of things that have hurt you or made you angry. It can be anything from your childhood or even something that happened recently to make yourself cry, if you’re not already crying or upset. You could even scream “Mommy! Daddy!” just like Dr. Janov’s patients did to get yourself started.
  • Step 4: Scream — Don’t hold anything back; cry and scream as loud as you can. You can also pound your fists on the ground, or just lie there and scream at the top of your lungs.

After this, you should return your breathing to a normal and steady pace. You should feel lighter, like a weight has been lifted off of you. If not, you can also try these other methods.

Scream Sing

Scream singing” is referring to what a lot of lead singers in metal or screamo bands will do. I’ve tried it and although I wasn’t very good at it, it was fun and definitely relieved me of any stress I was feeling from before. It usually ends up sounding like a really loud grunt, but nonetheless, it’s considered screaming.

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  • Step 1 — Bear down and make a grunting sound.
  • Step 2 — Hiss like a snake and make sure to do this from your diaphragm (your stomach) for as long as you can.
  • Step 3 — Breathe and push your stomach out for more air when you are belting notes, kind of like you would if you were singing.
  • Step 4 — Try different ways to let out air to control how long the note will last, just make sure not to let out too much air.
  • Step 5 — Distort your voice by pushing air out from your throat, just be careful not to strain yourself.
  • Step 6 — Play around with the pitch of your screams and how wide your mouth is open – the wider your mouth is open, the higher the screams will sound. The narrower or rounder your mouth is (and most likely shaped like an “o”), the lower the screams will sound.
  • Step 7 — Start screaming to metal music. If you’re not a huge metal fan, it’s okay. You don’t have to use this method if you don’t want to.

If you want a more thorough walkthrough of how to scream sing, here’s a good video tutorial. If this method is too strenuous on your vocal chords, stop. Also, make sure to stay hydrated when scream singing and drink lots of water.

Scream into a pillow

Grab a pillow and scream into it. This method is probably the fastest and easiest way to practice screaming. Just make sure to come up for air.

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Always remember to make sure that you’re not going to disturb anyone while practicing any of these methods of screaming. And with that, happy screaming!

Featured photo credit: Sharon Mollerus via flickr.com

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