Why is traveling so difficult and what could make it better?

Why is traveling so difficult and what could make it better?

(CNN) — I haven’t been on vacation in 10 years. Of course, part of the reason is that I’m a workaholic. The other part is that I hate flying. I despise the lines, the tight seats, the security, it all seems like a colossal waste of time.

I usually keep these feelings to myself. (Who needs to hear me complain more than I already do?)

But then I read a statistic that blew my mind. Despite all the constant information about air travel, pre-pandemic polls showed that most Americans don’t fly every year. Even fewer people fly now.

Some of them probably don’t like flying as much as I do. It got me thinking, is there a better way to travel?

I decided to explore the solutions in the latest episode of my podcast, “Boundaries of Error.”
I started by looking at the way we get on the plane. We spend so much time on it. Most airlines use what is known as block boarding, which means boarding from front to back or back to front. There is also a window, average, aisle method. Southwest Airlines, on the other hand, reportedly has the fastest boarding process of any major airline, allowing people to claim the first available seat.
However, it turns out there is a faster way. It’s called the Stephen method, named after its creator, Jason Stephen, a professor of physics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

He came up with a model of how and where we put our luggage when finding a seat.

“You want adjacent passengers to have their seats distributed throughout the plane so that when one person stops in their row, the next person behind them can stop in their row,” Steffen said. “In this case it was two rows away.”

If people are two rows apart, “both could put down their luggage at the same time without disturbing each other, and they could sit down at the same time.”

Travelers maneuver through a long line at a security checkpoint at Denver International Airport this month.

Travelers maneuver through a long line at a security checkpoint at Denver International Airport this month.

David Zalubowski/AP

Why don’t we just start using the Steffen method? This requires strict quality control. Steffen also said that airlines have so many priority boarding groups based on status that they interfere with his model.

Maybe one day the airlines will change.

And maybe airplanes aren’t your thing. Do you want to drive outdoors and enjoy the countryside?

If so, a statistical model is available here as well.

I spoke with computer scientist Randy Olson, who teamed up with science writer Tracy Stader to create the algorithmically verified “ultimate road trip across America.”

Let’s say you have 50 places you want to visit because you really want to see the United States. “There are three times 10 to 64 possible ways to arrange these 50 destinations,” Olson told me. “If you tried to get your computer to find the optimal route by trying each one, it would take about ‘9.64 times 10 to 52 years.’

That’s a lot of time—more than I can type here—and it’s not really helpful.

The key is to use randomness and route optimization, Olson told me, which means swapping two destinations and measuring the journey of the new road. “Is it shorter? If so, keep it, if not throw it away and just keep trying, trying, trying,” he said. “It only takes a few minutes on my MacBook to find the optimal driving route.”

If you really did the whole brilliant route, you could probably knock it out in a couple of weeks. But Olson recommends setting aside a month or two to see the sights.

Here’s one leg of the trip: You drive north from the Grand Canyon, up through Utah and Idaho before arriving at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. You then head back south through Colorado and New Mexico until you reach the Alamo in Texas.

Fuel costs are a factor in driving.  Here, traffic resumes on Interstate 395 in Washington, DC in June

Fuel costs are a factor in driving. Here, traffic resumes on Interstate 395 in Washington, DC in June

Kevin Deitch/Getty Images

Of course, everything is fine with driving. But what about fuel costs? Not to mention the environmental impact that plagues airplanes as well.

The answer to these questions may be, in part, … kelp. Yes, those things that grow in the ocean. Diane Kim, a senior scientist at the University of Southern California’s Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, has been studying the potential of kelp as a fuel.

Kelp is “one of the fastest-growing organisms on the planet,” Kim said. “Under ideal conditions, you’re talking about growth rates in excess of 1 foot per day. And so you can generate a ton of biomass that you have to convert into bioenergy.”

The first results of kelp experiments are promising, although the use of kelp as a major energy source will not happen for some time. And even if we could use kelp, that’s only part of the solution.

Kelp could be “about a third of our energy consumption in the United States,” Kim said. “You’d need a lot of kelp, and you’d take up a lot of ocean space, but there’s a lot of open ocean space. Compared to fossil fuels, I think it’s a much better alternative.”

If you want to find the best way to travel, you should listen to this episode. You’ll find out what happened when we called people who love to travel by bus. It turns out that they are not easy to find.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.