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Pedestrian Movement

You are walking along a busy pavement in Paris and another pedestrian is approaching from the opposite direction. Moving to one side is necessary to avoid the collision…but which way do you go?

According to an article in The Economist, if you are French the answer is almost certainly to the right. If you are Chinese, however, it is probably to the left. There is normally no instruction for the choice of a specific direction except if you are South Korean. In South Korea, there is a campaign to get people to walk on the right.

Mehdi Moussaid of the Max Planck Institute in Berlin and Dirk Helbing of ETH Zurich, a technology-focused university, are at the cutting edge of a youngish field – understanding and modelling how pedestrians behave. Knowing about the propensity of different nationalities to step in different directions could help make crowded events safer.

In 1995, Mr. Helbing and Peter Molnar, both physicists, analysed pedestrian movement using a computer model based on the way that particles in fluids and gases behave. The model assumed that people are attracted by some things, such as the destination they are heading for, and repelled by others, such as another pedestrian in their path. It proved its worth by predicting several self-organising effects among crowds that are visible in real life.

By | December 28th, 2011|Blog|0 Comments

United Nations Climate Change Conference


The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) took place in Durban from 28 November to 9 December. The 194-party conference agreed to start negotiations on a new accord to ensure that countries will be legally bound to carry out any pledges they make. It would take effect by 2020 at the latest.

Currently only industrial countries have legally binding emissions targets under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Those commitments expire next year, but they will be extended for at least another five years, a key demand by developing countries seeking to preserve the only existing treaty regulating carbon emissions.

The Durban conference also witnessed agreement on the structure of the Green Climate Fund, a vehicle of assistance for the developing world to adopt environment-friendly technologies and adapt to climate change. Industrialised nations must now match rhetoric with solid action to raise the $100 billion that will be needed yearly for the fund from 2020.

For the first time, the US, India and China, who make up almost half of the world’s emissions, have agreed to cut emissions as part of a legal treaty. Xie Zhenhua, China’s top climate negotiator, said that China is willing to shoulder responsibilities in line with its development and capability as long as the legal framework after 2020 will comply with the principles of “common but differentiated” responsibilities.

By | December 23rd, 2011|Blog|0 Comments

Tweet Your Lights for Christmas


Would you like to change the colour of your Christmas lights with Twitter? Then, CheerLights is what you need. This project by ioBridge Labs allows you to synchronise Christmas lights’ colours to people’s tweets. The founder Hans Scharler got the idea from projects that linked lights together with music and thought that social networking would be a perfect way to tie lights together.

The technology behind CheerLights starts with monitoring Twitter for keywords. Anyone wanting to control the lights can tweet to the @cheerlights account along with one of 10 colours – red, green, blue, cyan, white, warm white, purple, magenta, yellow and orange. Scharler gathers the tweets up and lets others get hold of the last colour using the ThingSpeak API. You can check up on the last colour here.

To connect the data relating to the last colour to the lights, it requires a combination of Arduino and ioBridge. A controller that subscribes to the “cheerlights” keyword receives the latest colour command and sets the colour on your lights. Arduino can be used to signal the lights, and ioBridge provides the web connectivity.

There is an Android app which displays the colours, a Chrome widget which shows the colour in the top left of the browser and a web widget which adds it to a webpage.

By | December 22nd, 2011|Blog|0 Comments
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