Friday, September 05, 2008

New ! Improved !



And it will be here soon ! I hate these kinds of stories:

Safer Skies For The Flying Public: New Air Traffic Control System Model Will Track Variables Without Human Input

They always make it seem like the solution is right around the corner. It isn’t.

”"There is currently no unified decision-making framework for air traffic flow optimization," said Dr. Caramanis. "The complicated nature of the process, and the need to make quick adjustments when changes occur, will best be addressed with a mathematical model that combines theories and calculations from probability, statistics, optimization modeling, economics and game theory." “

Whatever.

My son is a brand-new freshman at Georgia Tech this year. Applied Mathematics. I picked him up the other day and brought him home for the weekend. On the ride back, I asked him if he was studying anything I would understand. He had a one-word answer, “No.” I knew he was right -- I haven’t understood anything he’s been doing in mathematics for a long time. But, of course, I made him tell me what he was doing anyway. Something about proving theorems with vectors. I “vectored” airplanes for 25 years and I didn’t understand the first thing he was talking about. And that’s first semester math -- “bonehead” math, to him.

I’m not about to argue math with Dr. Caramanis (University of Texas) or his colleagues at MIT. But the math that counts at an airport is so simple that even I can do it -- one airplane at a time on the runway. Until that changes, the maximum capacity of any runway never goes up.

"The idea is to have an overarching optimization model that allows balance and flexibility to the decisions being made so that we can successfully exploit whatever slack in the system we can," Caramanis said. "Our model will have autonomous re-configurability which is the ability to adapt to new information on its own."

Right. Good luck with that. Let us all know how it turns out.

I don’t know how much “safer” the good doctor’s work will make the skies. It might be a little hard to measure, in that the number of errors made today are already miniscule when compared to the number of operations. But seeing as the FAA is losing air traffic controllers so quickly -- you know, the ones that helped make the system as safe as it has been -- Dr. Caramanis and his colleagues at MIT might want to speed up their calculations. And the editors at Science Daily might want to tone down the rhetoric.

Don Brown
September 5, 2008

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