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Social Physics in the Big City

Clare S Ryan12 December 2012

CASA’s ENFOLDing group used real data from the
London riots and contagion modelling principles to
create a riot model that could be used to identify
areas of high risk and predict the outcome of
police response.

So what the heck is “social physics” anyway? That’s probably the question that most people who rocked up to Dr Martin Zaltz Austwick’s Lunch Hour Lecture, Social Physics in the Big City, were thinking to themselves.

No offence, but physicists aren’t exactly famed for their social brilliance (as Martin is quick to point out). However, having met Martin before, I was slightly more optimistic.

It turns out that Martin (who describes himself as a social physicist FYI) has some fairly hefty academic forefathers including 19th century French philosopher Auguste Comte (sadly not related to the delicious French cheese) and his contemporary, the mathematician and sociologist Adolphe Quatelet.

These two had the idea of using maths to predict the future of society – an aim they had in common with later thinkers such as Karl Marx (big ideas, less successful when it came to undermining capitalism in the long run) and Isaac Asimov (great science fiction author, less great academic).

(more…)

Transport and the Olympic legacy: driving innovation

Katherine Aitchison17 September 2012

So. The Olympics. What a nightmare for the transport network that was right?

Oh no, sorry, that’s what I was expecting to write a couple of months ago. Back when the Olympics were a big black mark in my diary when I would be unable to get to work or the supermarket or even out of my front door due to the millions of extra people London would be hosting.

And apparently 97% of Londoners agreed with me. Only 3% of the city’s population felt that the transport network would cope with the added demand of the Games. But we were all wrong; everything ran smoothly, events started on time, no athletes were lost at Bank station never to be seen again and (perhaps most importantly) commuters were able to keep on commuting.

So what can we learn from the employment of public transport during the Games and how can this shape the network of the future? (more…)