Scientists from Eindhoven University of Technology have been awarded the Ig Nobel Prize for their research into the behavior of pedestrians in crowds. The two researchers found that people keep an average of at least 75 centimeters away from each other to avoid collisions.
The Ibel Prizes are for research that first makes you laugh and then think. They are always awarded just before the actual Nobel Prizes are announced. These are real studies that must be published in a recognized scientific journal.
The research was already published at the end of 2018, but the two were awarded the prize yesterday. For their research, professor Federico Toschi and university researcher Alessandro Corbetta analyzed the movements of 5 million people in the Eindhoven train station. They observed the pedestrians with four sensors under the platforms of the station.
80 people clashed
According to the researchers, people are “constantly avoiding collisions with oncoming traffic by pre-changing their walking path if a collision is imminent”. Some 18,000 people would have crashed into each other if they hadn’t adjusted their walkways.
In the end, only 80 pedestrians ran into each other. “The other pedestrians adjusted their walkways until they were at least 140 centimeters apart and managed to avoid a collision,” Corbetta said.
Making locations safer
The investigation revealed even more. “We see that about 1 person per 1000 people turned around and left the tunnel on the same side, even if this person was alone and regardless of motivation,” says Toschi. The researchers hope that the results will make places where many pedestrians congregate safer and more efficient. This concerns, for example, museums and festivals.
Remarkably enough, Japanese researchers also won an Ig Nobel Prize, but then for an investigation into why pedestrians sometimes collide.