To be at ease in a tourist place like this one,

you can arrive super-early, to avoid queues, coaches,

children, school buses and all that crap…

But it still makes you think about queues.

Because we invented planes, boats, cars, helicopters,

rockets, people were sent to the Moon,

— because yes, people were sent to the Moon, sorry —

and for queues, it’s always the same.

There is always that supermarket cashier, just besides, going faster than yours.

So… why?

Why do we have queues? How do queues, traffic jam and traffic snarls form?

— Is there a science of queues? —

Firstly, queues organise themselves spontaneously.

Wherever there is more demand than supply

— or wherever supply is slower than demand —

queues grow automatically.

People organise themselves to form queues.

The goal of any queue has always been the same:

to make people reach a given location in an organised way.

e.g. you’re going into a bakery and there’s already 3 people waiting;

no one has to take you by the hand

to take you to the 4th spot and make you wait for your turn.

There’s a bunch of ways to do so, but the main idea is to have some kind of equity

because there’s nothing worse than waiting for 3 hours to enter some place

and simply see a newcomer pass in front of you.

It’s wrong.

It’s unfair.

However, nobody has to manage the queue for equity.

It’s expected from everyone to behave

so that the queue almost organises itself

— I’m saying “almost”, because this is not always the case, obviously.
When it comes to managing air traffic, of course,

there are people to manage the position of the planes and control the landing order,

just to be clear.

that’s a good functioning system overall,

but only under 2 conditions:

first, it should not be too crowded

and secondly, the offer must be not * too * limited.

Of course, it’s not the same feeling, queuing at a supermarket

or queuing in a highly touristic place

for which people travel tens of thousands of kilometers.

If you see what I mean.

To resume our example, when entering a bakery

if 80 people are already waiting,

it’s very likely to be completely disorganised,

to be an untold mess,

and that everybody is jostling to be at the checkout as quickly as possible,

without respecting any kind of order.

And if the supply is way too limited compared with the demand

— imagine the entrance at a concert of One Direction

for which the first 100 tickets would be free —

in this case will emerge what is known as “chaos”

people will no longer keep waiting

they’ll simply try to be the * firsts * in place.

And in cases where supplies are vital,

like for instance ration tickets, or water supplies

in times of war or famine,

violence, riots and so on can even emerge.

I’m referring you to the video on yawning
to see what can happen with gregarious behaviour

because it’s not a pretty sight.

So, logically, when one knows a lot of people are going to be there,

then a queue is planned and organised

— The easiest way is still having * one * queue for * one * counter —

It’s the case with highway toll services,

it’s the case in supermarkets,

it’s the case in a lot of other places.

Then we can optimise the waiting time.

There can be counters for credit cards only
and others for cash.

On highways, you’ll see some counters reserved for electronic tolls (ETC).

There can also be counters reserved for people with less than 10 items

and others where pregnant women, disabled persons, etc. take priority.

It’s a well-functioning system, that has proven itself:

we have the choice of the checkout and, often, this choice is crucial

– I’m not going behind this old lady, because

she’s looking for her wallet, with discount coupons

and she wants to pay the exact amount with 2-cents coins

– I’m not going behind this couple with 2 fully loaded carts.

But everybody would agree to say that, whatever queue you choose,

the others are going faster.

How the f**k is it even possible ?

To answer this question, 2 distinct things must be understood:

first, we have cognitive biases, both in memory and in reasoning,

that make us only remember

the previous times when the queues beside us actually went faster

and that makes us having a flawed way of thinking

where we believe the others are going * regularly * quicker.

So we have this prejudice from the beginning.

But there are real statistics as well:

if you’re at the 4th checkout of a store, and there are 19 other checkouts,

you can only be at one of them.

So, there are 19 in 20 chances to see a checkout that’s faster than yours.

Therefore, mechanically, some queues will be faster than yours and that’s completely normal

and, likewise, others will be slower than yours.

The second thing to consider is that there is a fundamental difference

between “your queue” and “your waiting”.

Each person in your queue, is a distinct individual waiting,

and it’s hard to consider the mutual interest of everybody versus our own personal interest.

Meaning: we’re tired of waiting.

— FYI, that’s why traffic lights have been created —

In general, all the queues in the supermarket

are advancing the same speed * globally *

but of course, locally there can be fits and starts.

Maybe someone can’t find his wallet,

or the price of an item…

things can happen * locally *

but * globally * it’s the same.

A striking example can be found in traffic jams,

where it’s easy to be behind a driver, who looks at his emails

on his phone while he’s stopped.

So, when the car in front of him gets started,
he’ll need more time to react than the others.

And the lane besides is going quicker.

In general, it’s counter-productive to think that, in a traffic jam,

some lanes are quicker than others.

For instance, you’re in the middle lane in a jam. All of a sudden you think:

“Shit, the left lane goes faster. I’m going to the left!”

It’s not instantaneous: until you’ve reached the left lane, you’re blocking it.

And thus, after you, the left lane will slow down.

So, some people on this lane will think:

“Shit, the left lane is slow”

Furthermore, once you left the middle lane

there’s a huge free spot in it. So after you, the middle lane

is going quicker.

Then people on the left lane think:

“Shit, the middle lane is faster!”

and thus: “I’m going on the middle lane!”

And it goes on again and again… It won’t stop.

That’s how you’re responsible for a traffic jam, behind you.

And that’s the fundamental problem: because it’s behind you,

you’re not conscious of it or, basically, you don’t give a damn.

Just outside my window, there’s a crossroad that can be drawn like this.

And, each morning, a lot of cars comes from this way,

they’re coming fast, because they’re coming from a highway

but this street is limited to 50km/h,

so it seems to them they’re forced to slam on the brakes,

moreover, there’s a traffic light.

Thing is, when the light is green, when it’s their turn,

they consider that * they * are the next to go.

But it’s not necessarily true, because

if the light goes red, and the other goes green,

indeed the priority’s for the other lane and thus,

there are some cars going through.
So, what do people regularly do? They enter the crossroad

even if they don’t have the room to exit it

because the light was green for them.

And it’s perfectly ironic in this case,

because a bit farther, at the next crossroad, the road is turning back to that place.

And so, it’s very easy to be totally stuck by one’s own fault.

— The guy didn’t want to wait before entering the crossroad

so he entered it, blocking the way that is blocking his own way —

I’d say ‘serves him right’, if he was alone.

But he’s never alone.

Because if he’s alone, there’s no blocking.

It’s moving freely…

if he’s alone.

Regarding intersections, there’s worse than that:

I can understand that, in case of an accident

or when the road is narrowing, on the highway for instance,

— going from 4 lanes to 2 lanes, there’s a bottleneck effect —

so it slows down. Okay. We have a traffic jam, that’s logical.

I can understand too, for people coming the other way:

they’re slowing down to have a peek,

and so it slows down, too.

But sometimes on the highway, it can slow down for no reason.
When I say “no reason”, I mean: no public works,

no accident, no snow, no ice, no whatever-you-want,

the weather is dry and sunny,

there are 3 lanes going straight all the way…

at some point, you must stop.

Totally stopped.

And, at once, you just don’t know how, you’re out of the traffic jam.

Happening, what is? Hmmmmm.

What’s happening is named the “caterpillar effect”

— when in town, it’s the “accordion effect” but it’s the same —

The situation is as follow: you’re on a highway,

and the car density is quite high,

but everybody goes at a correct speed.

There’s a first guy, for an unknown reason,

— he may have recognised someone passing by

he looked at the roof, he may have seen a bird flying by, whatever —

is going to slow down, just a little. Not stopping, just slowing down.

Because he’s breaking gently, the guy right behind him

is not reacting immediately.

So he’s going to slow down a little later.

Thus, he’s going to slow down a little harder.

And the car behind this one will slow down ever harder.

As everyone is going forward,

there’s a slowdown growing, going backwards

on the highway, at the approximate speed of 20 km/h.

And, if the traffic is dense enough

at one point all cars will stop, completely

for * no * reason at all.

Also, I didn’t even mentioned that, when people have been slowed down by a traffic jam,

very often they will hasten to make up for the lost time

— which is completely dumb —

and so the safety distance between cars is reduced

and so people will brake even harder, creating a new traffic jam behind them.

A similar phenomenon is seen in town, at traffic lights;

if you’re the 12th or 13th after the light,

you can observe that, very often,

you can only move forward when the light is red again.

When the light’s green: everybody stays still, nothing happens.

When the light’s red: you can move forward.

It’s approximately the same: when the light turns green,

the first driver will need half a second before starting,

the second one will need another half of a second,

after the first is gone.
There’s a delay growing, adding up to 20 or 30 seconds, because

ideally, everybody should

start at the very time the light turns green.

Meaning: cars would behave like train wagons.

But let’s go back to our queues of human beings, waiting.

There’s a system becoming more and more common those last years,

which is the one I call “The Maze”. You know,

with those security ropes where you need to zigzag a lot before you see the end of it…

It’s most common in touristic places,

with the ropes…

And it’s efficient… but not always.

In fact, I understand when it’s used with only one counter:

because, yes, having zigzags allows

to stock more humans in a minimum amount of space.

We can put people in a square area, without losing the order.

But, when after the zigzags there are 15 counters,

is it really efficient to have this kind of storage?

It’s of course “”yes””, if you’re an organiser.

Using it, when you only have 5 opened counters,

but the queue grows, and grows, and grows,

you can open a 6th, 7th or 8th counter;

you can open and close, or modify any counter just the way you want

without any impact on the ordering of people inside the queue:

they don’t need to move, to get out of their queue,

you don’t have to tell them “I’m sorry, but I’m closed now

so you’ll need to reorganise your queue, elsewhere”

When you see it like this, it’s really nice

because it’s minimising constraints for the people.

And it’s forcing people to go by a predefined path,

perfectly signposted, on which you can place of course

a lot of compulsive takeovers, stuff to eat or to read

that people will buy with haste.

Furthermore, when you’re inside a perfectly signposted queue,

with security ropes and everything, it’s a little tricky to get out

if by any chance you happen to think “well it’s taking time

I’d need 10 more minutes, I’m out of here!”

On the contrary, regarding your waiting time, it doesn’t change much.
It’s never quicker.

— Note for mathematicians out there: of course “”never quicker”” does not really mean “”never””

If, when you’re entering the queue, there’s only one running checkout

and all of a sudden there are 45, of course it will be quicker.

But it’s * globally * not quicker —

On the contrary, it can sometimes be slower:

because you can then be behind people that * are * slow

— and they would be slow with more queues

but you could have thought: “not behind this one, he doesn’t know what to do” —

Then you must wait.

Because the possibility to choose the queue is removed from the customer.

There’s no more strategy, no more thinking;

he’s entering at the time he does,

and going out at the time he goes out. Period.

Now, you may ask “Are queues useful?”

Excepting highway tolls and checkouts, excepting what we saw here.

Are queues of any use?

– How so?

– Can a mathematical theory, a queue-based science

help solve problems other than people waiting?

That’s the question…

– Ah!
And the answer is indubitably: “yes”

Take a computer, for instance. The job of its processor

is to sequentially work, one after another,

billions of really simple operations.

It’s doing that really, really quickly. But consecutively.

So the order of those operations must be managed precisely.

Which is even funnier in parallel computing,

where you have several processors,

each one working on a single operation, but all of them simultaneously.

So it must be guaranteed that the results

can be recombined in the proper order.

In fluid mechanics too, queuing theory is widely used

for everything concerning flow management.

– fluxes or flows?

– don’t care, it’s not today’s topic.

It’s also used in fan conventions, if you see what I mean.

– No we don’t, please

be precise, Mr “I’m taking part in a convention soon”

For instance, let’s take the Neocast convention, in Strasbourg,

which is a video makers convention,

— everything you want to know is in the description —

For some of us, it’s clear that there will be queuing.

So, now you know what you should think about

when entering those queues.

First, if you want to take a picture with your favorite video-maker,

you can easily prepare your camera while you’re waiting

and * not * once you’re arrived.

It can seem dumb, but if it’s saving 3 seconds,

it’s saving 3 seconds for everybody!

Then, you can use your own wisdom

to see if anyone takes priority over you.

As an example, if behind you there’s someone in a wheelchair

and he can’t move along because you’re blocking the way,

it’s not forbidden for you to gently step aside.

Also, when you’re done, you can decide to leave quickly

so others can join promptly.

— I am * not * saying you should rush your encounter with the video-maker!

Of course, take the time you need to chat,

ask for a picture, an autograph, or whatever, I don’t know, what you want —

but when it’s finished and you’ve said goodbye

you may hit the road ASAP

which will make it easier for you to attend either the next queue

or one of the many conferences there will be at this convention.

Of course, all that remains valid for any other convention

– but especially at Neocast.

Last but not least, when you’re waiting in a queue

to meet Antoine Daniel or LinksTheSun,

to meet me, or Axolot,

to meet The Fossoyeur de Films or whoever you want,

stay calm, chill the f**k out.

Everybody’s here to have good time, to have fun,

and neither you nor anyone in the queue love to cool their heels for hours.

Keep cool, relax,

take the time to talk with the people in front of you

or behind you, you will meet great people.

And if you’re shy, and you have no idea of

“what the hell can I say to complete strangers?”

You’re in a queue to see the same person!

Talk about that person!

It’s only common sense, don’t you think?

Thanks to everyone, since you’re more and more willing to e-penser (e-think)

Thanks to all Tipers, thanks to you I’m doing everyday what I enjoy,

This quickie is about to end, if you liked it you can

add a green thumb, drop a comment, share it with your friends,

and don’t hesitate to subscribe so you’ll be

be notified of every new video

and you can follow the news on Twitter, Facebook and Google+

— Google+! —

As I said, I’ll be at the Neocast in Strasbourg with a bunch of other video-makers,

so come and see us, everyone!

Information’s in the description, for anything you need.

I’ve also add in the description links to a bunch of things I’ve done lately

and I’m proud of: I’m proud of starring in Super-Crayon

in an episode of “Minute Papillon” and of “Unknown Movies”

also in a podcast interview with “L’Original”

with “Podcast Science”, etc.

So take a look at the description, lots of links, enjoy.

I’ve seen many of you have taken the wallpaper from last video,

so… that’s cool. Furthermore, it’s ugly!

So it’s even cooler.

Then, am I going to suggest another wallpaper?

We’ll miss again soon…

– we’ll miss again? absurd!

We’ll meet again soon for a new episode, and of course until then:

stay curious, and take some time to e-penser (e-think).

English subtitles: Cyril,
proofreading: MeliMali / Az’
Close Menu