# Elevator waiting maths

John Cook wrote an article on where to wait for an elevator. Where do you wait so you walk the minimum distance to the elevator? Read his article for the full explanation and solution. Here’s a pictorial summary of the solution:

The problem was from a paper written by James Handley (and collaborated with others). Basically, you don’t wait at the average position among all the elevators. You wait at the elevator with the median position.

In reality, however, you still have to enter the space where the elevators are. Therefore, the best position with the minimum distance to walk is

to remain at the point of entry, and to not move at all!

That of course, assumes that the elevators had been activated to arrive at your floor. You know, you need to push the button. How do you push that button if you’re 5 metres away? With a long pole? Other people? Telekinesis?

I have a more in-depth discussion on this in the January 2011 issue of Singularity. Go download it and read it. It’s free.

Here’s something to think about. James Handley is a mathematician. What’s he doing in the faculty of medicine? Because he’s helping with epidemiology. If you’re not familiar with the word, “epidemiology” means the study of epidemics. The spread of viruses, rates of infection and the like.

This reminds me of the time when my thesis mentor (back in my university days) suggested I work in the field of epidemiology. Because my thesis dealt with computer virus behaviour. Oh my god, I just looked at my thesis again… oh dear, ordinary differential equations! *closes thesis hurriedly*