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Astrophysicist Addresses Airline Boarding

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Boarding an aircraft could be seven times more efficient, saving airlines and passengers time and so potentially improving the income potential and quality of life for both, according to astrophysicist Jason Steffen of the Fermilab Center for Particle Astrophysics in Illinois. Challenging the current standard of loading passengers in blocks from the back of the aircraft forward, Steffen instead employed the Darwinian "Markov chain Monte Carlo algorithm" to streamline things. Translation: He picked random boarding plans, ran them through a computer and kept the best attributes of each until he arrived at an optimum combination. His solution requires slightly more concentration and cooperation (and perhaps intelligence) from the boarding public. The winning plan has occupants lining up outside of the aircraft in order from window seat to aisle and skipping every other row. A 30-row aircraft would be boarded first by the passengers holding tickets for seats 30A, 28A, and 26A. Behind them in line would be those assigned to 29A, 27A and 25A. This would go on until all the window seats were filled. Then, the same system would fill in the middle rows and then the aisles. The real advantage of the system, according to Steffen, comes from spreading out individuals instead of concentrating them, and their baggage, together.

Of course, this method would also temporarily separate the jealous husband from his flirtatious wife, part loving parents from their unruly children, and otherwise rely on the organizational skills, patience, cooperation and common sense of the flying public ... which some might argue are commodities not in generous supply. Regardless, the astrophysicist says his research indicates that even random boarding would be more efficient than the grouping method currently employed by most airlines, today ... saving them time spent on the ground and therefore potentially allowing them to make more money.

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