OK, here’s another.
I’m not a railway buff or a model railway fiend but I have always enjoyed travelling on the railway. No that’s not the fact, it’s a bit of flannelly introduction to divert you from the true geekiness of the fact.
The fact is: the final year project I chose for my degree (Computing & IT, Surrey, 1996) was an examination of railway timetabling through modelling and simulation.
I think I’m getting the hang of these random things – they’re things that make me go: “Hang on, is that true or have I just made it up?”, the sorts of things that you have to read a couple of times to be sure you’ve got it right.
Yes, I spent large parts of my final year at University creating a software model that simulated the activity of a railway system. To show my appreciation of the importance of abstraction, I created an algebra of train system elements. The first model was the simplest possible operational railway system. It consisted of two stations, a track, a single train and a single passenger. I constructed a timetable for this system by running a simulation of its activity (the passenger getting on and off, the train running from station to station etc) and thereby constructing a starting schedule, empirically. When I spoke to the people at Railtrack about it as part of my initial research, they said, no, that wasn’t the sort of thing that they did to produce their timetables, though it was a fascinating idea, they simply introduced tweaks to timetables that had “always” existed.
I then added complexity to the model in the form of more stations, longer track (broken down into sections), signalling, more trains, more passengers. I had to deal with the difficulties of shared track, over-crowding, staff rotas etc. Running the simulation produced further timetables. The model was implemented in an object-oriented modelling & simulation package ModSim. It was probably the last time I did any serious coding.
I thought it rocked, most other people though it weird, though I still got my 2:1 Plus ça change…
Busy couple of weeks but I’ve just uploaded a bunch of recent pics starting with an excellent day I spent in Rome working for Policy Unplugged on a internal awayday for a large professional services firm. Johnnie Moore held a really stimulating open space for them and I ran around with my camera, while Roy, Cindy & Chris did the *really* hard work
Johnnie blogged about it much nearer the time. I was really glad too that we made the effort to go into the city even for an hour and enjoy good food and sunshine before experiencing the metro and a slow train to the airport on which we passed some of our time speaking to an interesting young man who called himself “Sami”
I thought I’d add a walkit.com widget to the interesting2007 wiki like the following, but it wouldn’t work (it showed up, but threw an error when I submitted it).
I’m posting it here to see if it will work any better, but wordpress.com is sometimes funny about these things too.
If it doesn’t work, Jamie should consider this a bug report :)
OK, so it’s a great idea – you should get an input box that lets you put your starting point in and then search for a route to a fixed destination (in this case the Conway Hall) but it doesn’t work for me in pbwiki or wordpress.com
I’m ashamed to admit such worldly inexeperience, but last week’s trip to Barcelona was my first to Spain and the second furthest south I’ve ever been.
So I just want to explain that I’m not used to these sorts of things. I went for a little walk at the end of the middle day of the conference and suddenly, there in front of me was a fruit tree… now I’ve seen apple trees and pear trees and damson bushes and blackberry hedgerows but I have never seen a tree with ORANGES on it.
And the thought of being able to just reach up and pick an orange off a tree, for free, without having to go into Sainsbury’s or tear a red stringy bag apart, taking your fingertips with it, took my breath away.
Next week…. LEMONS :)