Friday, January 14, 2011

Braess Paradox Revisited, the American Mathematical Society, and INFORMS

I was delighted to read this month's Feature Column of the American Mathematical Society (AMS) written by Professor John Malkevitch of York College of the City University of New York. The teaser to the article: How does a free market approach work when applied to road networks? The article discusses both the Prisoner's Dilemma and the Braess Paradoxis that illustrate that there are situations where, if individuals are left to make their own decisions, the result might be that as a group or as individuals they are worse off.

The article cites
the translation of the famous Braess (1968) paradox article from German to English that I did with Braess and my former doctoral student, Tina Wakolbinger (see the bottom photo above), and that was published in 2005 in the journal, Transportation Science.

We hosted Professor Dietrich Braess in April 2006 at the Isenberg School and he spoke on how he came to devise the paradox, now named after him. He delighted us with his presentation (amazingly we were the first in North America to ever invite him to speak on this topic) and he stayed with us for several days.

When I look at the photo above with many of the audience members following his talk it pleases me how many are now professors around the world -- from Dr. Dmytro Matsypura who is now at the University of Sydney (tenured) to Dr. Tina Wakolbinger who will soon be assuming her professorship at the Vienna University of Economics and Business to Dr. Christian Wernz who is a professor at Virginia Tech, to Dr. Shenghan Xu, who is a professor at the University of Idaho, to Dr. Zugang Liu, who is a professor at Penn State Hazleton, and Dr. Patrick Qiang, who is a professor at Penn State Malvern, plus Dr. Trisha Woolley, who is a professor at Texas Wesleyan University and Dr. Deanna Kennedy who is at the University of Washington Bothell.

That year I was a Science Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and somehow still managed to help our students of the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter organize and host an incredible lineup of speakers in the Spring of 2006 and the Fall of 2005.

The visit of Professor Dietrich Braess was one of the highlights and you can find more information about his visit here, with links to the translation and even the preface that I wrote with Professor David E. Boyce.

I thank Professor Malkevitch for writing the Feature Column that brought back so many delightful memories!

As for my most recent research on the Braess paradox (something I was even fascinated by in my doctoral dissertation at Brown University), see my article in Europhysics Letters on the wisdom of crowds.