Physicist’s Research May Improve Traffic Flow on Internet, Highways
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By Rolando Garcia
Natural Sciences and Mathematics Communications

Relieving congestion on networks ranging from city streets to the Internet to wireless communication could be as simple as finding the right routes, according to research from a UH physicist.

Kevin Bassler, associate professor of physics, is exploring the tangled nature of complex networks and how to make the transport of goods and information more efficient. Since presenting his initial findings three years ago in an article in Nature, a prestigious science journal, Bassler has been applying his work to different types of networks.

Bassler and his group developed a way to reroute traffic on a network that avoids the spots most likely to jam thereby increasing the capacity the network.

“When goods being transported start to interact with each other traffic slows down, and the most direct routes are no longer necessarily the most optimal,” Bassler said.

Improving traffic capacity increases the efficiency of existing infrastructure.

“In principle, the Internet could support significantly more traffic,” Bassler said.

Their rerouting algorithm can work for both a network that is not geographically based – such as the Internet – to one that is, like highways, Bassler said.

They already have applied it to wireless networks and are currently applying it to city street networks. The findings could be useful to designers and engineers, Bassler said.

In addition to Nature, Bassler’s recent work on this subject has been published in Europhysics Letters, Physical Review E and Chaos.

His research also suggests growing networks have more efficient traffic flow if they have a scale-free structure like the Internet.

“This is perhaps the reason so many networks in nature are scale-free,” Bassler said.

Bassler earned a Ph.D. in physics from Carnegie Mellon University and has been at UH since 1998.
© University of Houston 2007