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One of the neatest things about mathematics is that some of its most obtuse concepts find real-world applications in the most unlikely places. What follows is but one example of more to come.

All of us have experienced the frustrations of trying to be one of the crowd boarding an airplane. The airlines want to reduce both the frustration and the time, as doing so translates into increased profits and better customer relations. Thus, the airlines have turned to matehmaticians for help.

Eitan Bachmat a mathematician at Ben-Gurion University in Israel, has found that boarding passengers with window seats first is more efficient than filling the plane from the back, which creates a lot of blocking. Southwest's style of uncontrolled boarding (i.e. cow heard model) is also efficient. Menkes van den Briel's website displays all of the boarding patterns currently being used.


Showing success with his mathematical models and simulations of boarding patterns, Bachmat has used a combination of two-dimensional space-time Lorentz geometry and random matrix theory. One weird thing is that this is the first application of Lorentz geometry outside of Einstein's relativity theory. Another weird thing is that random matrix theory has been used to study games of solitaire and numerical constructs called "increasing subsequences."