Why Jerk Drivers Who Merge at the Last Minute Are Actually More Efficient

iStock
iStock

Merging on the highway can be a fraught task. Most people do it the polite way: merging over into the lane as soon as possible, forming a polite line of people waiting to get off the highway or move out of a closed lane. But there’s always that one jerk who speeds ahead of the line of slowed traffic, merging into the lane at the last second possible and cutting ahead of the entire line of cautious drivers who merged a mile back. While we may resent those drivers, according to HowStuffWorks, this aggressive style of merging is actually the most efficient way to keep traffic moving.

The last-minute system, dubbed the “zipper merge,” suggests that all drivers wait until they’re almost at the fork in the road or start of the closed lane to merge over. Instead of creating a long line of cars at a standstill in the right lane, waiting until the last second maximizes road capacity, since cars are moving in both lanes. It also makes the road safer. Don’t believe it? Watch the principle at work in the animation below.

Traffic studies prove that the zipper merge is the most efficient way to keep a road moving. Instead of one lane of traffic whizzing by while the other lane slows down considerably, both lanes slow down slightly, and overall, the slowdown is more equitable across both lanes. According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, it can reduce the length of backed up traffic by up to 40 percent.

But that assumes that every driver adopts the zipper merge. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to convince a whole society of drivers to suddenly change their behavior. Even if zipper mergers are technically correct, when the whole rest of the highway is operating under the belief that merging as soon as possible is the correct and polite way to go about dealing with a lane closure, that one guy merging at the last moment just looks like a jerk. The system only works if everyone plays by the same rules.

Some transportation departments have tried to encourage drivers to adopt the practice, putting up signs near road closures that ask people to “merge here,” nudging them to wait just a little longer before they get over.

Merging late may go against our very nature, however. Many people tend to “pre-crastinate,” according to one 2014 psychological study, trying to get a task out of the way as soon as possible even when doing so goes against our best interests. Penn State researchers found that when asked to complete the basic task of carrying buckets from one end of an alley to the other, people were willing to do more work rather than delay completing a basic task until the last second. Many participants opted to pick up a bucket closer to them, even when it meant they would have to carry the bucket farther, rather than waiting to pick up a bucket closer to their end goal.

So, it may be no surprise that the zipper merge hasn’t caught on, at least in the U.S. But at least now you can feel justified being that one last-minute merger.

[h/t HowStuffWorks]

The Isle of Sark Needs a New Dairy Farmer, But You'll Have to Bring Your Own Cows

Philipp Guelland/Getty Images
Philipp Guelland/Getty Images

If you've ever dreamed of moving to a secluded island to become a farmer, the Isle of Sark is giving you the opportunity. Sark, located in England's Channel Islands, is seeking a dairy farmer to supply milk to the island's population of 500. The only catch is that job candidates must be ready to move there with their own herd of 25 to 35 cows, Atlas Obscura reports.

Sark is a 3-mile long, mile-and-a-half wide island with green pastures, rocky cliffs, and no cars or street lamps. The only way to get there is by boat or one of the ferries that leaves from the nearby Jersey and Guernsey islands.

The last time the island had a dairy farmer was 2017. That year, farmer Christopher Nightingale shut down his business due to issues with costs and land instability. The Isle of Sark held onto feudalism long after the rest of Europe abandoned it, and though the practice technically ended in 2008, it hasn't died completely. Sometimes this works to the community's advantage, like when Nazis invaded in 1940, but it also means that farmers must lease their land for short periods rather than own it.

If you're willing to trade your right to own property for idyllic island living, Sark's dairy farmer gig maybe the perfect fit for you. The island is looking for someone, or a couple, with lots of dairy farming experience, and a herd of Jersey or Guernsey cows, which are native to the Channel Islands. You can reach out to Caragh Couldridge at info@caraghchocolates.com for information on how to apply.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Finland's New Tourism Campaign Wants to Show You Why It's the Happiest Country in the World

Visit Finland
Visit Finland

Finland has been named the happiest country on Earth for the second year in a row, according to the United Nations World Happiness Report for 2019. Recent government and health care reform issues notwithstanding, the Nordic nation has a lot to be pleased about, including a high GDP, strong school system, and long life spans.

Finns are eager to share the keys to their contentedness with the rest of the world. That’s why the country’s travel promotion organization, Visit Finland, is hosting a contest to bring international guests to Finland for a three-day tour this summer.

Dubbed “Rent a Finn,” the initiative will set guests up with a local host family in Helsinki, Lapland, Lakeland, or another part of the country. One guest will stay with Linda and Niko, a couple who live with their chihuahua, Helmi, on a Finnish island in the Baltic Sea. Another will stay with Esko, the mayor of Rovaniemi, which bills itself as “the hometown of Santa Claus.”

These “Happiness Guides” will help visitors connect to nature—one of the ways that Finns relieve stress. To apply, just film a short video introducing yourself and explaining your connection to nature and why you want to visit Finland. You can apply as an individual or as a group with friends or family. Then fill out an online application, upload your video, and submit it before the April 21 deadline.

Eight applicants (plus their friends and family) will be selected for the trip, with the cost of travel and accommodation covered. Guests who want to extend their stay are welcome to do so, but it would be at their own expense.

According to Visit Finland, there have been four times as many applicants from the U.S. than any other country. This isn’t entirely surprising, considering that the U.S. ranked 19th in the World Happiness Report—down five spots from 2017.

You don’t necessarily have to travel to Finland to improve your outlook on life, though. Here are 23 science-backed ways to feel happier without boarding a plane.

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