Emergic: Rajesh Jain's Blog

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Social Force in Elevators

October 2nd, 2003 · No Comments

Jason Kottke tells an interesting story about something we have probably replayed many times:

I stand alone in the elevator, right in the middle, equidistant from the four walls. Before the doors close, a woman enters. Unconsciously, I move over to make room for her. We stand side by side with equal amounts of space between the two of us and between each of us and the walls of the elevator. On the 12th floor, a man gets on and the woman and I slide slightly to the side and to the back, maximizing the space that each of us occupies in the elevator. At the 14th floor, another man gets on. The man in front steps to the back center and the woman and I move slightly toward the front, forming a diamond shape that again maximizes each person’s distance from the elevator walls and the people next to them.
It reminds me of cell division in an embryo or the arrangement of atoms in a molecule. Just as the cells and atoms know how to position themselves for maximum efficiency at a minimum size, humans know how to balance the need to collectively occupy an enclosed area and give each person his/her own space.

So very true!

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