Curious? Ask the enigma explorer

Curious? Ask the Enigma Explorer

Picture this. You’re at a red light, several cars back. The light turns green, and the vehicles slowly begin to move forward, one at a time.

Almost an everyday occurrence, right? Not a big deal, right?



Then how come my mind repeatedly uses this to generate what seems to be a riddle for the ages:

When the light turns green, couldn’t the cars all begin to move at once? And if so, then why don’t they? And if they did, would it make things go faster?

I’ll admit I haven’t lost any sleep about this. But my reflections did cause me to wonder if other people think about this particular phenomenon or if I’m the lone Wondering Woman.

I asked my AI friends – CiGi and Mr. Bing – about it, and they assured me I am not alone in the universe concerning this and other such questions.

And in case you missed some previous Journeys, I have given the nickname CiGi to OpenAI’s chatbot, ChatGPT, and I’ve christened Microsoft’s bing.com model as Mr. Bing. I’m looking into introducing myself to Google’s Bard. Maybe I can call that one William.

Mr. Bing, whom I sometimes call Chandler (“Friends” alert), explained that human reaction time, safety distance, driver behavior and other circumstances can affect vehicle movement at traffic lights.

I also noticed in his in-depth reply that multiple discussions concerning this have occurred online, such as Quora’s thread “Why don’t cars move forward almost simultaneously when the light turns green?” So in this you-can-find-everything-on-the-internet era, it turns out that my cogitations are far from solitary. Maybe you’ve had similar ponderings. 

I don’t know about you, but I feel better knowing I’m not the only one whose mind wanders in such a fashion, but I’m also a little disappointed that so many people have wondered the same thing. Ergo, such pontifications are probably not a sign of genius.

Even so, here are some additional perplexities to contemplate:

The Singular Sock Conundrum – Research shows that modern washing machines and dryers, with their various compartments and crevices, provide hiding spots where socks can get trapped or fall out of sight. I didn’t really know this was possible – but it is. Then, of course, we also have to consider possible human error during the sorting and folding process. Or, maybe we really didn’t put both socks into the machine in the first place?

The Yawning Contagion – The exact cause of this behavior is still not fully understood, but it’s believed to be related to our capacity for empathy and social bonding. (I’ll bet you want to yawn right now, don’t you?) When we observe someone’s yawning, it’s possible that mirror neurons activate in our brain may, leading us to mimic the behavior.

Elevator Etiquette – What gives with the always-facing-the-front routine? It seems that in these compact moving compartments, facing forward allows individuals to maintain a sense of privacy and personal space, along with avoiding awkward eye contact with strangers. The unwritten rule helps establish a sense of order and comfort in a confined space.

The Earlier-the-Night, The Bigger-the-Moon Mystery – I’ve heard almost all my life that the reason the moon looks so much larger when it’s near the horizon is because at the lower level we automatically compare it to objects such as buildings or trees. I never actually believed that, and now my research shows that … scientists don’t really know how to explain the phenomenon. I feel vindicated.

Now, what else would you like the Enigma Explorer to research and report back to you? Write me at sallierose@mail.com.

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Thomas FieldsThomas “Tuffy” Fields is an author and regular contributor to The Gazette. He can …

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