Monday, July 26, 2010

Analytics in Acadia

Living close to the Acadia national park has turned me into a local tourist guide for friends and relatives who consider any visit to Maine incomplete unless they spend a day there. By applying OR and data analysis, I've kinda figured out the right days to visit Bar Harbor in summer and escape the tourist crowd. On days having a very high bliss factor, an OR person can relax there and think about the naturally elegant analytics hidden all around.

The main scenic route (the park loop road) is a nice 'hard-coded' feasible solution to the TSP that requires us to touch all the popular spots in the park while constraining the grade in the resultant road to be within a safe level, while also reducing the amount of earth to be moved. Of course, too short a path is not very enjoyable, while too long a path will find tourists driving relatively fast to skip the repetitiveness, so the total length of the Hamiltonian circuit should ideally be within some desired bound.

As we think about path lengths, there is an equally interesting observation one can make about the beautiful Maine coastline while driving along the circuit - it certainly looks long. Now, if you look at the map of the US, the California coast seems much longer in comparison. However, if you take into account the bays and undulations and increase the level of detail, the Maine coastline is comfortably longer - the fractal coast length of Maine is more than 2000 miles long (or so i heard). The fractal dimension of the Boothbay, ME coastline was calculated to be 1.27.

Per Wikipedia, 'Maine' is the only single-syllable state-name and also the only state to share a border with a single US state (New Hampshire), which means that we require just two colors to map this region of the US. We share a border with New Brunswick, CA, whose DOT, along with Remsoft, Inc., were Edelman finalists this year. I attended their presentation at the INFORMS practice conference, and it was a really fine one, and I hope our US DOTs learn from them to ensure that the economic stimulus money is optimally spent.