Archive for January, 2012

The Hidden Symmetry Behind Elevator Etiquette

January 24, 2012 6 comments

As humans, we tend to respect each others’ personal space to the extent that we take actions to optimize it. We see this every day in public bathroom stalls and urinals. For instance, if there are five stalls/urinals, and they’re numbered in order [1,2,3,4,5], the order in which they fill up is usually 1->5->3->x->x or 5->1->3->x->x. We even find humor when a person is out of touch with this natural law of optimized personal space. This image, for example, has been floating around the internet for some time now and is called ‘Bad Urinal Etiquette’:

But what about elevators? Does the Law of Optimal Personal Space (LOOPS) apply here as well? I live on the 17th floor of a high-rise building and work downtown on the 23rd floor of an office building and have observed, over a very large sample space of data, that this law does indeed hold with great symmetry. Let me break down the elevator geometry here:

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