Friday Funny: Rats Prefer Manhattan

Rats choose Manhattan because if its logical street grid, according to new research by a team of zoologists and geographers at Tel Aviv University, who are using rats to test wayfinding in cities.
January 16, 2009, 2pm PST | Tim Halbur
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"'We've found that routes taken by rats and other members of the animal kingdom tend to converge at attractive landmarks, the same way people are attracted, for example, to the Arc de Triumph in Paris,' says Prof. David Eilam from TAU's Department of Zoology. 'Our research takes the art used by humans to create their towns and cities and turns it back to the animal world for testing. We can look at how rats will react to a city's geography to come up with an optimal urban plan.'

By building mini-models of city layouts at the Tel Aviv University Research Zoo, Prof. Eilam and his colleagues found that grid-like city layouts ? like that of Manhattan ? are much more rat- and people-friendly than cities with unstructured and winding streets, like those in New Orleans.

'We've built an environment to test city plans, so that 'soul-less' and ineffective new neighborhoods won't be built," Prof. Eilam says. "Using our model of rat behavior, it takes just a few minutes for city planners to test whether a new plan will work. It's a way to avoid disasters and massive expense.' He expects that the choices the rats make will eventually be optimized and plugged into a computer tool."

Thanks to Heather Fenyk

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Published on Tuesday, January 13, 2009 in Science Daily
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