The Mathematics of Traffic
The mathematicians discovered that "jamitons" (their name for the equations that describe traffic jams) are strikingly similar to the equations that are used to describe detonation waves produced by explosions.
"The equations, similar to those used to describe fluid mechanics, model traffic jams as a self-sustaining wave. Variables such as traffic speed and traffic density are used to calculate the conditions under which a jamiton will form and how fast it will spread.
Once such a jam is formed, it's almost impossible to break up -- drivers just have to wait it out, says Morris Flynn, lead author of the paper."