22/03/2006

Punctuality explained

The Swiss Federal Railways are notorious for their punctuality (although that notoriety has gained some ambiguity lately), and we're proud of it.

You can gain a little insight into just how big that pride is by an article (not available online, but published in print) I've seen in last Sunday's NZZ am Sonntag. The article answers the question why the second hand of the famous station clocks always takes a two second break on every full minute. The article deploys mathematical set theory and theory of measurement to demonstrate that this break is actually a cunning trick to make it mathematically at all possible that a train may depart on time. For if time were to flow by continuously, as we know it does, it would be mathematically impossible (i.e. the statistical probability would equal zero) that any train could depart on time. So, that's why Swiss trains are so reliable.

1 comment:

Expat Traveler said...

Now that I think of it, this is something I always saw but never put two and two together. Very interesting theory. And I suspect I had better brush up and learn German better to understand the article. ;-)