It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. Life is a highway. Take the road less traveled. Etc.
Clichés run amok when it comes to the inevitable (and, for this correspondent, inevitably agonizing) summer road trip.
Fortunately, one smart man thought, “What’s the quickest way to get through every state in the Lower 48?” And then he figured it out.
Randy Olson, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, just used algorithms to map out the most efficient U.S. road trip of all-time. More to the point, he figured out a hyper-efficient way to see the capitol buildings of all 48 contiguous states, using “multi-objective Pareto optimization” and Google Maps.
Ruling out Hawaii and Alaska, and attempting to backtrack as little as possible, Olson was still faced with quite a task. “With 48 landmarks to put in order, we would have to exhaustively evaluate 1.24 x 1061 possible routes to find the shortest one,” he notes.
But Olson’s a smart guy; he’s already mapped out interesting, optimized road trips covering entire states and most of Europe. He chose state capitol buildings this time, he says, because he wanted to find something that would fit in with a real person’s budgetary constraints. In total, Olson’s computations comprise an “optimized solution” for reaching all 48 capitals — that’s 13,310 miles via 2,256 directions, all in a total of just 8.5 days. And since it’s circuital, a driver can start at any point on the route.
Now, state capitol buildings are good for architecture buffs and state politics nerds (Editor’s note: Guilty!), but for those looking for a trip with a little more pizazz (from obscure national parks to UFO sightings), check out our summer road trip guide, which is optimized for fun.
Via Travel + Leisure