Following Buridan, an ass was at an equal distance from two piles of hay, and dies of hunger.
It was only recently that I came across “The Glitch” within a computer, where it is accepted that the two choices cannot be exactly equal. The new insight was that the closer the ass was to the mid-point, the longer it would take for it to decide which pile of hay to go for. That is the apparently frequent dilemma faced by a driver when the lights change “at the last moment”. It is unknown to driving instructors and driving examiners. The problem was known in ancient times, but only the impossible case of equidistance. Increased delay when very close to equidistance, so that the ass can take too long to decide which pile of hay is nearer, when one really is nearer, and so dies anyway, was only thought out when digital computers came. However, the existence of the problem was suppressed for decades, and is probably still not taught in any relevant college computer courses.
Ivor Catt. 18 August 2011
A common variant substitutes two identical piles of hay for both hay and water and advances that the ass, unable to choose between the two, dies of hunger alone.
No mention until me that the closer the ass is to the middle, the longer the ass will take to make the decision. That is the situation I found in a computer. A computer must accept a data transfer beginning in this clock cycle or the next, and cannot decide whether the request came in time or too late. The result is a half sized signal which is neither a false (0v) or true (5 volts), which propagates throughout the machine which does not understand a half truth, being digital. The computer crashes.
I suspect that "The Glitch" is unknown to driving instructors.
A driver sets out a certain point - perhaps 15 metres - before the lights. He will stop if the lights change before he reaches that point. The closer he is to that point, the longer it takes him to decide whether to stop. Very occasionally, he cannot decide in time.
The lights cycle through RGYR once every 100 seconds. The driver cannot decide in time if he is .001 metres from the decision point when the lights change. That is, once every 100,000 times, he cannot decide in time, and ends up half way across the crossroads, stopped.
A driver comes to (and passes) traffic lights 100 times per day, 30,000 times per year. According to these figures, he ends up stationary half way across the crossroads once every three years. If these calculations are correct, we have to jail a lot of dangerous drivers.