About time computers did something useful.


Pro tip: pee before that drive across Montana.

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Nerds and their big data algorithms have made spying on Americans wherever they go a snap, so it's about time they figured out a way to make our heavily monitored travels more enjoyable. That's what big ol' nerd and self-described "data tinkerer" Randy Olson did with his big ol' nerd brain and big nerd algorithms: he plotted out the best possible road trip across America.

Well, two best possible road trips. One is the best possible version of a trip focusing on landmarks, historic sites and monuments, and the other takes you to America's top-ranked cities. What makes these the "best"? Well, in addition to hitting 50 awesome stops in each version, this algorithm solved what's called the "traveling salesman" problem—how to visit each spot in the fastest time without retracing your steps. They included (as any good Internet denizen should) a relevant XKCD comic to help explain:


I don't understand what they're saying, but I understand that it's smart! (via XKCD)

This also cuts down on the risk of road trip partners murdering each other in frustration.

The Stops, Version 1: The Monuments Men (And Women)


Recognize this map? Hint: it's the exact same one from the top of the article.

The computer program did not pick the stops, Olson's friend Tracey Staedter of Discovery News did. She created the first trip, the seeing-the-sites version, using this criteria they agreed upon:

  1. The trip must make at least one stop in all 48 states in the contiguous U.S.
  2. The trip would only make stops at National Natural Landmarks, National Historic Sites, National Parks, or National Monuments.
  3. The trip must be taken by car and never leave the U.S.
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