Operational Research in the Gutter

Some papers concerned with finding optimal parameters are extraordinary. When asked what I do, or what I did, I talk about simple decision problems where the answer is one number. And once the problem is posed, my regular comment is "Since the answer is a number, then there ought to be some mathematics in it, shouldn't there?" And so we can start to talk about some of the mathematics of Operational Research and about the process from a problem through to implementation ... including persuading the client to use the solution.

Although I have retired as editor-in-chief of the International Abstracts in O.R., I still help with the selection of abstracts, and came across a problem of design that was new to me. In:

Magd M. Abdel-Wahab, Chong Wang, Libardo V. Vanegas-Useche, Graham A. Parker,
Experimental determination of optimum gutter brush parameters and road sweeping criteria for different types of waste, Waste Management, Volume 31, Issue 6, June 2011, Pages 1109-1120, ISSN 0956-053X, 10.1016/j.wasman.2010.12.014. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956053X1100002X)

the authors describe problems of street cleaning. What is the best design of a brush to be used for cleaning the gutter?  The wrong design, the wrong angles of bristles to the head and the wrong angle of the brush axle could all make a cleaning vehicle ineffective.

I hope that the authors spent some time observing from the cab!


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