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Project Will Use MASON Modeling Tool

Disaster reporting and research are not new topics. Millions of words have been published on the impact of various manmade and natural disasters over the years. The new thing that this project brings to the table is a modeling software program that, with careful data input, will create a model that can predict what is likely to happen in the wake of a specific disaster in a specific location and with specific “agents,” or people. Using this “model,” we will represent millions of individual agents (ie, people) living and, ultimately, reacting, within an urban environment that includes constructions (ie, houses, shops, factories, schools, high-rises), road networks (ie, sidewalks, alleys, streets), transportation services (ie, transit lines), public utilities, and natural features (ie, rivers, trees, beaches). In this case, the eventual model will simulate the population and layout of New York City and surrounding area, or approximately 25 million people.

The software the team will be using is called MASON, a Java-based multi-agent simulation tool with a special emphasis on multi-agent simulations of many (up to millions) of agents. It was developed jointly by George Mason University’s Evolutionary Computation Laboratory and the GMU Center for Social Complexity. MASON employs a specific usage of the term “agent” as “a computational entity which may be scheduled to perform some action, and which can manipulate the environment.” In the current project, for example, an “agent” could be an employee working on the 20th floor of a high-rise apartment building, or a kindergarten teacher in a classroom with 20 or so 5-6 year olds, or a construction worker high atop a highway overpass.

Based on the data prepared and fed into the program, the “likely” behavior of each of these “agents,” as well as thousands more, to a WMD can be anticipated. Will the 20th-floor denizen take shelter under her desk, or will she run for the stairway? Will the kindergarten teacher leave the room to determine the cause of the noise/motion/light, or will he marshall his charges into a “safe” room in the building first? Will the construction worker “hang on” to what might seem a stable edifice, or will he descend to the ground? The options are countless and multiply commensurately according to the size and specific locations of the affected population.

Read more about MASON.

Visit the MASON website.

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