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The "Everyone Flushes the Toilet at the Same Time" Problem

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Jan. 7th, 2010 | 02:36 pm

My dad, with his PhD in Mechanical Engineering and multi-decade work as a Civil Engineer in the Civilian Battalion at the U.S. Navy's Pt. Magu and Hueneme bases in California, dropped many tidbits over the years to me. One of my favorite ones has to do with engineering estimations of worst case throughput. If a building supports a certain number of bathrooms (like a high rise skyscraper), should the plumbing systems be able to support every toilet being flushed at the exact same moment? And what happens if it doesn't?

Anyhow, the "Toilet Flushing" Problem is my shorthand to describe any situation where someone has to manage or design against unexpected but non-zero-probability maximum throughput.

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from: arasirsul
date: Jan. 8th, 2010 12:51 am (UTC)

I know someone who participated in a test of this at a stadium-- though, with a sports stadium, I suspect it's worth testing, as the percentage of toilets flushed in a given moment probably skyrockets just a little after halftime...

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