The never-ending migration of humans to Times Square most closely resembles in nature a swarm of insects flying towards a lighted bug zapper. Every year, over 50 million people visit this top tourist destination. Why are humans so drawn to this 11,600 sqaure foot slab of concrete—and bugs to their fate?
The theory, for insects at least, is called "phototaxis" and scientists think that bugs confuse the light with that of the sun or moon. Insects that fly at night are thought to use the moon as peripheral guide for orientation. The multitude of light sources in today's cities ultra confuses the insects and they instead fly towards the light source.
To understand why people flock to Times Square is a bit more complicated—and still mostly unknown. According to Jane Jacobs, a prosperous and safe cities need 1) a mix of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings; 2) smaller, walkable blocks 3) old and new buildings that draw high- and low-rent tenants, and 4) density to create a "critical vital mass." However, this is just a theory. As most of us are aware, human behavior can be difficult to explain.
Without this theory, it seems unbelievable that so many people could be fooled into visiting the one of the world's largest marketing traps. After some critical thought, Times Square is still looking a lot like a bug zapper.