Posts tagged ‘plane’

Why Some Restaurants Provide Wet Towels at Meals

By Chad Upton | Editor

If you’ve ever flown first class or eaten at a first class restaurant, you’ve probably been handed a wet towel. The first time this happens, you’ll probably be confused and look to others for guidance on what to do with it.

Generally, it is used to clean your hands. This tradition comes from Japan, where “oshibori” (wet towels) are handed out before meals, to clean hands. In Japanese restaurants, they may be hot or cold, depending on the season. Some people may also use the towels to clean their face.

This tradition has been expanded outside of Japanese restaurants where the practice varies greatly. In Western restaurants, wet towels may be served beforeand/or after the meal — to clean your fingers and around your mouth. According to Etiquette Scholar, it is not polite to clean beyond these areas, such as your neck or behind your ears, in a restaurant.

Many airlines offer wet towels, particularly in first class. They are sometimes offered immediately after takeoff, which is standard in first class on British Airways, among others. These towels are usually hot, but may be cold if you’ve just boarded from a particularly hot environment or if the cabin air conditioning is out-of-order. At this time, they are useful to clean your hands before eating or to clean the travel sweat off your skin (forehead, back of your neck, etc.). On longer flights, wet towels may also be served after a meal or just prior to landing.

Wet towels are traditionally made from cotton and moistened with water. Lemon juice is sometimes added to the water for its fragrance and degreasing properties. In recent years, pre-moistened disposable towels have gained popularity and are often wrapped in a plastic package. These towels come unscented and in a variety of fragrances. They sometimes contain other cleaning solutions such as alcohol.

The next time you’re given a wet towel, you can tell everyone what it’s for and where this tradition came from.

If you’re interested in a particularly long, fairly humorous and sometimes snobby discussion about wet towels, you’ll love this thread on FlyerTalk.com.

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Photo: Christopher Doyle (cc attribution)

Sources: FlyerTalk.com, PlanetTokyo, Wikipedia, Airline Towels, Etiquette Scholar

April 15, 2011 at 2:00 am 2 comments

Why Airplane Shades Must Be Up for Takeoff and Landing

By Chad Upton | Editor

You may not have heard of this, but it’s law in some countries and it’s growing in popularity around the world. The reason is similar to why the airlines dim the interior lights during takeoffs and landings at night.

In short, it’s for safety in the event of an accident. With the window shades up, passengers and crew can spot dangers outside the planes before they open an emergency exit. Dangers like fire, water and running airplane engines can be hazardous if someone opens an emergency exit right into them.

During bright daylight, it also allows your eyes to adjust to the brightness outside, which could be critical during an accident.

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Photo: contraption (cc)

Sources: Airliners.net, Straight Dope

December 10, 2010 at 2:00 am 3 comments

Tires Do Not Protect You During a Vehicle Lightning Strike

By Chad Upton

I’ve always heard that a car is one of the safest places to be during a lightning strike and that is true.

The tires usually get all the credit. As the story goes, tires are rubber and rubber is an insulator, so you don’t get electrocuted in the car because you’re isolated from the ground like a bird on a wire.

It’s a pretty believable story, but it’s not the truth.

If you think about it, the lightning travels thousands of feet through thin air to reach the car — it could easily continue to travel through thin air to get around a few inches of rubber tires. Compared to the power of lightning, tires don’t really provide any protection.

Trains are struck by lightning and the people inside are fine, even though trains have metal wheels, which are great conductors.

Airplanes are regularly struck by lightning in the air. In fact, the FAA estimates that each plane gets struck about once per year.

So why are people safe in these cases?

It’s all because of a principle discovered by Michael Faraday in 1836.

Faraday demonstrated that an electrical charge exists only on the exterior of a hollow conductor and not the interior. He built a wire cage, that is now know as a Faraday cage, to demonstrate that an electrical current flowing through the cage did not produce an electrical current inside the cage.  When you’re in a vehicle, with a conductive exterior shell, you’re inside a Faraday cage and the electrical charge is carried around you.

Faraday cages can also be used to shield against electromagnetic radiation. Coaxial cables are common in most households for carrying TV signals. These cables are design with what amounts to be a built in Faraday cage to protect the inner copper wire from electrical noise.

Microwave ovens are also a good example of a Faraday cage. This principle protects you from exposure to microwaves by turning the inside of the oven into a Faraday cage. The mesh you see on the inside of the door is part of that cage and explains why the glass isn’t perfectly transparent.

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Sources: Wikipedia (Ground, Faraday Cage), Weather Imagery (Cars, Airplanes), Faraday Cage

Photo: jonathan mcintosh (cc)

July 21, 2010 at 5:00 am 18 comments

A Secret Government Spaceship is Circling the Earth

The US government recently launched a secret space plane called the X-37B. You’ve probably never heard about it and that’s because nobody is really talking about it.

We do know that the X-37B was launched on April 22, 2010. It was originally a NASA project in 1999, but was transferred to the department of defense in 2004. It looks very similar the space shuttle, but it’s unmanned and about a quarter of the size. It also operates very similar to the space shuttle, it is launched by powerful rockets and it lands like an airplane. It has a small cargo bay, about the size of a pickup truck bed.

For safety and security, a little over 14000 space objects are cataloged and tracked. The objects include satellites, debris and rocket bodies. Tracking these objects reduces the chance of a collision between them. In fact, there are a few public websites that let you view this information, some will even plot satellites on a map so you can try to spot them when they’re over your area. The location and orbit of the X-37B spacecraft has not been announced by the government.

However, a group of amateur astronomers and sky watchers believe they have enough sightings to identify the craft and it’s orbit. The space plane has been tough to spot since it seems to be operating in a low orbit, similar to the height of military spy satellites. There are a lot of satellites in the sky, 75 military satellites plus 15 search and rescue; 37 gps and 19 Navy navigation satellites. Then, there are thousands of other satellites for communications, science and entertainment uses.

China and Iran are both on edge about what this space plane is capable of. According to China, it may signal the start of a space arms race.

Experts believe the X-37B is just another spy plane, except it can stay in the air for 270 days before returning for fuel. The sky watchers who are tracking the space plane have seen it over Iraq and Afghanistan and believe it is currently testing surveillance equipment. Because it can return to earth and be redeployed very quickly, it’s likely that it will serve a number of different roles as needed.

As for the name, it’s just a test plane series number. For example, the X-24A was the model of the plane used in 1963 to test the re-entry heat-shields that would end up on the bottom of modern day space shuttles.

When the X-37B does return to earth, it will land on a runway in California. If it veers too far off course, it will self destruct. Seriously.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: Yahoo, Space.com, Wikipedia 1 2, n2yo

May 31, 2010 at 5:00 am 4 comments

Altitude Does Not Increase the Effect of Alcohol

By Chad Upton | Editor

Whether you’re in a plane, at the top of a ski hill or reading this in the mile high city, your body will metabolize alcohol exactly the same in all cases.

It is a common myth that you get drunk at high altitude much faster than at lower altitudes. In fact, I set out to research why this is the case, only to find out it’s not the truth.

As you can probably imagine, they didn’t have any trouble finding volunteers to help them get to the bottom of this — it has been studied and studied and studied and studied (PDF).

Even without alcohol, high altitudes can induce high-altitude sickness, which happens because there is less oxygen in the air. Because the symptoms are much the same as a hangover (headache, nausea, vomiting…etc), the effects of alcohol are often confused with high-altitude sickness. In fact, there is a study that shows Alcohol can impede the initial stages of adapting to high altitude; therefore, it is recommended that people do not drink for the first couple days while their body acclimatizes to the lower oxygen levels of high altitudes.

A study with alpine skiers in Austria tested blood-alcohol content at sea-level and at 10,000 feet. After drinking a liter of beer, their blood-alcohol levels were the same regardless of altitude.

An FAA study (PDF) found that both alcohol and altitude affect pilot performance, but there was no interaction between the two. Altitude does affect your ability to perform tasks, but that effect is present with or without alcohol. Another US government funded study found the same thing, concluding, “there was no synergistic interactive effect of alcohol and altitude on either breathalyzer readings or performance scores.”

From my observations, college loans are another popular way to get government money to study the effects of alcohol.

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Sources: Pub Med, High Altitude, Annals, FAA (PDF), AHA

Photo: evilmidori (cc)

Relevant:

Professionals should always supervise detox from alcohol and other drugs to prevent any untoward medical mishaps.

May 19, 2010 at 5:00 am 8 comments

Airplanes Refresh Cabin Air 20 Times an Hour

I was on an airplane a couple days ago and the person in front of me was coughing a lot, they sounded really sick.

I was just starting my vacation and the last thing I wanted was to get sick. So, I couldn’t help thinking about being trapped on the plane for the next four hours, breathing the same air as them.

I started to think about the air quality in general. I mean, people always talk about how bad jetliner air quality is, but I really didn’t know much about it.

I did some research and the air quality on planes, at least newer ones, seems pretty good.

Firstly, the air is not circulated from front to back, it is circulated side to side. That means you’re mostly sharing the air with the people in your immediate area, not the entire plane, which reduces the spread of germs. (more…)

March 11, 2010 at 3:12 am 4 comments

Why do Airplanes Fly at High Altitudes?

A few years ago, I was on a short, low altitude flight on a cold December evening in the Northeast. Because it was a short flight to a tiny airport, the aircraft was a small turboprop plane.

The flight was bumpy from the start. Somewhere in the middle, the flight crew was providing beverage service when the captain turned on the fasten seat belt sign. He instructed the crew to return to their seats and buckle up; before they made it to their seats, we hit a low pressure air pocket and the plane took a sudden drop.

It was just like a roller coaster making its towering first drop. We were in free fall for what felt like a really long time, but was probably only a couple of seconds. A few people flew out of their seats and hit their heads on the overhead bins, the crew was in the isle and did the same. Drinks, books, purses and other personal articles were thrown around the cabin, making a huge mess. (more…)

February 23, 2010 at 1:06 am 1 comment

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