Heathrow’s Problem

Featured Image: With an area of 1,214 ha (3,000 acres) and 80 million annual passengers, Heathrow Airport is the biggest and busiest airport in Europe.

Thursday, 13 June 2019, London, United Kingdom – Heathrow Airport, the primary international airport for London and major global hub airport, has a problem. Despite handling 80 million annual passengers last year, it only has two runways. For context, LAX has four runways. Rival European airports like Madrid Airport, or Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, also have four runways. Amsterdam Airport has six and Dallas-Fort Worth has seven. With just two runways at Heathrow, London’s international hub is just barely squeaking by. It continually suffers from overcrowding and delays, and a TripAdvisor poll rated it as the worst airport in the world.

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Wooden skyscrapers

Featured Image: If built, the W350 tower in Japan will become the tallest wooden skyscraper in the world.

Saturday, 1 June 2019, New York, NY – A Japanese company named Sumitomo Forestry has ambitious plans for a 70-story, 350 m (~1150 ft) tall skyscraper made almost entirely of timber. Its planned date of completion is in 2041 and its cost estimate is around $5.6 billion. In addition to becoming the tallest wooden skyscraper in the world, the building will also feature a steel skeletal frame to protect it from earthquakes, as well as numerous green balconies to connect the building’s residents to nature. According to Sumitomo Forestry, “The aim [of the building] is to create environmentally-friendly and timber-utilizing cities where [cities] become forests through increased use of wooden architecture for high-rise buildings”.

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The Fermi Paradox

Featured Image: The beloved extraterrestrial from 1982 is quite relevant to our current search for intelligent life outside Earth.

Thursday, 23 May 2019, New York, NY – Some of you may have heard of the Fermi Paradox, the puzzling question of “Where are the aliens?”  It seems like a simple question, but despite decades of research and investment, we still haven’t found any evidence of alien life, and probably won’t for a very long time. Here are a few basics about the Fermi Paradox that you might not already know.

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Lost at sea for 438 days

Featured Image: Jose Salvador Alvarenga, pictured above, upon his arrival in the Marshall Islands after being lost at sea continuously for 438 days.

Thursday, 2 May 2019, Mexico City, Mexico – World records. There are all kinds of them and pretty much anyone can set one. Most importantly, people try to break world records that have already been set in the past. But one world record that nobody wants to break for sure, is the world record for the longest amount of time spent lost at sea. Jose Salvador Alvarenga, an El Salvador native and a fisherman working in Mexico, holds this world record – he was lost in a boat in the Pacific Ocean for a mind-boggling 438 days. That’s over a year! Even more staggering is the distance he ended up travelling – he floated, in a 25-foot-long fishing boat, from Mexico to the Marshall Islands, more than halfway across the Pacific Ocean.

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Prison Escape: Is it legal?

Featured Image: Prison. Turns out, it’s legal to escape it in Germany.

1 April 2019, London, UK – If you live in most countries, including the UK and the US, you can have at least ten years added to your sentence if you get put back into prison after having escaped. But not in Germany. Why? Because in Germany and a few other countries, you cannot be busted for escaping prison. It sounds ridiculous but it actually makes quite a lot of sense.

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How Hawaii became American

Featured Image: Mountains of Kauai

Saturday, 30 March 2019, San Francisco, CA – From kingdom, to republic, to territory, to state, the history of Hawaii is complex, and often fraught with outright stupidity that, in a perfect world, should not have even happened in the first place. We often think of that stupidity as being the annexation of Hawaii by the United States. A historical event described as awkward at best and genocide at worst, most of us think of Hawaii’s annexation as something that, under ideal circumstances, should not have even happened at all. But this post is not just about the annexation. The suffering of the Native Hawaiians from the 19th century onwards was not just caused by the United States. It was also, in part, a self inflicted wound.

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Habsburg Incest

Featured Image: Charles, the most inbred man in human history.

Saturday, 23 February 2019, Paris, France – The Habsburg Dynasty was one of the most influential royal houses in European history, originating in Austria and spreading to almost every European country. The Habsburgs may have been successful in achieving power and influence, but their one key failure is well-known: inbreeding. After hundreds of years, the Habsburg gene pool became progressively smaller and smaller until the royal line was eventually unsustainable. This is the story of Charles II of Spain, and even today is known within Spain as El Hechizado, or “the Bewitched”.

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