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The Quick 10: 10 Facts About the Concorde

Wikipedia says March 27, 1970, was first-ever flight of the Concorde. Not the program on HBO, I mean, but the actual jet. I think Wikipedia is wrong (I know, I know, who would have thought?!) "“ British Airways says the first flight occurred on March 2, 1969. Either way, we're in the anniversary month of the first flight, so I thought it would be a good topic for a Q10 (don't worry"¦ the superfluous body parts sequel is still coming).

red arrows1. That little "e" on "Concorde" was a pretty big deal at one point in time. "Concorde" is the French spelling, but U.K. Prime Minister Harold Macmillan got in an argument with Charles de Gaulle and officially had the "e" yanked to spite him. In 1967, Tony Benn, the British Minister for Technology, had it changed back to the original spelling. He said the superfluous letter stood for "Excellence, England, Europe and Entente Cordiale, a 1904 series of agreements between England and France. However, the "E stands for England" theory further ruffled some feathers, because Scotland soon pointed out that Concorde's nose cone was made in Scotland. Benn replied, "It was also "˜E' for Ecosse (French for "Scotland") "“ and I might have added "˜e' for extravagance and "˜e' for escalation as well!"

2. The record time for Paris-to-NY was (and still is) two hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds. On average, the Concorde traveled one mile every two and three quarter seconds. It was so fast that on westbound flights, it was possible to arrive at a local time that was earlier than when you left your original destination. And of course Concorde's publicists didn't miss that opportunity: British Airways used the slogan "Arrive before you leave."

3. At low speeds, it was highly inefficient. It could burn two tons of fuel just taxiing to the runway. However, it was designed to be operated at Mach 2 "“ and when it was, it was the most fuel-efficient jet engine ever built.

4. Concorde could stretch anywhere from 6-10 inches during flight because the heating of the airframe was so intense.

5. You know where you are based on what it's called. OK, you probably know where you are anyway, but go with me here. In the U.S., it's the Concorde. In the U.K., it's simply Concorde. And in France, it's le Concorde (go figure).

6. It was quite noticeable when the Concorde passed through the sound barrier: first of all, the pilot would announce it. But also, there was a surge in acceleration and the air compression was such that the windows would actually get warm to the touch.

accident7. The Concorde had just one major crash, but it was the beginning of the downfall for the supersonic jet. Air France Flight 4590 was headed from Charles de Gaulle in Paris to JFK in New York on July 25, 2000, when a piece of debris on the runway punctured a tire. The tire burst, and a big chunk of it flew up and hit a wing, which ruptured the fuel tank under the landing gear. This led to a fire, which ultimately ended up in the pilots losing control of the plane and crashing into a nearby hotel. There were no survivors, and four people on the ground died as well. Even though this was Concorde's only disaster, it led to flights being grounded for a while so improvements to safety could be made "“ including tires that wouldn't burst and Kevlar-lined fuel tanks. The improvements were tested and the first post-crash passenger flight was made on September 11, 2001. Yep. Obviously, after that, the airline industry suffered. Between that and the public's uncertainty after the 2000 Concorde crash, the customer base was no longer there. Air France and British Airways both announced on April 10, 2003, that they would be ending all Concorde flights and retiring the planes.

8. The last flight from New York to Heathrow in London, was basically an exclusive party. Attendees included Joan Collins, Models Jodie Kidd and Christie Brinkley, British Airways chairman Lord Marshall, the aforementioned Tony Benn, broadcaster Sir David Frost and stock exchange chairman Chris Gibson-Smith. When it left JFK, it flew through water cannons spraying jets of red, white and blue water. When it arrived at Heathrow, it was greeted by 1,000 spectators seated in a grandstand built just for the occasion. The Queen even consented to have Windsor Castle lit up when the last flight flew over it "“ usually, Windsor Castle is only illuminated for visiting dignitaries and heads of state.

9. Pieces and parts of the Concorde have been auctioned off in both France and England "“ everything from the Machmeter to salt and pepper shakers and blankets with the Concorde logo.

conchords10. The band Flight of the Conchords really does take their name from the Concorde. Bret McKenzie has said that he had a dream about flying guitars that looked kind of like Concordes and when he talked to bandmate Jemaine Clement about it, the name "Flight of the Conchords" just happened. Of course, he could be kidding"¦ it sounds suspiciously like Paul McCartney's flaming pie dream that named the Beatles, and they've got the same spelling pun in their name, so"¦

Did any of you ever fly on a Concorde before they were retired? We'd love to hear about it in the comments! And if not (I suspect that's the category most of us fall in), how about this: if you could fly anywhere in three hours, where would you go? Think of the possibilities"¦

Have a good Q10 suggestion for me? Send me a Tweet!

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9 Things You Should Keep in Mind Around Someone Observing Ramadan
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To mark the ninth (and most holy) month in the Islamic calendar, Muslims around the world observe Ramadan. Often compared to Lent in Christianity and Yom Kippur in Judaism, Ramadan is all about restraint. For one month, Muslims observing Ramadan fast during the day and then feast at night.

By abstaining from food and water (as well as sex, smoking, fighting, etc.) during daylight, Muslims strive to practice discipline, instill gratitude for what they have, and draw closer to Allah. To be respectful and not annoy observers, here are nine things you should never say or do to someone observing Ramadan.

1. DON'T JOKE ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS.

A traditional iftar meal.
A traditional iftar meal.
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Although it might be tempting to joke about Ramadan being a good excuse to lose weight, it is a time for spiritual reflection and is a serious matter. Observers undertake the challenge of fasting for religious and spiritual reasons rather than aesthetic ones. And, once the sun sets each night, many Muslims prepare a hearty iftar (the meal that breaks the fast) of dates, curries, rice dishes, and other delicious foods. The suhoor (the pre-dawn meal) is often fresh fruit, bread, cheese, and dishes that are high in fiber and complex carbohydrates. So the idea of a cleanse is pretty far from their minds.

2. DON'T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS.

An Indian Muslim student recites from the Quran in a classroom during the holy month of Ramadan.
NOAH SEELAM, AFP/Getty Images

There are approximately 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, but not all of them observe Ramadan the same way. Although most observant Muslims fast for Ramadan, don't assume that every Muslim you meet has the same methods, traditions, and attitudes towards fasting. For some, Ramadan is more about prayer, reading the Qur'an, and performing acts of charity than merely about forgoing food and drink. And for those who may be exempted from the daily fasting, such as pregnant or nursing women, the elderly, or those with various health conditions, they might not appreciate the reminder from nosey busy-bodies that they aren't participating in the traditional way.

3. SAY "RAMADAN MUBARAK" INSTEAD OF "HAPPY RAMADAN."

A sign which reads
A sign which reads "Ramadan Kareem" in Arabic is seen pictured in front of the Burj Khalifa in downtown Dubai.
GIUSEPPE CACACE, AFP/Getty Images

Rather than wishing someone a happy Ramadan, being more thoughtful with your choice of words can show that you understand and respect the sanctity of their holy month. Saying "Ramadan Mubarak" or "Ramadan Kareem" are the traditional ways to impart warm wishes—they both convey the generosity and blessings associated with the month. The actual party comes after Ramadan, when Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr, an up to three-day festival that involves plenty of food, time with family, and gifts.

4. DON'T BE A FOOD PUSHER.

Muslim woman saying no to an apple.
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Even if the idea of not eating or drinking all day might be unfathomable to you, don't push food onto anyone observing Ramadan. While fasting all day for a month can cause mild fatigue, dehydration, and dizziness, don't try to convince participating Muslims to eat or drink something—they are fully aware of any side effects they may feel throughout the day. Instead, be respectful of their decision to fast and offer to lend a hand with something like chores, errands, or anything unrelated to food.

5. ACCEPT THAT WATER ISN'T ON THE MENU.

Dates and a glass of water.
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Muslims who observe Ramadan don't sip any liquids during daytime. No water, coffee, tea, or juice. Zilch. Going without water is even harder than going without food, so be aware of the struggle and accept it. It's all part of the sacrifice and self-discipline inherent in Ramadan.

6. RESPECT PEOPLE'S PRIVACY.

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Some Muslims choose not to fast during Ramadan for medical or other personal reasons, and they may not appreciate being badgered with questions about why they may be eating or drinking rather than fasting. Children and the elderly generally don't fast all day, and people who are sick are exempt from fasting. Other conditions that preclude fasting during Ramadan are pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menstruation (although, if possible, people generally make up the days later).

7. BE MINDFUL OF ENERGY LEVELS.

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Eschewing food and drink for hours at a time can cause lethargy, so be aware that Muslims observing Ramadan may be more tired than usual. Your Muslim friends and coworkers don't stop working for an entire month, but they may tweak their schedules to allow for more rest. They may also stay indoors more (to prevent overheating) and avoid unnecessary physical activity to conserve energy. So, don't be offended if they aren't down for a pick-up game of basketball or soccer. We can't all be elite athletes.

8. DON'T OBSESS OVER FOOD AND HUNGER.

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One of the worst things you can do to someone on a new diet is to obsess over all the cheeseburgers, pizza, and cupcakes they can't have. Similarly, most Muslims observing Ramadan don't want to have in-depth conversations about all the food and beverages they're avoiding. So, be mindful that you don't become the constant reminder of how many hours are left until sundown—just as you shouldn't joke about weight loss, you shouldn't call attention to any hunger pangs.

9. DON'T BE AFRAID TO EAT YOUR OWN FOOD.

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Although it's nice to avoid talking about food in front of a fasting Muslim, don't be afraid to eat your own food as you normally would. Seeing other people eating and drinking isn't offensive—Muslims believe that Ramadan is all about sacrifice and self-discipline, and they're aware that not everyone participates. However, perhaps try to avoid scheduling lunch meetings or afternoon barbecues with your Muslim colleagues and friends. Any of those can surely wait until after Ramadan ends.

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