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GermFalcon
GermFalcon

This Germ-Killing Robot Could Help Airlines' Hygiene Problem

GermFalcon
GermFalcon

Test any surface inside an airplane, from your tray table to the bathroom’s flush button, and you’ll find big families of bacteria. Airplane cabins are notorious for trapping and ferrying viruses around the world—which is one explanation for why everyone you know seems to get sick after traveling for the holidays. A way to combat this issue is with deeper cabin cleanings between flights. As Travel + Leisure reports, that’s just what the GermFalcon UVC Airplane Cabin Sanitizer was designed to do.

The robot looks like a snack trolley with two collapsible “wings” mounted on top. Metal arms outfitted with ultraviolet C light bulbs unfold above the seats and incinerate any bacteria that land in its path. An apparatus built above head-level shines the germ-zapping rays into the overhead bins. After scanning the aisles, the machine moves on to the bathrooms and galleys. Its creators claim that a five-minute cleaning from the GermFalcon eliminates over 99 percent of the bacteria, viruses, and superbugs that human hands may have missed.

Despite the risk captive viruses pose to passengers and crew members on flights, many airlines still follow the most basic cleaning procedures. The industry standard is a quick cabin cleaning between flights with a deep scrub-down every four months.

And without regulations enforcing stricter cleaning practices, most flight companies aren’t eager to go the extra mile. The GermFalcon has yet to be adopted by a commercial airline, even though the company estimates it would cost companies just $.10 per seat per flight to use it.

If airlines do eventually raise their cleanliness standards, that won’t solve all their health issues. Completely disinfecting the cabin before each flight does nothing to safeguard fliers against the sick passengers sitting next to them. To protect yourself on your next flight, take advantage of the air vent above your seat. It’s a misconception that the air spreads germs: The current can actually blow away microbes encroaching your space. And don’t forget to pack a travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer in your carry-on.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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Big Questions
How Are Rooms Cleaned at an Ice Hotel?

Cleaning rooms at Sweden’s famous ICEHOTEL is arguably less involved than your typical hotel. The bed, for example, does not have traditional sheets. Instead, it’s essentially an air mattress topped with reindeer fur, which sits on top of a custom-made wooden palette that has a minimum of 60 centimeters of airspace below. On top of those reindeer hides is a sleeping bag, and inside that sleeping bag is a sleep sack. And while it’s always 20ºF inside the room, once guests wrap themselves up for the night, it can get cozy.

And, if they’re wearing too many layers, it can get quite sweaty, too.

“The sleep sack gets washed every day, I promise you that. I know it for a fact because I love to walk behind the laundry, because it’s so warm back there," James McClean, one of the few Americans—if not the only—who have worked at Sweden's ICEHOTEL, tells Mental Floss. (He worked on the construction and maintenance crew for several years.)

There isn’t much else to clean in most guest rooms. The bathrooms and showers are elsewhere in the hotel, and most guests only spend their sleeping hours in the space. But there is the occasional accident—like other hotels, some bodily fluids end up where they shouldn’t be. People puke or get too lazy to walk to the communal restrooms. Unlike other hotels, these bodily fluids, well, they freeze.

“You can only imagine the types of bodily fluids that get, I guess, excreted … or expelled … or purged onto the walls,” McClean says. “At least once a week there’s a yellow stain or a spilled glass of wine or cranberry juice … and it’s not what you want to see splattered everywhere.” Housekeeping fixes these unsightly splotches with an ice pick and shovel, re-patching it with fresh snow from outside.

Every room has a 4-inch vent drilled into the icy wall, which helps prevent CO2 from escalating to harmful levels. Maintenance checks the holes daily to ensure these vents are not plugged with snow. Their tool of choice for clearing the pathway is, according to McClean, “basically a toilet brush on a stick.”

When maintenance isn’t busy unstuffing snow from that vent hole, they’re busy piping snow through it. Every couple days, the floor of each room receives a new coat of fluffy snow, which is piped through the vent and leveled with a garden rake.

“It’s the equivalent of vacuuming the carpet,” McClean says.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Rent an Incredible Harry Potter-Themed Apartment in the City Where the Series Was Born
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

The Muggle city of Edinburgh has deep ties to the wizarding world of Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling wrote much of the book series while living there, and there’s even a pub in Edinburgh that named itself after the author for a month. Now, fans passing through the Scottish capital have the chance to live like their favorite boy wizard. As Digital Spy reports, a Harry Potter-themed holiday home in the city’s historic district is now available to rent for around $200 (£150) a night.

Property owner Yue Gao used her own knowledge as a fan when decorating the apartment. With red and yellow accents, a four-poster bed, and floating candles adorning the wallpaper on the ceiling, the master bedroom pays tribute to both the Gryffindor dormitory and the Hogwarts Great Hall. The Hogwarts theme extends to the lounge area, where each door is painted with a different house’s colors and crest. Guests will also find design aspects inspired by the Hogwarts Express around the apartment: The second bedroom is designed to look like a sleeping car, and the front door is disguised as the brick wall at Platform 9 3/4.

Pieces of Harry Potter memorabilia Gao has picked up in her travels are hidden throughout the home, too. If visitors look closely, they’ll find several items that once belonged to Rowling herself, including the writer’s old desk.

Take a look at some of the photos of the magical interiors:

The apartment is available to rent throughout the year through canongateluxuryapartment.co.uk. And if you can tear yourself away from the residence for long enough, there are plenty of other Harry Potter-themed attractions to check out in Edinburgh during your stay.

[h/t Digital Spy]

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