Marleen Bos // Courtesy Schiphol Group
Marleen Bos // Courtesy Schiphol Group

Simple Landscaping Tricks Can Make Airports Quieter

Marleen Bos // Courtesy Schiphol Group
Marleen Bos // Courtesy Schiphol Group

Airports are, understandably, noisy places. At 80 feet away, a jet taking off is loud enough to rupture ear drums. The noise from plane traffic at busy airports is a regular complaint among residents who live along flight paths, and can affect people’s health and home values. New generations of planes are getting quieter, but airports still have to find ways of dampening their roars and appeasing neighbors. For Schipol international airport just outside of Amsterdam—one of the busiest in Europe—the solution was a park.

Buitenschot Land Art Park is an 80-acre field that’s specially designed to cut down ambient noise around the airport. Designed by the artist Paul de Kort and H+N+S Landscape Architects, it’s a maze of ridges and troughs inspired by the work of 18th-century German physicist and musician Ernst Chladni. His study of acoustics through the motion of sand on vibrating plates is the foundation of the science of sound. 

Image Credit:Marleen Bos // Courtesy Schiphol Group

Previously, research into the noise around Amsterdam’s airports revealed that noise levels decreased every fall, when the fields around the area had been plowed. The low-frequency noise that comes from planes has long wavelengths, so it can’t be stopped by just one sound barrier. The spread-out furrows of a plowed field, by contrast, were able to absorb some of the sound waves because they exist over long stretches of land. 

A diagram of how the ridges dampen ground noise. Image Credit: Schiphol Group

Sharply carved, 10-foot-high ridges crisscross the park in straight lines, with bike paths and miniature parks set up in the 36-foot valley between them. Because the ridges are spaced about the same as the wavelength of the airport noise, they dampen the sound. The ridges reduce noise by two to three decibels, a seemingly modest decrease, but one that’s a significant step toward the airport’s goal of cutting noise by 10 decibels in the area. 

[h/t: Smithsonian via Gizmodo]

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Courtesy of Flightradar24.com
Aircraft Tracker Visualizes One of the Busiest Days Ever in Air Travel
Courtesy of Flightradar24.com
Courtesy of Flightradar24.com

The skies look a lot more crowded today than they did a century ago. At any given moment, there are 9700 airplanes traveling through the air on average. Saturday, June 30 was an especially busy day for air travelers: Flightradar24 recorded 202,157 flights, the most the flight-tracking app has ever documented in a single day.

Since 2006, people have used Flightradar24 to see visualizations of aircraft making trips around the world. Each tiny yellow plane depicted on their map uses data from airlines and airports, and users can click the icons to learn the route, model, speed, altitude, and departure and arrival time of each craft.

Another way to use the app is to take in all the visual information at once. The sped-up GIF below from Flightradar24 gives you an idea of just how densely-packed the skies were that day, with thousands of planes swarming to and from the planet's most populous areas.

Commercial flight data is more accessible to the public than many people realize. To build their real-time maps, Flightradar24 uses radar, ADS-B (the technology planes use to broadcast their location), and MLAT (a method used to calculate the position of planes by measuring the time it takes them to receive a signal). To get an even more detailed scoop on the status of an airplane, you can tune into the live feed of a specific airport's air traffic control channel.

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The Secret to a More Pleasant Flight? Urinals
iStock
iStock

Even if you can deal with the lack of legroom, privacy, and decent meal options on airplanes, your patience may start to wear thin when it comes time to pee. Being stuck waiting in long bathroom lines on planes may feel like one of life's unavoidable annoyances, but according to WIRED, there's a way to make the experience more tolerable. The secret involves urinals and a bit of math.

At last month's Crystal Cabin Awards, a competition that recognizes innovation in aircraft interiors, Zodiac Aerospace introduced the Durinal, a two-urinal plane bathroom that takes the place of one toilet. Replacing a bathroom that serves all passengers with one that's made for only half the population may seem like a quick way to make the long-line problem worse, but there's some logic behind the proposed solution.

As Wouter Rogiest, a mathematician at Ghent University in Belgium, tells WIRED, gender-neutral bathroom lines are shortest when men have the option to head straight for a urinal. That's because it's quicker to use a urinal than a stall, and when men opt for the urinal, it frees up stalls for women. When he drew up an equation looking at hypothetical bathroom wait times at a concert, he found that a ratio of 14 toilets to eight urinals produced the most desirable wait times: one minute, 27 seconds for women and slightly under a minute for men. On a commercial plane, this ratio would come out to one or two Durinals per six conventional bathrooms.

Rogiest's concert equation isn't a perfect stand-in for airplane scenarios, so a more specific study would be needed before airlines could consider installing urinals. Unfortunately, if bathrooms with urinals do show up on airplanes, you can expect the spaces to be just as tight as they are now.

[h/t WIRED]

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