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The Time We Thought Launching Planes Merry-Go-Round-Style Would Be Smart

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As a child, you may have tried launching a toy airplane by holding it in your hand and spinning in a circle as fast as you could. This method works well enough for toys, and in the early 20th century a few engineers thought this same concept could be applied to life-sized aircraft as well. 

Vox recently dug up some old patents and illustrations of a few plane-launching carousels that (thankfully) seem to have never made it off the ground. The reasoning behind the concept was that using centrifugal force to launch planes would save runway space, which would allow more airports to be built in densely populated areas. The below concept patented in 1912 shows a rather basic version of the device, and the patent below that from 1930 more closely resembles a terrifying amusement park ride than something you’d find at an airport.

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While these ideas never took off, the merry-go-round concept was something aviation engineers toyed with for decades. In their July 1941 issue, Popular Mechanics even featured illustrations of one such device with an explanation of how it would function.

Then in 1951, a University of Wisconsin physicist named J.G. Winans wrote about his own success with testing the merry-go-round method. Rather than constructing an elaborate apparatus, he anchored his plane to a central point like a tether ball. He then built up speed using the plane’s own engine and took off without incident. He concluded that the mechanism would make a suitable replacement for traditional runways, though he did admit that while experiencing the force of nearly one G he “mostly found it uncomfortable.” Despite his endorsement, runways never lost their status as an airport fixture.

[h/t: Vox]

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The Secret to a More Pleasant Flight? Urinals
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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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United Airlines Has Gotten Rid of Tomato Juice, and Customers Are Freaking Out
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Lovers of tomato juice are a small camp, but a vocal one. And they're furious that United Airlines has replaced their beloved Mott's tomato juice with Mr. and Mrs. T Bloody Mary Mix on all flights under four hours, which includes most of its domestic runs. United said these changes are part of efforts to “streamline” its food service, the Chicago Business Journal reports.

The stealth substitution has fueled a rebellion among loyal tomato juice fans, as The Week points out.

There is some truth to the claim that tomato juice tastes better on flights. One study revealed that the noise level on an airplane affects our perception of taste, making savory or umami flavors more delicious. Another industry-funded study said the air pressure and humidity levels make bolder drinks seem more appealing.

Premium and economy passengers flying United can also say goodbye to Sprite Zero, Jim Beam, Courvoisier, and Amaretto, which were cut from the menu. And although airlines are not exactly known for their cuisine to begin with, passengers will likely start to see a difference in the types of meals being offered. The Chicago Business Journal writes:

"The reduction in food being offered in many instances in first-class and business-class cabins is not insignificant. Hot breakfasts are being replaced on some routes with only fruit plates and muffins, and more substantial lunches are being switched out for wraps and chocolate slabs."

The airline has said it is "monitoring customer feedback."

[h/t The Week]

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