Category: Travel

Can You See The Curvature Of The Earth From A Plane?

airplane window sunset

One of the most common rebuttals to people who believe the Earth is flat (aside from the countless experiments, equations of gravitation, camera and satellite footage, Enstein’s theory of relativity and time dilation, insert pretty much endless evidence here) is that one can observe the curvature of the planet from a passenger airplane at cruising altitude. But is that true?

Well, sort of. Here’s what that means.

Starting On The Ground

One of the ways the ancient Greeks concluded the Earth is spherical was by observing ships on a horizon. Boats moving away from an observer on the beach disappear – with the appearance that they are sinking into the sea. This illusion happens because the ship is moving further along the curve of the Earth. (Tape a box of matches to a beach ball, put it close to your face, then rotate it for a miniature version.)

tulum beach

We have several components of an equation, courtesy astrophysicist David Lynch, that can be used to calculate the curvature of the Earth. By measuring how much of the boat falls below the horizon based on the distance from the observer at sea level, the radius of our planet can be calculated. Alternatively, if we take the radius of Earth for granted (and trust what’s already been proven) we can also determine the Earth’s radius.

In short, the higher in altitude you are, the further you can see – a direct result of you moving up and the horizon of the Earth being lower in relation to you.

As DrGC describes the following image:

radius

“Cartoon defining the variables used above. d is the distance of visibility, h is the elevation of the observer O above the sea level.”

Plug in the numbers and at 10,000 meters (~35,000 feet) the horizon of the Earth will appear 3 degrees lower than at sea level (remember the ship falling below the horizon above).

Seeing any observable curvature from a plane is difficult for several reasons:

  1. Airplane windows distort light coming into the plane, in other words, they add a curvature effect not too unlike a wide-angle lens.
  2. Using the formulas above, you would need a roughly 60 degree field of view to see any curvature –  a standard passenger window doesn’t isn’t enough.
  3. A clear sky over the ocean is a must. The figure below illustrates why a plane just isn’t high enough for a clear curved view.

curvature of earth

Relative to the Earth’s size, you’re not really all that high up. Fortunately there are lots of experiments you can do from the ground to prove the Earth is round shown in the video below.

Or just send up a camera on a weather balloon.

power of math

Finally, if you want to do more aerial mathematics, here’s how to calculate the angle at which your plane turns on its side or the angle up during takeoff.

The Aer Travel Pack 2 Is Nearly Tech Backpack Perfection

Backpacks, especially the larger kind, tend to be made either for cloths or computers but rarely both. There are plenty of smaller backpacks like the Swissgear Scansmart 1900 (my full review) that have plenty of pockets but good luck trying to fit an extra sweater in there. (Planes are COLD and airplane blankets never washed.)

Aer’s Travel Pack 2 though is very close to perfection for digital nomads who carry an office on their back and has become the main carry-on bag I use. You can watch my full review in the video above or read on for some brief highlights.

Right Size

Versatile backpacks have a large, empty front pocket. Electronics bags similar to Dell’s Premier (full review here) try to guess the most common slots and pockets you’ll use. For travelers with a lot of electronics though, cameras, drones, and other bulky items are inefficiently stored unless you can do the organizing.

aer travel pack 2

The Travel Pack 2 has a good combination of large pocket with organization… almost. First, the main compartment is spacious at 34L but front-loading unlike the Thule Subterra’s open-top design. It’s nearly an ideal big compartment, except Aer has put in a shoe compartment common to other bags this size.

  • Dear Aer, look, this is clearly a tech bag, the shoe compartment isn’t needed and the pocket eats into space many need for camera lenses, microphones, that sort of thing. We can still put shoes in a bag and jam them into the Travel Pack 2 if needed.
  • And as Mr. Robot as those compression straps look (I’ll admit they come in handy on occasion) they make opening the main compartment cumbersome. Maybe placing them at an angle would solve this problem.

Otherwise, the build quality, intuitive front organizational pocket, and slim design make this a very enticing bag for travelers with a DSLR or drone, or some combination or large electronics. Plus those who want to be able to pack an extra shirt or two as well. Brrr.

These $50 Blitzwolf BW-FYE4 Are Everywhere On Amazon And They’re Not Too Bad

Blitzwolf is clearly dumping their advertising budget into the BW-FYE4 wireless earbuds because they’re all over Amazon right now. I picked up a pair and as you can see in the video above, they’re surprisingly good for $50 – ideal for travelers who want very, very, small headphones but don’t want to advertise “I’ve got Apple Airpods” everywhere in the world.

Review Of The Audio-Technica M50xBT: Studio Sound Cuts The Cord

The Audio-Technica M50xBT are simply a more portable version of a classic headphone with a very specific purpose – to provide studio quality sound – especially useful for video editors. That’s not to say the M50xBT aren’t a great pair of headphones but rather, if they’re the only headphones you’ll be using, it’s important to consider a few things.

You can watch my full review in the video above or read on.

More Or Less Portable

Over-ear headphones are always going to be larger than earbuds like the Bose QuietComfort 20i (my full review) so for any traveler, the size considerations have to bring notable advantages. In general, going over the ear means a more natural sound (our ears have funny shapes for this reason) and being larger, longer battery life for wireless listening.

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Studio-headphones like the M50xBT are designed to give a very flat sound profile, ideal for editing sound from music or in videos. A pair of headphones like the ATH-SR30BT (my full review) on the other hand pump up the bass and treble, giving a pleasurably distorted nightclub sound.

A good analogy is the different in photo quality of a phone versus a traditional camera – phones automatically pump up the colors to be vibrant, higher-end cameras tend not to. The less manipulation done by the device leaves more room for a human editor later on.

audio-technica m50xbt

Know What You’re Getting Into

You won’t be disappointed by the M50xBT at all, they are very good headphones. But for frequent travelers who aren’t at all interested in editing audio, something like a pair of Bose QuietComfort 35 or Sony WH1000XM3 with active-noise canceling or Jabra Move without it will be better suited for you.

Everyone else, the M50xBT give you the option of a headphone cable for low-latency but when you do go battery, it’s got around 40 hours for wireless listening. (Apple’s Airpods for comparison run only about 5 hours.) I did have to change the factory ear cups on the M50xBT with these Brainwavz pair – something to keep in mind if the M50xBT get uncomfortable after a while.

Overall, these are a reliable pair of studio headphones where Audio-Technica did the smart thing, don’t try to change much but give you the option to cut the cord when needed.

Gear Travel Bloggers Carry: Jessie Festa Edition

It’s no secret I can’t get enough travel tech gear and I’m very curious to see what other travelers have in their backpacks as well. On a recent trip to New York City I got a chance to meet up with Jessie Festa to show you the photography gear she packs on every trip. You can see all of the electronics in Jessie’s backpack in the video above.

The Best Places To Eat In Puerto Ayora, Galapagos Islands

curious traveler

The Galapagos is, in places, a remote wilderness but Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island is as close to a tourist-theme town you’ll find anywhere. Puerto Ayora is the main settlement where tour boats come to restock and budget travelers base themselves to do shorter excursions to nearby Galapagos Islands.

Tourism is still in its early stages in Ecuador‘s Galapagos and Puerto Ayora (population 12,000) is beginning to offer visitors a lot of places to eat: many mediocre, some decent, and a few rare finds. These are some of the best places to eat in Puerto Ayora, the largest town in Galapagos.

1. La Garrapata

la garrapata

Right in front of the dock are a long string of restaurants and bars along the tiny main strip in town, visually blending into one another. At first glance, there’s not much to distinguish La Garrapata, one of the better places to eat (with good service) close to the dock. Prices are slightly above average than nearby restaurants but fairly inline with general costs in Puerto Ayora. Food (and beer) portions are large and range from a variety of traditional Ecuadorian to Western dishes.

2. Galapagos Deli

galapagos deli

I like simple foods in large quantities at good prices with a decent selection of alcohol to go with it. If that sounds like you, then you’ll enjoy Galapagos Deli. It’s about a 10 minute walk from the dock – the location keeping its prices under the average of places like La Garrapata. They serve large sandwiches, pizza, salads, fresh juices, beer, teas, and coffees to. Anywhere else Galapagos Deli would be average at best but in Puerto Ayora where much of the ingredients have to be shipped in from the mainland, it differentiates itself in simplicity.

3. 1835 Coffee Lab

1835 coffee lab

Looks like a tourist trap – you know, the kind that’s especially alluring after a long travel day when you just want to hear some trendy pop music you only sing alone in the car. 1835 Coffee Lab checks those boxes (even some 80s hits too!) but does serve a good variety of local coffees. Galapagos coffees are well-known so it’s best to get a good taste while you’re in town. Keep in mind it’s a bit pricey so if you’re on a very strict budget, 1835 Coffee Labs might not be the best place to grab a daily caffeine fix.

The Best Of Average At Best

As I mentioned before, Puerto Ayora’s selection of restaurants and cafes wouldn’t stand out in many popular tourist destinations around the world. In Galapagos however, where there’s not much of a tourist trail yet, most supplies have to be imported, and there’s a steady supply of tourists with little competition, it leaves few remarkable choices. Like albatross returning to land, Puerto Ayora is a rest stop for a great adventure just beyond the shore.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More


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