Browsing Tag: explained

    Joker Ending Scene and End Credit Scene Breakdown
    Articles, Blog

    Joker Ending Scene and End Credit Scene Breakdown

    October 24, 2019

    welcome back everyone it’s Charlie this
    is going to be my breakdown of the Joker movie ending hopefully you’ve had a
    chance to see the movie we’re doing a giveaway for tickets all you have to do
    to enter is just be a subscriber and leave your favorite Joker moment on the
    video please do use spoiler tags at least till we get through the weekend
    just to give everyone a chance to see the movie and if you have not seen it
    just blanket spoiler warning because we will be talking about everything that
    happens at the end of the movie most of the questions that I’ve seen you guys
    commenting on my Joker movie review video it’s just a question of what is
    real and what is fake because the Joker is an unreliable narrator as is his
    mother or at least were led to believe that she’s an unreliable narrator because
    there are a lot of questions about that picture that she carried around of her
    signed by Thomas Wayne with a special message so as seen some fantastic
    theories that you guys have had about this but really when we talk about the
    ending that starts when he learns that he’s secretly been adopted while he’s at
    Arkham Asylum getting his files on his mother she had previously worked for the
    Wayne’s about 30 years ago and believed that she had a relationship with Thomas
    Wayne at least that’s what she thinks she keeps writing him letters eventually
    Arthur reads one of the letters and in it she tells Thomas Wayne that Arthur is
    his son so Arthur believes that he’s the son of
    Thomas Wayne but because a lot of the events in Arthur’s life he made up and
    then you later learned things did not happen the way that he thought that they
    happened you’re led to believe that that might be fake he’s not really the son of
    Thomas Wayne and his mother was lying the whole time because as Thomas Wayne
    says she was institutionalized there are even adoption papers for Arthur inside
    her file we learned that the affliction that causes him to laugh the reason
    behind his crazy laugh is because of the head trauma he received when he was
    as a child so his world starts to unravel he goes
    suffocates his mother then begins to just completely fly off the
    chain starts painting himself up in Joker makeup his former friend seemingly
    that sold him the gun earlier in the film and then ratted him out comes to
    visit him because of the police to make sure that he doesn’t tell them the wrong
    thing that will get him in trouble he winds up him before he goes on
    Murray Franklin’s TV show in full Joker makeup lets his smaller friend go you
    were the only one that was nice to me so at this point you’re starting to
    question what’s real and what’s fake because he climbs into a roof
    and a lot of people think that he actually died in the refrigerator and
    the rest of the movie is imagined but the reason why I don’t think that’s the
    case is because too much of the movie happens in that last 15 minutes for him
    to have all experienced it within his mind while he was inside a
    refrigerator so I think the takeaway from the refrigerator is that it’s him
    just slowly transforming metaphorically into the Joker character like he goes
    into a chrysalis inside the refrigerator then he merges more the Joker than he’s
    ever been before the basketball game music swells up as he rolls out of his
    apartment in full Joker costume and makeup dancing down the stairs and the
    montage that they put in all the trailers but the cops that have been
    after him the whole movie chase him into the subway he uses the clown rise up
    move it to stop them inadvertently starts a riot in the subway later claims
    that he has nothing to do with that movement and Thomas Wayne himself is
    also partially responsible for all these people wearing clown masks that I’ll
    explain in a second you get the scene of him waiting in the greenroom on the
    Murray Franklin show that we’ve seen in all the trailers where he talks to
    Maria’s assistant producer played by Marc Maron one thing when you introduce
    me can you introduce me as Joker sure thing bud sounds great him being on the
    TV show is meant to be a mirror of the dream sequence from earlier in the film
    it’s exactly how I imagined it he says so he dances on is this wonderful
    introduction he’s charming everyone he kisses the old lady doctor then sits
    down and gives his big speech about how society is just as bad as villains how
    the rich doesn’t care about the poor there’s this big class war going on
    during the movie no one cares about him because rich man Thomas Wayne isn’t
    talking about him on live TV the way he was talking about the three
    that he earlier on the subway he freely admits to them
    and it’s almost like he’s taking this weight off of his shoulders like I’m
    tired of pretending that it’s not funny it’s funny comedy is subjective he
    claims that he didn’t them to start a movement he’s not political I’m not
    trying to start any kind of thing I them because they were terrible
    then he calls out Murray Franklin for being just as terrible and he has his
    iconic line what do you get when you cross a mentally deranged loner with a
    society that treats him like crap you get what you freaking deserve then
    Robert De Niro’s character Murray Franklin on live TV
    remember this is taking place in the late 70s early 80s so there was no time
    to they built into the broadcast system
    everybody that was watching Marie Franklin saw that happen the clown
    movement that’s happening in the streets during the last 15 minutes of the movie
    just boils over everyone just riding everywhere in the streets their fires
    cars turned over the Joker throws all this gasoline on that fire with his
    presentation he looks into the camera and starts speaking just as the station
    cuts him off then things get really subjective this is where you’re really
    getting inside his head as he’s being driven away in the back of a cop car
    you’re meant to believe that he was arrested by the police and he maybe gave
    himself up he’s smiling as they’re driving through
    all the riots but then a couple of his admirers wearing clown masks crash an
    ambulance into the cop car that has him freeing him then he wakes up on the hood
    of the cop car starts dancing basking in the adulation of all these rioting
    people wearing clown masks and draws the iconic Joker smile on his face with his
    own all this happening while Martha and Thomas Wayne are walking out
    of the Excalibur theater getting their Batman origin story where they’re
    down by one of Joker’s admirers wearing a clown mask
    we’ll call him Joe Chill for the purposes of this video just for
    continuities sake he says you get what you deserve guns
    them down and Bruce Wayne is standing there over their dead bodies very iconic
    Batman moment a lot of people wondered if this was gonna happen because we saw
    this shot in one of the trailers this is where it starts to throw you for a bit
    of a loop when it comes to false narration what’s real what’s fake
    because the camera cuts to him inside Arkham Asylum in this white cell being
    interviewed by a psychiatrist he starts laughing and when the woman asks him
    what the joke is he calmly replies you wouldn’t get it as the camera cuts back
    to Bruce Wayne standing near his parents dead bodies in the alleyway he starts
    singing a song and then the camera cuts again to him walking down the hallway
    leaving footprints of behind him on the white floor dancing his way out
    so because they’re always revealing things that weren’t happening the way
    they seemed that they were happening a lot of this is happening in Joker’s mind
    you’re meant to wonder what’s real in this final scene and what’s fake here’s
    what was real and here’s what’s fake remember the Joker is always imagining
    things in his head like he imagines himself on Murray Franklin show when
    he’s watching it at the beginning of the film I think everything is real he
    really did Murray Franklin on live TV he did surrender to the police but
    then they took him straight to Arkham in the scene of him dancing on the cop
    hood is probably him just imagining that him inside the Arkham cell that’s real
    but when he’s walking away leaving the footprints of blood that’s meant to
    imply that he that woman the psychiatrist he was talking to and in
    the process of escaping Arkham Asylum this kind of explains why there’s such a
    quick seeming time jump from him dancing on the cop car hood to appearing in the
    Arkham cell is that the dancing did not happen that’s all in his head
    but I do think that Joe Chill Thomas and Martha Wayne giving Batman
    his origin story that was real so I know there’s gonna be a ton of theories after
    this weekend about them doing a new Batman film with Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker
    something completely different outside the DC Universe the reason why
    I’m not so sure that that’s gonna happen is because of the new Matt Reeves Batman
    trilogy Warner Brothers probably isn’t gonna greenlight a couple different
    versions of live-action Batman at the same time based on the age of young
    Bruce Wayne here you could say that this is close to being Ben Affleck’s Batman
    because Ben Affleck is playing a late 40-something Batman
    during his Batman movies but a lot of people have wondered what the joke he
    was referring to was when he tells the psychiatrist you wouldn’t understand the
    joke I think that was a reference to him finally being lauded as a hero at least
    in his mind despite all the terrible things that he did the past few weeks
    like I’m the hero and Thomas Wayne is the villain the added level of irony the
    Thomas Wayne was partially responsible for his own death because he called all
    these deranged people clowns that’s why they were wearing clown masks to begin
    with then the meta aspect of both the Joker in Thomas Wayne inevitably
    creating their own worst villain so for Thomas Wayne he was creating that Joe
    Chill person wearing the clown mask that wound up killing him but the more meta
    aspect is as the Joker was inadvertently indirectly creating the Batman by doing
    all this – so that’s why he’s saying that the psychiatrist would not
    understand it because it’s such a complex but beautiful meta joke Joaquin
    Phoenix was actually asked in an interview recently what his character
    would do if he were suddenly confronted with someone dressed up like a bat
    flying around Gotham fighting crime and his answer was is that his character the
    Joker would be incredibly happy at the site he would laugh genuinely ironically
    happy but delighted by how his nihilistic view of the world was
    seemingly confirmed by this crazy person dressing up like a bat or someone that
    he thought was just as crazy as him that gets into more
    joke Easter eggs you’re one bad day away from being me the Joker trying to tell
    Batman that they’re the exact same person a lot of you are also asking
    about the picture of Joker’s mother signed by Thomas Wayne with a really
    intimate message on it making it seem like maybe she was telling the truth
    about her relationship with Thomas Wayne is if maybe there’s a small chance that
    Arthur could be Thomas Wayne’s son but I think that’s mostly just to throw you
    for a bit of a loop I do think that she had mental problems I do think that she
    imagined her relationship with Thomas Wayne and even if he was maybe kind of
    amorous with her they probably never had a child together Arthur really is
    adopted because can you imagine what comic book fandom would do if they tried
    to say that the Joker was Thomas Wayne’s son the only version of the Joker that
    his Thomas Wayne’s son is the Batman who laughs and they have not done him in the
    movies yet so just remember that parts of those final 15 minutes of the movie
    the ending are fake and imagined in his head some of them are real if there’s
    any other big questions that you have about the ending of the movie though
    just let me know in the comments below but this does give you a point of origin
    for this version of Batman whatever you want him to look like Todd Phillips made
    it seem like they’re not planning on doing any sequels but Joaquin Phoenix
    might be lured back if the film makes enough money they might find a way to
    get him back in a couple years but I think it’s more likely that they would
    just do other DC Black Label films with other Batman villains like a really
    hardcore r-rated film about the Riddler that would be amazing but the Riddler is
    going to be a character during Matt Reeves Batman films so if you have any
    other big questions about plot points in the movie or the ending just let me know
    in the comments and I’ll try to address that in my other Easter egg videos this
    weekend congratulations carbo you’re the giveaway winner from my last big DC
    video please email me on the about page of my channel so I can get your details
    everybody click here for my Joker movie review and click here for that brand new
    flash season 6 crisis on Infinite Earths trailer thank you so much for watching
    everybody put on a happy face I’ll see you guys tonight

    Why the UK Runs Trains to Nowhere
    Articles, Blog

    Why the UK Runs Trains to Nowhere

    September 6, 2019

    This video was made possible by Squarespace. Build your website for 10% off at This train should not exist, and, if were
    up to the train company, it wouldn’t, but it’s not. You see, in the UK, trains work off a franchising
    system where the UK government awards contracts to different private companies to
    operate rail services. For example Virgin Trains East
    Coast operate the east coast route, ScotRail operates most trains in Scotland, TransPennine
    express operates many trains to and from Manchester, and there are about two dozen other
    operators, but this particular train that shouldn’t exist is operated by Chiltern
    Railways. They
    mostly operate trains to smaller towns between London and Birmingham and all of their trains
    to London terminate at Marylebone station…
    except for one—this one. This particular train
    operates from the nearby London Paddington station—the terminus for Great Western and
    Heathrow Express services. But Chiltern railways has to operate services
    to London Paddington because this document says so—their franchise
    agreement. This document is basically the
    contract between the railway company and the UK government so to modify this document they
    have to ask the government and, as we all know, sometimes governments aren’t very
    efficient. So here’s your super simple guide to closing
    a railway route in Britain. Step one: perform
    a “transport appraisal.” This is basically an analysis of the effects
    that the line closure will have on passengers, the environment, and the economy. The strait-forward three stage fourteen step
    process of creating a transport appraisal is explained in this handy 35 page document
    featuring this super user-friendly flowchart. Once you’ve completed that, just give it
    to the UK Department of Transport who will analyze your
    analysis. Step two: publish your proposal of
    closure including the findings of your transport appraisal six months before the proposed closure
    in one local newspaper circulating near the proposed closure and in two national newspapers
    for two weeks continuously. Step three: open a twelve-week consultation
    period including public hearings where anyone who disagrees with the
    closure can protest. Once you’ve completed those
    three easy steps, then you’ll hand everything over to the Office of Rail and Road who will
    decide whether or not you can close the line. As you might have been able to tell from my
    not-at-all-sarcastic explanation, it’s not easy
    to close a franchised rail route, but nowhere in the agreement does it say how often Chiltern
    Railways has to operate their route to Paddington—it just says they need to. So they operate it…
    once per day. Now compared to the US where cities as big
    as Houston, Texas only see three trains a week and have stations that look
    like this, a daily service from Paddington probably
    seems normal, but the station this service goes to, High Wycombe, sees 95 trains a day
    from the normal London station—Marylebone. One train per day is nothing for a UK train
    route, especially from London. Chiltern Railways, like many other train companies,
    have decided it’s just easier and cheaper to operate an infrequent
    service to fulfill their franchise agreement instead
    of going through the rather expensive formal closure process. But some rail companies have pushed the boundaries
    of what is considered “service” to an extreme. Northern’s franchise agreement requires
    them to operate a train between Stockport and Stalybridge which they fulfill by running
    one train, one-way, once per week. Between
    Stockport and Stalybridge there are two stations which are therefore serviced by one train
    per week. Closing stations is just as difficult as closing
    lines so they won’t do it. Denton station
    therefore recorded only 144 passengers in the past year while Reddish South saw just
    94. Thirty
    miles to the north, London Midland is required to operate services to Barlaston Railway Station,
    but companies are allowed to temporarily operate rail replacement buses during maintenance. This company, however, has interpreted “temporary”
    as 13 years as they’ve operated rail replacement busses to this station since 2004
    to fulfill their obligation. The Chiltern Railways service from London
    Paddington to High Wycombe is definitively unprofitable. On many days there are zero passengers. On the day this footage was filmed, there
    was only one. This bureaucratic closure process is meant
    to protect the public by preventing companies from closing unprofitable smaller
    stations, but in reality most of what is does is make
    these ghost trains. If you’ve just realized “ghost train”
    is a great band name and want to make a website for
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    North Korea’s Tiny, Terrible Airline
    Articles, Blog

    North Korea’s Tiny, Terrible Airline

    August 24, 2019

    This video was made possible by CuriosityStream. Watch for free for 31-days by signing up at and using the code, “HAI.” North Korea—it would be great as a reality
    show, but it’s less great as reality. As much as this country likes to pretend that
    the rest of the world is made up exclusively of brainwashed heathens living in hell-scape
    garbage fire countries, sometimes certain North Koreans, special enough to get a hall
    pass, need to get out, and sometimes other people go there to experience the dictator
    Disneyland. Now, there is a train to the DPRK from Russia
    and China, but honestly, what are trains good for… other than low-cost, long distance,
    time-efficient, economically stimulating, carbon minimal, socially egalitarian, death-reducing
    transport? Nothing, because they don’t have wings. That’s why North Korea has its own extra
    special, tiny, terrible, airline… and here’s some boring history, made possible by my declining
    audience retention statistics. Back in the 50’s, the USSR was North Korea’s
    sugar daddy, and so the airline was first established to fly to the eastern bit of the
    Soviet Union so that people could connect onto Aeroflot services to Moscow. In the early days, they flew exclusively Soviet
    planes, which sometimes didn’t crash, and mostly focused on flights to the USSR and
    later China. Eventually, though, they got some big boy
    Ilyushin Il-62 and Tupolev Tu-154’s, which, surprisingly, are not the names of toaster
    models but rather planes that could fly all the way to Eastern Europe. That meant they could finally fly the crucial
    non-stop route of Pyongyang to Moscow. They also eventually added some flights going
    all the way to some of the other Soviet united places like East Germany and Bulgaria. But then the USSR became USS not, North Korea
    and Russia’s relationship diminished, and Air Koryo started flying to some definitively
    non-Soviet places. As recently as 2010, they were flying to far
    flung destinations like Zurich, Budapest, and Prague, but then, the DPRK’s flag carrier
    ran into two major issues. One was that they were added to the prestigious,
    “Airlines Banned in the EU” list meaning that, for the most part, they could no longer
    fly through, to, or from most of Europe and two was that, especially in the past decade,
    a whole host of sanctions were imposed on North Korea by both individual nations and
    the United Nations. These sanctions, preventing all UN member
    states from conducting almost all types of trade with North Korea, mean that there’s
    barely any economic activity with the country so there’s little reason for people to travel
    there. Nowadays, Air Koryo is more modest in size
    compared to its former glory. They fly to just five destinations—Vladivostok,
    Shenyang, Beijing, Shanghai, and they just recently started a new route to Macau in August,
    2019 to allow the small number of North Korean elites to get to this gambling hub for some
    good old fashioned sinning. Since this longest flight is only three hours
    long, they don’t have to deal with some of the complications that would arise from
    their crew liking some of their layover cities a little too much since they don’t have
    to have any overnight layovers. They do, however, have plenty of complications
    arising from operating from one of the most sanctioned countries on earth. These sanctions have long prevented them from
    purchasing Boeing or Airbus planes so they bought Soviet or Russian built planes, but
    then North Korea accidentally pressed the big red, “sanction me more,” button. On November 28, 2017, North Korea launched
    a ballistic missile that landed uncomfortably close to Japan and, in response, the UN dropped
    the mother of all sanction packages outlined in this bad boy document—UN Resolution 2397. This resolution resolved, among other things,
    that all UN members states would, “prohibit the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer
    to the DPRK, of all transportation vehicles.” It clarifies that this includes everything
    between HS codes 86 and 89, which are codes used by customs organizations, and if you
    pull up HS codes 86 through 89, you’ll see that that includes, among other things, locomotives,
    tractors, tanks, baby carriages, buoys, and aircraft. Therefore, since that’s a United Nations
    sanction, that means that North Korea can’t buy aircraft from, let me pull up my map,
    ummm, these countries. They could always buy from, like, Kosovo. They’re not a UN member. I wonder how their aircraft manufacturing
    industry is… not that Kosovo is a country… or not a country… or part of a country…
    or not part of a country… just forget I ever mentioned Kosovo. Anyway, what this all means is that Air Koryo
    can only operate aircraft it had pre-2017 and those were almost all old Russian, Ukrainian,
    or Soviet planes. UN Resolution 2397 specifically allows the
    DPRK to buy spare parts for their passenger planes, presumably to be sure they don’t
    fall out of the sky, so that’s not an issue, but many of their planes are old, and only
    getting older, that’s how time works, so their lack of plane buying ability certainly
    is becoming more and more of a problem. While plenty of countries regularly violate
    the sanctions in secret (*cough* Russia,) it would certainly raise some questions if
    North Korea just suddenly started flying around a shiny new Russian jet, I’d imagine. UN Resolution 2270 also bans all sales of
    aviation fuel to the DPRK, but it specifically includes an exemption for fuel used for passenger,
    commercial flights. It does, however, warn its members to only
    sell the exact amount an aircraft needs to get from, in the example of Russia, Vladivostok,
    to Pyongyang, and back to Vladivostok—no more that could sneakily make its way into
    a military jet, you know, somehow. Perhaps the craziest bit about Air Koryo,
    though, is that you can book a flight on their website, just like any other airline—it’s
    scarily easy. The reception when you get there—well, that
    might be less than warm. Of course, on their rickety Russian jets,
    Air Koryo lets you experience aviation’s past but, if you want to see what flying will
    be like in the future, you should watch, “Into the Skies”— a new episode of the Curiosity
    Stream original series, “Speed.” This covers how aircraft design will change
    to cope with a time not far off when 10 billion passengers will fly each year. This is just one of more than 2,400 titles
    that you can watch on Desktop, Smart TV, iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, and more
    platforms through Curiosity Stream. They’re the perfect site for anyone who
    likes being entertained and educated simultaneously. What’s best, for HAI viewers, you can watch
    any of these more than 2,400 titles for free for 31-days by signing up at
    and using the code, “HAI.”

    Quick D: Cup Levitation & Train Track Rescue
    Articles, Blog

    Quick D: Cup Levitation & Train Track Rescue

    August 24, 2019

    When are you gonna get it? Nothing you’ve ever seen is original. Pop-culture is a neverending game… …of musical chairs. What was once in books… …is now in comics. What was in comics is in movies. What was movies is TV. TV is games. And WHITE IS THE NEW ASIAN! Everything is a thing from before, just a little different. Except for this channel… …which is COMPLETELY ORIGINAL. So when you see a new viral video… …of a wise old man
    demonstrating a magical feat of telekinesis…. …consider that you might just be looking
    at the oldest trick in the book. So old, I covered it in my pre-Internet days! *rocking VHS intro plays* *magical hand wave * Invisible thread is an extremely thin nylon filament. And a delicious way
    to WOW up your conjuring to the next level. You can pick up a reel of invisible thread… …from your local magic shop. I stripped my own from this pair of black pantyhose… …generously donated by my grandmother. *rocking transition* The key to an effective levitation
    is the rigging of the thread. You don’t wanna just dangling your object… …from above like a cat toy.
    *meow* What if instead… …we attached one end of the thread to our body… …and the other to a nearby structure… …like a wall or another structure. *magical card&silk vomiting* Allow me to SHOELACEtrate. One end goes on my lapel… …and the other… …on this cardboard cut-out of Ang Lee’s latest triumph… …Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. A bit of magician’s wax… …and not the kind I use to stay dolphin-smooth… …is enough to attach the item I want to levitate… …to the thread. *fiery transition* And now, for the moment of truth! Or should I say… …MAGIC. Suspending the object from 2 points… …reduces the dangling motion. I can make it float higher or lower… …by subtly moving my body in and out. And I can even wave my hands around the cup… …in a tubular fashion. TUBULAR! *not awkward demonstration* *slightly more awkward demonstration* *a bit too awkward demonstration* Alas… …the age of magic trick training tapes is long over. Today we care about
    real world unscripted human drama. Like a guy about to be hit by a train… …getting heroically rescued by a railworker
    in this brand new video. It’s mute. It’s choppy. And it’s a terrible composite… …of a train with no shadow… …but whether or not it’s fake… …at least it’s new, right? Well, let me tell you a story… …about a young man… …a student… …in the art of cinematographic storytelling… …at the turn of the century. The 21st century. In exchange for a degree… …of questionable legitimacy… …from a college that no longer exists. He directed a supernaturally themed short film… …about troubled teens channeling their frustration… …into writing in a special class. And the climax of the story… …the evil bad guy… …is gruesomely dispatched by a train. (…) Spoiler alert! The young filmmaker’s effort earned him and his crew… …the coveted “Best Thesis Film” trophy at his school. It was made of acrylic, didn’t have his name on it… …and it would be the ONLY award he’d receive… …for the 15 years… …until a subsidiary of a search engine company
    would send him… …a plaque also without his real name on it. But it inflated his ego enough… …to think that his friends would enjoy
    a “special edition” of his college film. A version with director’s commentary…. …behind the scenes footage… …and breakdowns of his groundbreaking visual effects. Thankfully… …his cartoonish arrogance back then… …will save me a little bit of editing work today. First… …a static shot is composed… …and the camera is locked off securely. The human action is filmed… …safely, without a train. Then… …all the actors and crew vacate the area… …and the passing of a REAL train is captured… …at the same angle. The two shots are timed against each other… …to depict the near miss or a hit… …and composited together… …as seamlessly as the rototools,
    patience and talent allow. Of course… …it’s the little things that make a shot special. Will the angle work… …for revealing a character
    on the other side of the tracks… …after the train has passed? Or will you have to digitally shorten your train… …to just 4 cars… …to accomodate a clueless actor… …who runs accross the tracks WAY TOO EARLY. Will this visual effect be viewed… …in the context of a dramatic scene… …in a well written narrative… …that only a handful of people will ever see? Or will it be a pointless, artless youtube hoax… …that’s destined to go viral. In other words… …is it better to fail in originality… …then to succeed in imitation? Wait… Herman Melville said that. Damn it! Can’t I have ONE ORIGINAL THOUGHT? *woosh* *outro music plays*

    A Bridge Between the USA and Russia
    Articles, Blog

    A Bridge Between the USA and Russia

    August 15, 2019

    The relationship between the USA and Russia is complicated. JFK: “It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile, launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States.” *Intense laughter* JFK: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade, and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Their rivalry defined the second half of the 20th century. Reagan: “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall.” Millions are spent each year trying to improve relations, and even more spent undermining them again. To many their opposites; chalk and cheese, vodka and apple pie, Oceania vs Eurasia, East vs West. It’s easy to forget that only 51 miles separates them. If we’re going to spend so much time, energy and money trying to build bridges between Russia and America, then why not just build an actual bridge? In 1986 Ronald Reagan gave engineer Tung Yun Lin a National Medal of Science, Lin handed back to him a 16-page plan for an intercontinental peace bridge. Whether for environmental, financial, or political reasons a bridge across the Bering Strait has been on someone’s agenda ever since. Most of this talk has come to nothing, but in 2015 Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping started to make some actual plans. *Theme music* The Bering Strait is a 51 mile sea passage separating Siberia and Alaska. In 1867 the US bought Alaska for 7.2 million dollars or 2 cents an acre. This created a new border right down the middle separating two small islands, Big Diomede (Russian), and Little Diomede (now American). The same boundary is followed today by the International Date Line, giving the Diomedes the adorable nicknames of “Tomorrow Island” and “Yesterday Isle”. Ever since the Cold War Big Diomede and most of Russia’s Eastern Shore has been a military zone. No travel is permitted. In fact, you can’t arrive or depart there even with a Russian visa. The closest you can get is the port of Provideniya, and even then you should probably get permission before rocking up. This hasn’t stopped people trying though, in 2006 Karl Bushby and Dimitri Kieffer navigated the strait’s ice floes on foot. However Lynne Cox swam between the Diomedes in 1987, The public support was so immense that Reagan and Gorbachev thanked her at the signing of the nuclear forces treaty. Gorbachev: “It took a daring American girl by the name of Lynne Cox a mere two hours to swim the distance separating our two countries, By her courage she showed how close to each other our two peoples live.” Trump: “We’re not gonna let them violate a nuclear agreement, and go out and do weapons. So we’re going to terminate the agreement. We’re gonna pull out.” We could really do with another Lynne Cox right now. Something to bring the US and Russia together. The whole world a little closer. Even if it has to be marketed to us as a trade deal or a “Trans-Pacific Infrastructure Investment”. A bridge would be a common project, a physical link forcing superpowers to cooperate. But ignoring all political and financial hurdles for now. Is it even possible? Currently the world’s longest sea bridge is 34 miles across, Connecting Hong Kong to Zhuhai and Macau in China. And although the Bering Strait is 51 miles, the longest bridge you’d actually have to build would only be 26. The Diomedes make two perfect stopping points. You could build a US bridge on one side and a Russian bridge on the other. In fact, make it a race the loser has to build the three-mile bridge connecting the two. Construction would be slow, for seven months of the year the temperature is well below freezing, and although the Strait rarely freezes large chunks of ice are funneled through the passage from the Arctic. These ice floes would exert enormous pressure on any structure we built. There may be engineering solution around this, but perhaps the simplest would be to scrap the bridge and dig a tunnel. Tunnels may not lend themselves to metaphors as well, but they’re warmer, often cheaper over long distances, you can lay gas, oil, and electricity alongside. They’re protected from harsh weather, and ships can still pass above them. With the Arctic ice caps melting, the Bering Strait could become a very busy shipping lane in the next 20 years. The Strait is relatively shallow, the maximum depth is only 55 metres. The Channel Tunnel is a hundred metres below sea level. That opened in 1994 connecting the UK to Europe, and that relationship is going swimmingly. A tunnel (unlike a bridge) doesn’t have to intersect the Diomedes, it can start and end at more convenient points. But therein lies the problem. There are no convenient points. Here’s a map of the Alaskan and Siberian road networks, the closest highways are 2,000 miles apart. In Russia anything east of Magadan is impossible to get to by car. And although there are plans for major Alaskan routes, anything west of Fairbanks is tricky. Tunnelling under the Bering Strait would be the easy part, you’d also have to build thousands of miles of roads, over rough terrain, in incredibly harsh conditions. And after all that you’ve still got to persuade people to drive it. The only sensible option would be a train. You’ll still face all the same obstacles during construction, but a warm high-speed railroad from Anchorage to Vladivostok is way more convenient than a 60 hour drive through the Arctic. The main use of such a railroad would be freight. If we extend the network through North America and into China, it could transport a significant amount of the world’s cargo. But now we’ve got one of the biggest engineering projects in the world, costing hundreds of billions of dollars. Is there a need for it? An Arctic railroad would have to compete with our existing freight network, boats and planes. The busiest shipping route in the world by cargo is China to North America. So let’s say we want to ship one metric ton between the two busiest ports, Shanghai to Vancouver. We’ve got four options; ship, air, rail ,and road. A boat can do it in 15 to 20 days, cost us $300, and produce 225kg of CO2. Plane: 1 day, $3,500, 4,400kg. A train: 2 to 4 days, $400, 630kg. And a truck: 7 to 10 days, $900, 1,050kg. If speed is the priority and money no object, a plane is the way to go. But if speed doesn’t matter and you want the best value for money then shipping is the clear winner. Ships and planes account for 90% of global trade, that is a lot of fuel being burned all day, every day. Diesel trains are not environmentally friendly, but both Alaska and Siberia have stores of untapped geothermal energy. We need to replace as many major transport routes as possible with renewable alternatives, and high-speed electric trains are one of them. There’d definitely be a market for an Arctic railroad, it would dramatically improve travel time without an enormous increase in price. Whether it would be profitable for whoever built it though is another matter. It would have to be a financier with very deep pockets, and probably an ulterior motive. That pretty much leaves three options; Russia, America, or China. China are building railways and shipping ports everywhere. They’re already building high-speed railways connecting Europe, Africa and Asia. All with China as the central hub. They don’t just want to be at the crossroads. They want to be the crossroads, for all future international trade and transport. That means North and South America are definitely on the agenda. In fact, they proposed a high-speed railway connecting china to the US in 2007. Putin has given China approval to build through Siberia. And then in 2015 China and Russia announced they were collaborating, to build the Siberia and Alaska passage together. This is mostly just talk, but it’s getting louder and more frequent. There’s a reasonable chance of it happening with or without US involvement. It would be a real shame if multiple countries didn’t cooperate on this project. Not to mention the dangerous power dynamic it could create. An Arctic railroad connecting China, Russia, and the US would be an amazing achievement. An opportunity for three superpowers, currently jostling for their place in the century, to collaborate on a common project. One that could genuinely improve the world, environmentally, financially, and politically.

    Brazil’s Geography Problem
    Articles, Blog

    Brazil’s Geography Problem

    August 14, 2019

    This video was made possible by Skillshare. Learn from 21,000 classes for free for two
    months at There are plenty of lines you can draw on
    the globe but perhaps none is more consequential than the equator. Of the 15 wealthiest countries
    in the world as measured by GDP per capita, all are in the northern hemisphere. Only 800
    million of earth’s 7.6 billion residents live south of the equator. There is a clear
    divide between north and south but of those 800 million people a quarter of them, about
    207 million, live here in Brazil. The country is an exception to the global trend. Brazil
    is the fifth most populous country in the world and the most populous entirely within
    the southern hemisphere. Its economy has grown enormously and the country is quickly developing.
    Although, the very land it sits on stacks the odds against it. Its location gives it
    a disadvantage. Given this, the question is whether Brazil can develop into a world superpower
    by the likes of the US, Europe, Russia, India, and China or if the country is doomed to fail? Brazil, of course, looks like this but in
    reality almost 80% of the country’s population lives here—within 200 miles of the coast.
    You do see a concentration of population near the coast in any country as it provides a
    cheap and easy means of transportation by boats and a source of food through fishing
    but few countries have such a severe concentration of people by the oceans as Brazil. This small
    area, for example, is home to three of Brazil’s six largest cities. Normally this would help
    development as the area in between cities will urbanize but this map doesn’t tell
    the whole story—this one does. You see, this area of Brazil is rather mountainous.
    The major cities mostly exist in small pockets of low-altitude, flat land on the ocean. This
    is because major cities need easy water access to get goods in and out. The majority of Brazil’s
    coast is defined by steep, sheer cliffs. Petrópolis, for example, a suburb of Rio, is a mere 13
    miles from the ocean and yet it sits at almost 3,000 feet of altitude. The rare areas with
    low-altitude land on the water are where cities like Porte Alegre, Rio de Janeiro, and Recife
    are but this pattern has two consequences. First, these cities, while being on flat land
    themselves are surrounded by cliffs and mountainous regions which means their growth is limited.
    There are plenty of cities that exist in mountainous regions but the world’s largest and most
    influential cities like London and Delhi and Beijing all exist in areas with absolutely
    no geographical features limiting their growth. The fact that Brazil’s cities locate in
    rare low-altitude coastal land means that the country will likely never have a megalopolis
    by the likes of the Pearl River Delta or the US Northeast. It takes a surprising six hours
    to drive between Rio and Sao Paolo and since there’s no low-altitude coastal land in
    between them, there are really no major cities in between them too. Brazil’s cities are
    confined to the geographically convenient areas which are spread out from each other.
    This means the cities can’t collaborate easily with each other thereby limiting Brazil’s
    impact on the world stage. Like any large country, Brazil’s development
    potential is also linked to how it gets its food. This, in fact, might be Brazil’s greatest
    obstacle as it really doesn’t hav e much great farmland, at least yet. The country’s
    main agricultural region is its south which is blessed with great soil and great rivers
    that help transport crops away from their farms. Interestingly, the same elevation that
    leads to steep coastal cliffs causes rivers to run in a counterintuitive direction. The
    Tietê river, for example, starts near Sao Paolo a mere 10 miles away from the Atlantic
    ocean but then runs inland almost 500 miles where it flows into the Paraná River which
    eventually flows out into the ocean near Buenos Aires, Argentina. If a farmer wants to export
    their food abroad, it’s often cheaper to first ship it the thousands of miles by boat
    on these rivers than just hundreds of miles overland to Brazil’s coast due to their
    poor road infrastructure. This means that Argentina gets the business of packing up
    and shipping Brazil’s food to other countries. That’s just lost money for Brazil as a result
    of their geography. Brazil’s south, though, does not even have enough land to feed the
    country’s own 200 million residents. Given that, the question is where to put the rest
    of the farms. In Brazil’s north is the Amazon basin. The
    central feature of this region is, of course, the Amazon River which is navigable for boats.
    Normally this feature would lead to a significant population as navigable rivers serve as cheap
    and easy transport for crops and goods but the banks of the Amazon are a tough place
    to farm or live. Not only are they muddy and unstable which makes building difficult, but
    the Amazon also regularly floods which means that every year many of the communities on
    the banks of the Amazon can have their streets underwater for months. Building and living
    in the Amazonian cities is difficult, but what’s more difficult is building the roads
    in and out. The largest city in the Amazon, Manaus, is home to 2.6 million people, it’s
    as big as Baltimore, and yet there are only three roads connecting the city to the outside
    world. Many of the smaller towns around the Amazon have no roads going in and out as its
    just incredibly costly and difficult to build roads through the rainforest. In fact, rather
    unbelievably, there is not a single bridge spanning over the Amazon so there is no way
    to drive from the northernmost region of Brazil to the rest without taking a ferry. Overall,
    this whole area is just empty. Even if there was the infrastructure to transport crops
    to market, farming in the Amazon involves clearing huge amounts of land and even then,
    the soil is relatively infertile which leads to poor yields. Despite being Brazil’s largest
    state, Amazonas is home to just 1.8% of its population. It just costs too much to build
    the infrastructure needed to live there. To the south of the Amazon, though, is an
    area known as the Cerrado. This vast savanna used to be in the same category as the Amazon—it
    was empty. The problem was not only that there was no natural network of rivers to get crops
    out of the area but also that the soil was too acidic and lacking enough nutrients to
    easily grow large quantities of crops. Between both the Amazon and the Cerrado being off-limits
    for large-scale farming, that meant that Brazil really didn’t have much land at all for
    farming. 30 years ago, with only the south to farm, Brazil was actually a net importer
    of food—it bought more food from other countries than it sold. That was until researchers discovered
    that all you needed to do to fix the soil was add phosphorous and lime. The phosphorous
    served as a fertilizer in the place of natural nutrients and the lime worked to reduce the
    level of acidity. In the early 2000’s, the country spread more than 25 million tons of
    lime per year and so today the Cerrado accounts for 70% of Brazil’s farmland. In addition,
    Brazil has begun growing soybeans. This plant is normally grown in more temperate climates
    such as the US, northern China, or Japan, but through cross-breeding and genetic modification
    it can be modified to grow in warmer and acidic environments such as the Brazilian Cerrado.
    Thanks to the enormous amount of land Brazil has and these technological advancements the
    country has gone from producing 16% of the world’s soybean in 2005 to 31% today.
    A country’s level of development is often to linked to how good its natural transportation
    system is. That’s part of why the US developed so much so fast—it has a great system of
    navigable rivers right in its agricultural heartland that helps get goods from the fields
    to cities fast and inexpensively. The Brazilian Cerrado, though, does not have that. It doesn’t
    even have much of a preexisting network of roads since before this recent agricultural
    advancement barely anyone lived there. Therefore anyone who wants to farm in the Cerrado has
    to find land, level it, treat it with phosphate and lime, and build roads to get supplies
    in and crops out. Cerrado farms can be profitable but it takes an enormous amount of money to
    build the infrastructure needed to start a farm. It’s not like the US or France or
    China where all you need is some land. The consequence of this is that farms in Brazil
    tend to owned by corporations rather than individuals because only corporations have
    the money to build farms. That therefore increases the level of wealth disparity in Brazil. According
    to the World Bank’s Gini index, Brazil is the 11th most economically unequal country
    in the world. Lower wealth disparity and the emergence of a middle class are indicators
    of economic development so the country should want to fix this. Brazil’s government has
    recognized its infrastructure problem as a source of its wealth disparity and has therefore
    worked to build roads in the interior so that more individuals can run farms but the government
    only has so much money to spend and it’s a big country.
    Brazil does, though, understand the importance of its core. It understands that the coastal
    cities are constrained and that economic development will come from the center. It was partially
    for that reason that the country decided to move its capital from Rio de Janeiro to here—Brasília.
    The thinking was that putting the capital in the core would stimulate the economically
    underdeveloped region and, in many ways, it worked. The city simply did not exist before
    1960 yet today more than 4 million people live in its metropolitan area. Being located
    on relatively flat land unlike Rio, the city can just grow and grow and grow without hinderance.
    Brazil has potential, but its defining issue is that it’s an expensive place. It’s a
    vicious cycle. In order to make money, Brazil needs to invest in its infrastructure but
    without people making money it doesn’t have the tax money to build what it takes t o transition
    into the first world. The question of why tropical countries are less developed is an
    enormous one without a clear answer, but Brazil is one of the most likely candidates to break
    this trend. It certainly lags behind other developing countries like China, but as its
    agriculture industry develops it will become a bigger and bigger exporter which will bring
    more money in. With time, its average income will inch up. The country already does have
    major companies in other industries such as banking, manufacturing, and oil but with how
    big Brazil is, agriculture is the one that’s the world’s focus right now. Only France,
    Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States export more agricultural products per year
    which is good company to be in. Brazil may not have the explosive growth rate of some
    other less developed countries but by continuously taking what it earns and reinvesting it to
    open up more of the country to agricultural production it will continue its path to superpower
    status. One of the common questions I receive is how
    I started making these videos. The first step was learning the skills needed from writing
    to research to sound design and editing, but for each and every one of them there’s a
    course on Skillshare. Skillshare, you see, is an online learning community that has more
    than 21,000 classes on whatever you want to learn. The variety is astounding. You can
    learn skills to help you make videos, to show off at parties, or even to help you get a
    job. There are also some great courses taught by fellow YouTubers such as Mike Boyd and
    Kurzgesagt. What’s best about Skillshare is that you can try it all for free for two
    months exclusively by going to Skillshare makes this show possible and its
    a great place to learn or improve your skills so please do check them out, once again, at Thanks for watching and I’ll see you again in three weeks for another
    Wendover Productions video.

    The Secret Train Station Under New York City
    Articles, Blog

    The Secret Train Station Under New York City

    August 12, 2019

    This video was made possible by Blue Apron. The first 50 people to sign up at the link
    in the description will get $50 off their first two weeks. You’ve heard of the secret train system
    in DC, you’ve heard of the secret train platform in London, but have you heard of
    the secret train station in New York? I hope not because that’s this week’s
    dose of content. Let’s rewind 150 years to the era of not
    planes, trains, and not automobiles. In this time, the railroads coming from the
    north into New York City ended up at Grand Central Depot. This massive rail yard took up more than a
    dozen city-blocks in one of New York’s densest areas and so the owners of the station, the
    New York Central Railroad, saw an opportunity. They would put the entire rail yard underground,
    build a huge new station, sell all the freed up real estate, and get that bread. 10 years and 85 million cubic feet of dirt
    later Grand Central Terminal opened and it was actually pretty neat. It has more tracks and platforms than any
    other station in the world and today includes all sort of non-rail related things like a
    tennis club in the ceiling which was once run by a certain future US president. The station also had at one point, and this
    is true, a 65 foot indoor ski slope. As this implies, Grand Central was long at
    the center of American opulence as much of the country’s early wealth was earned by
    rail tycoons. Given that, on top of the now buried tracks,
    plenty of important buildings sprang up. In the area that was once the rail yards there
    is today the headquarters of the Colgate-Palmolive Company, JP Morgan, MetLife, Major League
    Baseball, and also the Waldorf Astoria hotel. This hotel has long been considered one of
    the world’s most prestigious and has been stayed at by countless celebrities. Up until 2015, when the hotel was bought by
    a Chinese company, the Waldorf Astoria was the place where US presidents stayed when
    they made their frequent visits to New York. The hotel has a lavish Presidential Suite
    that’s been stayed in by every US president between Herbert Hoover and Barack Obama and
    non-presidents like the Kings of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and Norway, the Queen of England,
    the Emperor of Japan, General Charles de Gaulle of France, and more. While it costs the general public between
    $4,000 and $8,000 to stay there per night, the hotel gives a generous discount to the
    US government and, by extension, the American taxpayer, and the room is even designed to
    emulate the style of the White House. Conveniently, the room is also about 500 feet
    above the Grand Central Tracks buried more than 100 years ago. Now, back in a time before private jets, the
    way that America’s richest and most powerful individuals got around without mingling with
    the normals was by private rail car. These would be hitched to the back of public
    trains and included dining rooms, kitchens, large bedrooms, lounges, and more. In the same way that US presidential candidates
    now often do speeches at airports in front of their planes, in the past candidates would
    do whistle-stop tours where they would make short speeches in small towns across America
    from the back of private rail-cars. Roosevelt was a particular fan of using these
    trains. Due to polio-induced paralysis, the bottom
    half of his body didn’t work but he did serve twice as many terms as any other US
    president so, equal? Unbelievably though, he was able to hide his
    handicap from most of the American public through careful coordination at events and
    the cooperation of the press. That’s why whenever he was seen standing
    he was holding on to someone or something. Giving speeches from the back of a railcar
    was therefore easy as he didn’t have to go far in public. While nowadays presidents fly on Air Force
    One to New York, Roosevelt would often make the trip by rail but arriving in Grand Central
    Station would be far too public to hide his ailment. His train therefore stopped a third of a mile
    short of Grand Central and was shunted to a small secret platform directly below the
    Waldorf Astoria hotel. From there, an elevator would take him up
    into the hotel. It’s unclear how many times FDR used this
    secret station as it was, of course, secret but its believed to have been used by plenty
    of presidents and celebrities since his era. The secret platform and elevator still exists
    today and, while its existence is no longer secret, we’re not always sure what it’s
    being used for. This inconspicuous door on 50th street is
    reportedly the entrance to the elevator down to the platform. We do know for sure that the platform has
    been used at least once in recent decades while a US president has stayed at the Waldorf
    Astoria. In 2003, while President Bush was staying
    there for a United Nations General Assembly session, an idling Metro-North train was kept
    at this platform ready to shuttle the president off Manhattan at any moment in case of emergency. While not confirmed, it’s assumed that this
    procedure is repeated whenever presidents visit the Waldorf Astoria nowadays. If you need to not be seen in public for security,
    secrecy, laziness, or other reasons you need to remember to eat and one of the best eating
    methods is with Blue Apron. Each week, Blue Apron delivers boxes to your
    door filled with farm-fresh pre-apportioned ingredients that you can use to quickly make
    the recipes included. I’ve tried plenty of different Blue Apron
    meals and they’ve all been delicious and unique. Each meal is between 500-800 calories per
    person, takes less than 40 minutes to prepare (and often only 20 to 30 minutes), and costs
    as little as $7.49 per serving. If you want to try Blue Apron out, the link
    in the description will get you $50 off your first two weeks.

    Why China Is so Good at Building Railways
    Articles, Blog

    Why China Is so Good at Building Railways

    August 11, 2019

    This video was made possible by Squarespace. Build your beautiful website for 10% off at Imagine a train that took you from Washington,
    DC to Dallas, Texas in nine hours… or Paris, France to Athens, Greece in nine hours…
    or Adelaide, South Australia to Perth, Western Australia in nine hours. These train trips actually take 44 hours,
    44 hours, and 41 hours respectively so the idea of making any of these trips by train
    in nine hours seems almost absurd. In China, though, that’s reality. In September, 2018 the country opened up a
    brand new high speed rail route with d irect trains from Hong Kong to Beijing. This is about the same distance as DC to Dallas,
    Paris to Athens, or Adelaide to Perth and yet these trains make the trip in only 8 hours
    and 56 minutes. What makes this even more impressive is that
    ten years ago, in 2008, at the time of the Beijing Olympics, China’s high-speed rail
    network consisted of this. We’ll have to zoom in because the extent
    of the network was one 19 mile-long Maglev train from Shanghai Airport to the outskirts
    of Shanghai and a traditional high-speed rail line from Beijing to the coastal city of Tianjin. Today, ten years later, that network has expanded
    into this. China has eight times as much high speed track
    as France, ten times as much as Japan, twenty times as much as the UK, and five-hundred
    times as much as the US. In fact, China has as much high-speed rail
    track as the rest of the world combined. It is staggering the amount of progress they
    have made in such a short amount of time. Traditionally high speed rail exists in small
    countries with rich populations by the likes of Germany, France, and Japan. China is neither of these things. The country is enormous, about the same size
    as the US, and is also not rich. While no longer poor, China is definitively
    a middle income country. It’s about as rich as Mexico, Thailand,
    or Brazil. In fact, despite being the country with the
    most high speed rail in the world, China is also the poorest country in the world to have
    any high speed rail. Despite the country’s vast size, China’s
    huge population makes it very dense especially in the east half. This means that China does have large cities
    close enough together where it makes sense to take the train rather than the plane. Trips like Guangzhou to Changsha, a distance
    of 350 miles, take an hour by plane or 2 hours and 20 minutes by train. When factoring in the time it takes to check
    in, go through security, and board it absolutely makes sense to go by train when traveling
    between these two cities even without considering that the high-speed train is cheaper than
    flying. High speed rail even makes sense in China
    on longer routes where it wouldn’t in other countries. Beijing and Shanghai, for example, are about
    650 miles apart. Normally that would be too far for high speed
    rail to make sense. Paris and Barcelona, for example, are 500
    miles apart—closer than Beijing and Shanghai—but only two high speed trains a day run between
    the two cities compared to about 20 flights. Between Beijing and Shanghai, on the other
    hand, about 50 flights run per day run compared to 41 trains. Considering the trains carry far more people
    each, up to 1,200, trains are therefore the dominant means of transport between these
    two cities. There are a few differences between these
    two routes. For one, while Beijing-Shanghai by train takes
    4 hours and 28 minutes, Paris-Barcelona, despite being a shorter distance, takes a longer 6
    hours and 25 minutes. The other factor, though, is about the competition. Europe has an efficient air transport network
    dominated by budget airlines that are often far cheaper than trains. You can find tickets for flights between Paris
    and Barcelona for as little as $12 while the cheapest Beijing-Shanghai flights go for $74. Air travel within China is also far from efficient. China Southern, China Eastern, and Air China,
    the three largest Chinese airlines, arrive on time an average of 67%, 66%, and 63% of
    the time respectively. A big reason for this is that there’s just
    not enough room in the skies. A majority of China’s airspace is military
    controlled meaning that there are just these narrow flight corridors that account for 30%
    of airspace where civilian planes can fly. With tons of planes and not much room to fly
    planes are frequently delayed by air traffic control to wait for the airspace to clear
    up which leads to the abysmal on-time ratings of the country’s airlines. While the Beijing-Shanghai flight takes only
    two hours the potential of delays, along with all the other factors that make air travel
    slower, help make the train the popular means of transport on this longer route. Other train routes in China, though, make
    less sense. For example, in 2014, the new high speed train
    line opened between Lanzhou and Urumqi. These two cities are relatively small by China
    standards. They both have a population of 3.5 million
    and between them are only small towns. They’re also not close—about 1,000 miles
    separate them. This project could therefore be compared to
    building a high speed train from Denver to Seattle—they’re modestly sized cities
    a long way’s apart with nothing big in between. Some people would use it but it wouldn’t
    make any financial sense. In China, Lanzhou and Urumqi are not small
    cities but there’s really nothing big in between and, at that distance, there’s no
    sense not flying. The Lanzhou-Urumqi high speed train takes
    11 hours compared to the 2.5 hour flight and the construction cost of that line was $20
    billion meaning that, if every seat on every train was filled tickets would still have
    to cost $400 each way just to make back the construction cost in 30 years. In reality tickets cost about $80 and trains
    are far from full meaning that this rail line is just insanely far from profitable. The ticket revenues from these trains reportedly
    don’t even cover the cost of electricity for the line let alone construction and other
    operating costs. So why would the Chinese government sink so
    much money into something that has no prospects of really ever making money? Well, politics. Urumqi is the capital of the Xinjiang province. While 92% of China’s population is Han Chinese,
    the Xinjiang province is primarily Uyghur—one of the minority ethnic groups of China—and
    there has been an ongoing fairly strong separatist movement by the Uyghurs from China that has
    often turned violent. The central government in Beijing, however,
    wants the Xinjiang province to be just as integrated as the rest of the country and
    has tried a variety of methods to force this including moving Han Chinese into the region
    and the imprisonment of Uyghurs in so-called “reeducation camps.” The high-speed train is just the most recent
    tactic to bring Xinjiang closer to Beijing and this is no secret. The central government is fully upfront in
    saying that the line was built to promote, as they call it, “ethnic unity.” This isn’t even the first time they’ve
    used this tactic of railroad politics. Tibet, a region even better known than Xinjiang
    for its independence movement, was the last region in China not to have a railway due
    to its small population and intense terrain. The central government still wanted to build
    one, though, to bring it closer to the rest of the country and so they did. Trains now run directly from Beijing to Lhasa,
    Tibet in 47 hours on the highest elevation rail line in the world. These trains reach an elevation of 16,640
    feet—so high that passengers have to use a direct oxygen supply. Even the train to Hong Kong serves the central
    government’s goal of further integrating Hong Kong, which is an autonomous special
    administrative region, into mainland China. While high-speed trains to Hong Kong certainly
    do make a lot more sense than trains to the Xinjiang province, many Hong Kongers have
    not greeted the new service kindly as they view it as an encroachment on the autonomy
    guaranteed to them by Hong Kong Basic Law. The most controversial part has not been the
    fact that there’s a train but rather that the station in Hong Kong includes an area
    that is effectively now part of Mainland China since people pass through border controls
    before boarding the train in Hong Kong. Just like any country, what having a high-speed,
    efficient rail network in China is doing is bringing the country together and making it
    stronger even if it’s bringing together people that want to stay apart. No matter their motives, it’s clear that
    China is building their high speed rail network more efficiently than any other country. To compare, this is the plan for California’s
    high speed rail line from San Francisco to the Los Angeles area. It’s currently in very early phases of construction
    and is expected to open by 2029. Of course that means that the time it will
    take for the California’s high speed rail network to go from this to this is the same
    as the time it took China’s high speed rail network to go from this to this but, the main
    thing to look at is cost. This Californian network is expected to cost
    $77 billion and is 520 miles long meaning that it will cost $148 million per mile to
    build. China, on the other hand, is building their
    network at a cost of only $30 million per mile. Of course labor costs are lower in China and
    their network crosses more rural areas where land acquisition costs are lower but, what’s
    more meaningful is that they’ve turned building high speed rail into almost an assembly line
    process where they can mass produce even the most expensive elements like viaducts and
    tunnels. In true Chinese fashion, with scale they’re
    making high-speed cheaper. The big difference between China and a lot
    of the western world, particularly countries like the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand,
    and the UK, is that high speed rail is at the top of the government’s priorities. Unsurprisingly given their government structure,
    in many ways, China has placed social benefit, at least by the definition of the central
    government, ahead of profitability when developing their high speed rail network. High-speed rail lines just aren’t as profitable
    as other means of transport like planes but they are undoubtably better for countries
    so you have to consider the social benefit when looking at their overall profitability. For the San Francisco to LA high speed rail
    route, for example, one study found that the social benefit derived from lower carbon emissions,
    higher worker productivity, and reduced casualties from fewer people on the road would be equivalent
    to about $440 million per year. As it turns out, this is almost the exact
    amount that the state will have to subsidize the line for it to break even. The China Railway Corporation, a state owned
    enterprise, is actually slightly profitable, although it does have huge amounts of debts
    and is helped by government subsidies. The benefit to the Chinese people, though,
    is huge. The high-speed rail allows those who can’t
    afford to live in the most expensive cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou to easily
    commute from cheaper suburbs by high-speed rail. Thanks to the high-speed rail, there are now
    75 million people who can commute to Shanghai in under an hour. It is growing what are already some of the
    largest cities and, when it comes to cities, size is strength. These lines connecting the east’s largest
    cities are some of the most profitable rail lines in the world and they’re making living
    and working in China easier but the question is, when we look back decades from now, whether
    the high-speed trains to smaller cities will have made sense. Out of a desire to keep the lines going straight
    between the big cities, the stops for smaller cities are often out in the countryside dozens
    of miles away from the city core. The high speed station for Hengyang, for example,
    a smaller city of only a million, is about a 45 minute drive east of the city center. The hope is that new development will spring
    up around the stations but this network structure, even if it saves time on the train, wastes
    time before and after which degrades the benefit of high-speed rail. In all, China is really the first country
    to have experimented with long-distance, high speed rail through less-dense areas in its
    west. In the east, though, these trains are enlarging
    the country’s economic power. It’s just one of the many factors speeding
    up China’s catch-up with world’s richest countries. Even though China is building these trains
    for less and innovating on the construction of high-speed rail, the real reason why China
    is so good at building railways is because they have the one thing that almost every
    other country lacks—the political will for high-speed trains. Whenever I’m looking to to launch something
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    The Rise of 20-Hour Long Flights
    Articles, Blog

    The Rise of 20-Hour Long Flights

    August 8, 2019

    This video was made possible by Squarespace. Build your website for 10% at 17 years ago, an aviation frontier was broken. Just before noon on March 1, 2001 a Continental
    Airlines 777 lifted off from frosty Newark Airport across the river from New York City. It tracked north over the US, then Canada,
    then just kept flying north until north became south. It flew south over Russia, then Mongolia,
    then mainland China before setting down at Chek Lap Kok Airport in Hong Kong after 16
    hours. With that, there was a new longest flight
    in the world. The two cities had never before been connected
    by non-stop commercial flights. This was at the time a momentous achievement—all
    the business travelers making frequent trips between the two financial centers badly wanted
    this quicker flight—but you may be surprised that such a flight was an achievement so recently. Nowadays, non-stop New York to Hong Kong flights
    are far from exceptional. Five planes carrying more than 1,000 passengers
    total fly non-stop daily between the two cities and nowadays, this route doesn’t even crack
    the list of the top 20 longest flights in the world. Especially in the past three years, there’s
    been a noticeable and dramatic rise in the number of ultra-long haul flights. Among the ten longest non-stop flights, the
    one on this list that’s existed the longest, since 2009, is Delta’s daily service from
    Johannesburg to Atlanta—the only flight by an American airline to South Africa. In 2016 United started non-stop flights between
    San Francisco and Singapore—ending an era during which there were no non-stop connections
    between the two countries. Just recently in October, 2018 Philippine
    Airlines began flying from Manila to New York non-stop on their new a350. In 2014, Qantas starting flying non-stop in
    both directions from Sydney to Dallas—then the longest flight in the world. In early 2018 United added another connection
    to down under with their route from Houston to Sydney. Singapore Airlines added another US connection
    in November 2018 flying to Los Angeles and Emirates has operated the longest nonstop
    a380 flight in the world from Dubai to Auckland since 2016. Qantas started the first and currently only
    non-stop connection between Australia and Europe in March, 2018 with their daily dreamliner
    service from Perth to London and Qatar operates what was until recently the longest non-stop
    flight from Doha all the way to Auckland. Lastly, the longest flight in the world, confidently
    beating the runner up by over 500 miles, is the newly launched daily Singapore Airlines
    flight between Singapore and Newark clocking in at 9,534 miles and up to 19 hours of flight
    time depending on winds. Eight of the ten flights on this list were
    launched in the past three years. While it can be expected that as technology
    advances airplane range will get longer, there’s been a noticeable acceleration in the addition
    of non-stop routes between earth’s furthest city pairs. Like any phenomenon, this has causes and effects. One factor driving this surge in ultra-long
    haul flights is the release of two new planes in the past decade—the a350 and 787. Six of the ten longest routes are flown by
    one of these two planes. Now, planes have existed before that could
    fly the routes these fly but they weren’t as economical. Singapore Airlines previously flew the world’s
    longest flight from Singapore to Newark from 2004 until 2014 on the a340 but its high fuel
    consumption forced them to cancel the route as soon as oil prices ticked up. To fly fewer passengers a shorter maximum
    distance, an a340 uses 35% more fuel than the a350. Economics is everything with the world’s
    longest routes. The truth is that flying a non-stop flight
    from Singapore to New York uses more fuel than flying a stopping service from Singapore
    to Tokyo to New York. Now, this might seem counterintuitive since
    planes use far more fuel per minute taking off than they do in cruise and flying nonstop
    requires one take off instead of two but that’s failing to consider that it uses fuel to carry
    fuel. With a 777-200, for example, flying 800 nautical
    miles will use about 30.6 pounds of fuel per mile. That pounds per mile average decreases up
    until reaching a total flight distance of about 3,000 nautical miles. Beyond that, the pound per mile figure increases
    up until 8,000 nautical miles where the aircraft would burn 32.2 pounds of fuel per mile flown. This is because eventually, the added burn
    from flying the extra fuel needed to fly long distance overtakes the extra fuel used to
    take off. That means that, with this aircraft, which
    is used to fly the daily 8,000 mile Qatar flight between Doha and Houston, it would
    be more efficient on a fuel consumption basis to fly something like Doha to Paris, Paris
    to Halifax, and Halifax to Houston rather than flying the whole trip in one go. This is part of the reason why cargo airlines
    rarely fly ultra-long haul routes. While UPS has plenty enough cargo to support
    a non-stop flight between their Louisville and Hong Kong hubs and the aircraft that could
    fly it in one go, they fly the route with a stop in Anchorage partially for fuel saving
    reasons. Of course, any time on the ground is time
    that an aircraft could be in the air making money so that degrades the savings and that’s
    part of why cargo airlines don’t only fly in 3,000 mile hops. Time matters for cargo airlines but not nearly
    as much as it does for passenger airlines. Passenger airlines have to deal with people
    which are far more sensitive to a few extra hours of travel time than boxes. Non-stop flights are typically more desirable
    especially to the business traveller which is why airlines will price connecting itineraries
    typically higher than non-stop ones even on short routes where the cost to the airline
    of operating a connecting itinerary is higher than that of a non-stop flight. With higher costs, airlines therefore need
    to justify operating non-stop flights instead of stopping ones. Singapore airlines does operate another flight
    to New York via Frankfurt with a far larger a380 but the non-stop flight is primarily
    operated to appeal to the business traveller who can pay more. Often, the routes with enough demand to support
    ultra long-haul flights are the ones with high business traffic between big, wealthy
    cities like Sydney, Singapore, Hong Kong, London, and New York. Even though Hawaii, for example, is one of
    the top vacation destinations in the world, you just don’t see many long-haul flights
    to it from places like London because leisure travelers are more sensitive to price and
    they’d rather pay less to fly via Los Angeles rather than on a non-stop from London for
    more. For this reason, on the a350’s Singapore
    Airlines uses to fly to Newark, they didn’t even bother including an economy class, the
    kind that leisure travelers tend to book. They only have premium economy and business
    class. With the lower weight from fewer bags, seats,
    and passengers the plane can fly more efficiently to the other side of the world and, from the
    airlines perspective, they’re not loosing out on much since, at the prices they would
    have to sell economy seats at to be competitive, they really wouldn’t be making much money
    anyways. The higher margins of premium classes give
    them a better shot of breaking even on this flight. Of course, the other factor contributing to
    the rise of these ultra-long haul flights is the low cost of fuel. Jet fuel prices halved in 2015 and bottomed
    out at a cost of only 85 cents per gallon in January 2016. Since then prices have steadily risen leading
    some to question whether troubled times were ahead for the industry but prices again took
    a dive in October 2018. Overall, over the past four years, prices
    are lower than ever and with that fuel represents a smaller proportion of an airline’s cost
    so it’s proportionally cheaper to fly longer distances. This fluctuation in fuel cost has also contributed
    to the rise, and in some cases fall, of long haul budget airlines such as Norwegian Airlines,
    Wow Air, and Primera Air. So we’ve established the causes of this
    proliferation of ultra-long flights but what are its effects? One of the busiest long distance flows of
    passengers is from Europe to Australia and New Zealand and vice versa. As two areas with close cultural and business
    connections plenty of people travel between them despite it taking about 24 hours each
    way. Before the turn of the century almost every
    major European Airline flew to Australia via some stopping point like Bangkok, Singapore,
    or Hong Kong including Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, Alitalia, and British Airways—some with
    multiple daily flights. Today, though, there is only one sole flight
    by a European Airlines to Australia—British Airways’ once daily flight from London to
    Singapore to Sydney. Meanwhile, Qantas is the only Australian Airline
    and Air New Zealand the only Kiwi airline to operate services all the way to Europe. All the airlines on each end have lost market
    share to those in between—the Asian airlines. In the past few decades airlines like Emirates
    and Singapore Airlines have become the most popular for those traveling between the two
    areas as, if you were to fly British Airways you would have to start in Sydney and end
    in London. Flying on Emirates, on the other hand, you
    can start at any of their six non-stop destinations in Australia and New Zealand, connect via
    Dubai, and end up at any of their dozens of European destinations with one stop. It’s just faster and often cheaper and so,
    while British Airways operates seven weekly flights to Australia, Emirates operates 84
    and Singapore 137. Both of these airlines and more including
    Cathay Pacific, Etihad, and Qatar Airways have become experts in operating connecting
    flights between Europe and Australasia. But the reason they’re able to do this is
    because you have to stop on these routes anyways—it’s too far for non-stop flights. Or rather, it used to be. Since March, 2018, number three on that list
    of longest flights is Qantas’ new non-stop flight from Perth to London. Many were skeptical when this flight launched
    that customers would prefer it to a one-stop option where they could pay less and stretch
    their legs halfway through their trip but the data proves otherwise. Since launch, 92% of available seats on this
    route have been sold. This is an exceptionally good load factor,
    as its called, as Qantas’ average load factor for international flights is only 84%. For this reason Qantas is strongly considering
    launching other non-stop European routes from Perth to Paris and Frankfurt. In addition, other airlines are looking at
    starting new non-stop routes from Europe to Australia. Founder Richard Branson has said that Virgin
    Atlantic is looking to start non-stop flights from London to Perth, “as soon as possible.” Turkish Airlines, based in Istanbul, is technically
    still a European Airline, even if it’s just miles from the border with Asia, and it’s
    set to become to first airline to start flying non-stop from Europe to Sydney if it follows
    through with its announced plans to launch these flights in 2019 with its new 787 dreamliners. While the once daily Qantas flight is doing
    little to cut into the Asian carrier’s profits right now, if more and more flights start
    bypassing the Asian hubs, the major connecting airlines could be given a run for their money. Meanwhile, the race is on to see who will
    start flying what is perhaps the most valuable route in the world that doesn’t yet have
    a non-stop connection—Sydney to London. Chance are the first will be Qantas. A number of years ago, Qantas challenged aircraft
    manufacturers Boeing and Airbus to create a plane that could fly the 21 hour non-stop
    flight fully loaded all the way to London. The manufacturers are close to delivering
    and Qantas has said they will make their decision between the Airbus a350-1000ULR or Boeing
    777-8 by the end of 2019. From there, flights would start in 2022 or
    2023 not only on the Sydney to London route, but also potentially from Melbourne and Brisbane
    and to New York and Paris. Being the airline of choice for Australians,
    perhaps no airline globally has a better shot at making a 21 hour non-stop flight work than
    Qantas. With the arrival of the newest set of planes,
    airlines can now fly as far as 11,000 miles non-stop. That means that nearly every populated point
    on earth can feasibly be connected by non-stop flights. With more technological advancements on their
    way, absolutely every point on earth will soon be reachable non-stop. What that means is that the only factors now
    restricting the development of ultra-long haul flights are economic, not technological. In many ways, the question of whether this
    trend of the proliferation of ultra-long hauls is up to the mercy of fuel prices. If they stay low, we’ll have more and more
    18, 19, or 20 hour flights while if they go up, you can be sure that airlines will cancel
    these routes in droves. While the planes are not flying any faster,
    they’re getting passengers to their destination in less time so these new non-stop routes
    to the other side of the world are helping to make the world just a little bit smaller,
    one flight at a time. If you have an idea for a business, whether
    it just be just you as a freelancer or the next Fortune 500 company, one of the first
    steps in making an idea reality is setting up a website. No matter what you do, it’s crucial in this
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    today by signing up for a free-trial at and then, when you’re ready to launch, that
    same link will get you 10% off and you’ll be supporting the show while you’re at it. Also, on my other channel, Half as Interesting,
    I just released a video on the longest duration non-stop flight to ever exist—the 32 hour
    flight Qantas flew from Perth to Sri Lanka during WWII in order to reconnect the empire. Click the annotation on-screen to check that
    out and I’ll see you again in two weeks with another Wendover Productions video.