Browsing Tag: half as interesting

    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
    squarespace.com/HAI. 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”
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    The Fake Neighborhoods on Google Maps
    Articles, Blog

    The Fake Neighborhoods on Google Maps

    August 28, 2019


    This video was made possible by Brilliant. Start learning with Brilliant for 20% off
    by being one of the first 200 to sign up at brilliant.org/HAI. If you’re from San Francisco there’s a
    few things you’ve probably never heard of: toast without avocados, three figure rent,
    republicans, and the East Cut neighborhood. If you go on Google Maps though and search
    for East Cut it’ll tell you that’s this neighborhood between Market Street and the
    Bay Bridge even though, before a year ago, nobody had even tried to call this area the
    East Cut. Nowadays, however, the “East Cut” name
    is seeping into the real world all thanks to the world’s benevolent dictator—Google. Now of course Google is amazing and lovely
    and I don’t mean to be critical at all of such a fantastic organization but they do
    have a certain amount of power over, well, everything. More than half of the world’s smartphone
    users have used Google Maps in the past month and, considering that there are 2.5 billion
    smartphone users in the world, that’s a lot. Google Maps is the most popular mapping service
    in the world and that means that when someone wants to figure out what something is, they
    check Google Maps. Quite bafflingly, the benevolent dictator
    almost almost started a war in 2010. You see, where Nicaragua and Costa Rica meet
    on the Atlantic Ocean Nicaragua believes the border to be this while Costa Rica believes
    it to be this. In 2010 a Nicaraguan military troop was sent
    to the area to do dredging work on the San Juan River. While there, though, the troop just happened
    to meander onto Calero Island which, as far as Costa Rica was concerned, was Costa Rica. Now, having a foreign military strut into
    your country with no prior warning doesn’t look great. It looks a whole lot like an invasion so Costa
    Rica, being, interestingly, the most populous country in the world without a military, sent
    70 police officers to make sure that this wasn’t the beginning of the Nicaraguan annexation
    of Costa Rica. In response, Nicaragua sent an additional
    50 troops and the two parties sort of just had a stand off while the two country’s
    leaders had a discussion. As it turned out, the few dozen troops that
    entered Costa Rica had no intentions to singlehandedly overthrow a country of five million. Their commander was just using Google Maps
    to navigate which showed the border as this. Costa Rica then went to the International
    Court of Justice, and complained and then, after years of back and forth, the court ruled
    that this area was in fact Costa Rica and so now Google Maps shows it as Costa Rica
    and Nicaragua lays off the invasions. Unfortunately Apple missed the opportunity
    to create a great Apple Maps ad. Google Maps does try more or less to follow
    what people say places are but sometimes some people disagree on what a thing is. For example, some say New Zealand, other say
    “where?” Some say Machias Seal Island is part of Canada,
    other say it’s part of the US so if you search it on Google it won’t tell you which
    country it is like it does for the rest of the US or Canada. It’ll do the same if you look at a town
    in Western Sahara, Kashmir, the South China Sea, or any other disputed territory. But perhaps the biggest issue for Google Maps
    is what to call neighborhoods. You see, in most cases, neighborhood names
    aren’t official—they’re just decided through what people colloquially call places. People just refer to this area in San Francisco
    as Russian Hill or this area Telegraph Hill, this area Jackson Hill, and at least a few
    people call this area the East Cut. In 2015, you see, an organization was founded
    to improve what was then called Rincon Hill. For some inexplicable reason they decided
    they needed a rebranding and they settled on the neighborhood name “the East Cut.” They updated street signs and their website
    and everything but still, when asked, the mayor of San Francisco said he had never heard
    of the neighborhood. Lucky for the East Cut organization, one of
    their board members just happened to work at Google, whose offices are in the East Cut,
    and, according to the New York Times in an article about this debacle, was able to persuade
    the company to switch the name which is the most San Francisco story ever. Some neighborhood names on Google Maps are
    even more baffling, though. In Detroit Google Maps refers to this area
    as “the Eye” even though really nobody has ever referred to this area by that name. A blogger did some detective work and was
    able to figure out that Google Maps copied the neighborhood names from a map that some
    random website published in 2003. Google Maps even copied the misspellings from
    that map. As it turns out, “the Eye” was the name
    of a community watch organization in the area so there were signs around the area saying
    “the Eye” and somewhere along the line someone got confused and assumed it was the
    neighborhood name. Still today that name shows up on Google Maps
    and, if you really want, you can search and buy real estate in the prestigious Eye neighborhood. In true Detroit fashion, houses start at $8,000. Nobody’s really sure exactly how Google
    determines neighborhood names but, once they do, that name essentially becomes official. According to Google Maps Machias Seal island
    is both Canada and the US at the same time but you know what’s also two things at once—Quantum
    objects since, thanks to Quantum superposition, these particles can be in two or more quantum
    states at the same time. This is what Schrodinger’s Cat is about—it’s
    like if a cat was both dead and alive at the same time. Quantum mechanics is like magic that’s happening
    in our world right now and it’s sort of complicated but Brilliant is the expert in
    teaching super complex things in an understandable way. If you take their quantum objects course you’ll
    go away knowing what only specialized physicists understand. Of course Brilliant has plenty of other great
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    How Airlines Price Flights
    Articles, Blog

    How Airlines Price Flights

    August 27, 2019


    This video was made possible by Blue Apron. Get three free meals from Blue Apron by being
    one of the first 100 people to sign up at the link below. Airline ticket pricing probably seems like
    a crapshoot. The numbers change seemingly arbitrarily every
    week, day, or hour, but there’s some real science behind these prices. People spend their whole lives figuring out
    what to charge you to fly. Let’s take a look at one flight on one route
    by one airline to understand. American Flight 33 leaves New York’s JFK
    airport every day at 7 AM bound for Los Angeles arriving at 10:51 AM pacific time. This transcontinental route is one of the
    most competitive in the world with over 3.5 million yearly passengers and five major airlines
    connecting the country’s two largest cities. There’s nowhere where pricing strategies
    are more important for airlines than here. Looking at three months of fares for this
    flight, there are eight distinct prices for economy ranging from $129 to $472. These all get you on the exact same flight
    in the exact same seat but each and every price has a purpose and place. The lowest price, $129, is the most competitive
    price. This fare only shows up three times in our
    three month span—each time on Tuesdays. Now, Tuesdays are very often the cheapest
    days of the week to fly. Business travelers tend to make up much of
    the demand during the week and they most often want to fly out on Monday and return on Thursday
    or Friday so Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays tend to be the most expensive travel days
    while Tuesdays and Wednesdays are often the cheapest. The average ticket price for this flight shows
    this—Tuesdays average $182 and Wednesdays $173. Even if the demand is lower American Airlines
    runs the flight anyways and they have to fill seats to break even so they sell the flight
    at rock-bottom prices. The next price, $144, actually demonstrates
    a very interesting phenomenon. Whenever American prices their flight at $144,
    they are not alone. Take March 6th for example. American, Delta, Virgin America, JetBlue,
    and United all have flights from New York to LA at around 7 in the morning selling for
    $144. They’re doing what is called price matching. Because this is one of the most competitive
    routes in the world and because the number one determinant for travelers on which airline
    they take is price, all five airlines flying this route match each others prices. This way, travelers make their decision based
    off the reputation of each airline rather than the price. The price stays at $144 because it’s in
    each airlines best interest to keep it there. In a normal market, if Delta, for example,
    dropped their price to $119 they would get more travelers since they were the cheapest,
    but in this price matched market all the other airlines would drop their prices as soon as
    Delta drops theirs so all of them would get the same amount of travelers as before while
    earning less money, but there are some cases where it can make business sense for airlines
    to drop prices to below even being profitable. Around the year 2000, WestJet and the now
    defunct CanJet airlines started flying from central Canada to Newfoundland. These routes were historically operated exclusively
    by Air Canada and they were expensive. A one-way flight from Montreal in 1999 cost
    over $600, but when the budget airlines WestJet and CanJet started flying the route, prices
    dropped dramatically and Air Canada was threatened, so they dropped their prices even lower. The $600 Air Canada fares then cost $89. Now, it wouldn’t make sense for anyone to
    fly a budget airline over Air Canada at the same price so WestJet and CanJet were almost
    driven out of business on these routes, until Canada’s Competition Bureau stepped in. They concluded that Air Canada was engaging
    in the uncompetitive action of predatory pricing since they were pricing flights below what
    it cost to operate them, so they were forced to stop. Airlines in the US, with some newly strong
    budget competitors, are engaging in similar actions nowadays. United airlines, for example, is matching
    Frontier’s $40 fares on many days from Denver to Chicago, among other routes, in order to
    maintain their market stronghold in Denver and Chicago even though their cost to operate
    the route is drastically higher than Frontier so they are almost certainly loosing money
    on those fares. But back to the New York to LA route. $159 is the lowest regular fare for this flight. The $129 and $144 price points were both basic
    economy fares—the most restrictive type with no seat selection, no carry on bags,
    and no changes or refunds. Every flight has a bunch of different booking
    classes each with a fare code. For example, the basic economy fare code for
    the $129 and $144 price is B, but the $159 price books into fare code N. These different
    booking classes are sometimes known are fare buckets. Essentially the airline decides it’s going
    to sell a certain number of tickets at the $159 price with fare code N, let’s say 10,
    then when those ten tickets are sold the airline then sells economy at fare code G for $204
    then when those are sold it sells economy at fare code V for $269 then fare code L for
    $318 and so on and so forth. There are also some cases where a ticket will
    default to a more expensive fare bucket because of reasons other than the lower fare selling
    out. Many fares, including each mentioned so far,
    have advance purchase requirements meaning that, even if a flight is not full at all,
    the price will increase closer to departure. All the fares below $204 have an advance purchase
    requirement of two weeks meaning that you can only purchase them more than two weeks
    before departure while the $269 fare, for example, has an advance purchase requirement
    of only one week. Although, the cheapest fare without an advance
    purchase requirement at all, that is, the cheapest fare that you could buy day-of for
    this flight is fare class K at $472 which happens to be the most expensive economy class
    fare. And now for some caveats. Not every fare for this flight is going to
    be priced at one of these eight prices. Airlines have mechanisms to adjust fares from
    these buckets. In the short-term, they can adjust things
    like the fuel surcharge to raise the price if other factors, like oil prices, increase. In the long term they can adjust the actual
    prices of the different fare buckets. Airline often increase the base fares for
    busy seasons like summer. American Airlines does exactly that on this
    New York to LA route where their fare class M, for example, increases from $357 to $410
    in August. But so far we’ve looked at this at a micro
    level—how prices differ on one flight—but we also have to consider the macro level. Why if you leave on Tuesday February 6th and
    fly 2,469 miles to the west to LA do you pay $129 while if you fly 3,442 miles to the east
    to London—only a thousand miles further than LA—you pay $2,772. Well, the second figure is a bit deceptive
    because that’s the price of a one-way ticket. If you switch the LA flight to a round-trip
    ticket returning a week later it will cost $257—exactly double—while if you turn
    the London flight into a round-trip returning a week later the price will drop to $602—almost
    five times less. This is understandably confusing—a one-way
    ticket that costs more than a roundtrip—but the reason this is goes back to the fare codes. Embedded within each fare code are a bunch
    of little restrictions that dictate when you can use that fare. On the New York to LA trip those restrictions
    are just things like blackout dates for the fare and advance purchase requirements, but
    the New York to London ticket has loads more restrictions and the ones that make one-ways
    more expensive than round-trips are the minimum stay requirements. These requirements dictate how soon your return
    flight can be in order to get a particular fare. The idea is to price discriminate—business
    travelers should pay more because they can pay more. Meanwhile, airlines try to give the lowest
    prices to leisure travelers since they’re the ones paying for their own tickets and
    therefore they’re the ones that are the most price sensitive. Business travelers often want to be home for
    the weekend, so many of these minimum stay requirements, like with fares Q, N, and S,
    just require a Sunday at your destination. Others, trying to accomplish the same thing,
    require seven days, a full week, which would also require a traveller to stay the weekend
    at their destination. Now as the prices go up the requirements go
    down so once you get to paying around $2000 you can stay for as few as three days, but
    the cheapest roundtrip base airfare with no stay requirement at all is $5,544 in fare
    class Y—exactly double the one way price. So that explains this—the one way ticket
    is so expensive because, since the airline doesn’t know how long the traveller will
    stay at their destination the one-way fare has to be booked into the least restrictive
    fare class without the minimum stay requirement. You’ll see this idea of price discrimination
    all over ticketing structures. It’s a genius pricing concept that allows
    different people to buy products at the prices they can afford and therefore its allows businesses
    to sell the same product to more people. Tickets increase in price closer to departure
    because leisure travelers buy tickets far-out and business travelers buy their tickets close
    to departure and flexible tickets are more expensive because that’s what business travelers
    need, but there’s another pricing difference going on that’s less fair—between routes. It’s all about competition. Different routes of the same distance cost
    different amounts generally not because they cost different amounts to operate, but because
    of how much the competitors are charging. This is part of why flights into small airports
    are so expensive—because they lack competition. You can fly the 240 miles from Detroit to
    Pellston, Michigan on a CRJ 200 for $242 or you can fly the 170 miles from Detroit to
    South Bend, Indiana on a CRJ 200 for $76. The only difference is that South Bend Airport
    has flights from United, Delta, and Allegiant while Pellston only has flights from Delta. The same phenomenon happens over the Atlantic. There’s more competition on the six hour
    flight from New York to LA than on the six hour flight from New York to Dublin so you
    can fly to LA for $250 round trip while Dublin costs $500 round trip. Of course, travelers from New York to LA can
    drive, take the bus, take the train, or take a flight connecting halfway there while travelers
    to Dublin only have one choice—to fly. In all, the truth is that prices reflect what
    people will pay and so people will pay what flights are priced. If you’re a busy person like me, you know
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    The Time China Had a 12 Day Long Traffic Jam
    Articles, Blog

    The Time China Had a 12 Day Long Traffic Jam

    August 25, 2019


    This video was made possible by Brilliant. Learn intuitively with Brilliant for 20% off
    by being one of the first 200 to sign up at brilliant.org/HAI. If something’s crammed, communist, and a
    country it’s probably China. China used to look like this but now it looks
    like this. The country’s grown enormously in the past
    few decades both in population and wealth. Now, of course global warming isn’t real
    and the earth is flat, but in a world where global warming was real and the earth was
    some other shape, the best thing you could do to combat turning Minneapolis into Miami
    would be to be poor. The poorest half of the world’s population
    only contributes 10% of all carbon emissions. This does make sense as the richest .01% of
    the world eat their imported truffled wagyu filets on their private jets traveling to
    Ibiza for the day while the poorest .01% eat their meals by, well, not but the bigger factor
    is what happens as people get into the upper 10 or 20 or 30% of world wealth. China, for example, was poor but now it’s
    somewhat rich which means that its population now eats things like hamburgers which, no
    joke, are slowly killing the environment as cows fart huge amounts of methane which is
    a greenhouse gas. More importantly, though, more and more people
    in China own cars. There are now 217 million cars on Chinese
    roads which, considering there were only 59 million ten years ago, is a lot. That means that in ten years, China has essentially
    had to triple the capacity of its roads which is basically impossible. Hence, traffic. Now, this is one of China’s busiest roads—National
    Highway 110. This highway connects inner Mongolia, the
    part of Mongolia that’s in China, to Beijing, the capital. G110 didn’t, however, used to be so busy. What happens when your country transforms
    from being mostly composed of poor rural farmers to relatively rich urban populations is that
    suddenly you need energy to power everything. See, here’s a graph that says a thing! China didn’t really go for that hippy wind
    or solar energy, they went for coal. 70% of their overall energy need is fulfilled
    by this rock. Of course this isn’t sustainable long term
    as coal isn’t a renewable resource like wind or Batman reboots but for now, it’s
    a cheap and easy source of energy. That’s helped by the fact that China has
    about 13% of the world’s coal in its ground while Mongolia, China’s neighbor, has about
    10%. A good amount of China’s coal is in inner
    Mongolia, the region, and they also import plenty of coal from Mongolia, the country. What China doesn’t have, though, is coal
    transportation infrastructure… or YouTube, a free press, a market economy, freedom of
    movement, freedom of speech, a freely floated currency, or time zones, but the transportation
    infrastructure is the important thing it’s missing in this case. There are, for example, only seven roads that
    cross the border from Mongolia, the country, to China, the country. What’s worse, there are barely any railways
    and trains are the primary means of transportation worldwide for coal as it’s really not very
    dense and trucks can’t carry that much. This lack of railways means that there are
    huge amounts of trucks driving from inner Mongolia to Beijing carrying coal each and
    every day. There are a few routes these trucks can take
    into Beijing but the most popular one is G110. That’s because much of the coal coming from
    inner Mongolia comes from illegal, unlicensed mines and, while the other routes from inner
    Mongolia have inspection stations to combat illegal mining, G110 does not. All these factors compounded to create the
    beginnings of a traffic jam on August 14th, 2010. It was the busy summer season and the highway
    just couldn’t handle the amount of trucks but the real problem started five days later
    as maintenance work began on the highway to fix damage from overuse. That shut down half the lanes at points and
    this traffic jam, which had already been going on continuously for five days to a lesser
    extent, just became a parking lot. At its worst, the congestion lasted for 60
    continuous miles and drivers were only able to move as little as 0.6 miles per day. It took some close to a week to make their
    way through this stretch of highway—a journey that would normally take an hour. This whole mini-economy sprung up as villagers
    from near the highway walked or biked up and down selling food and drinks. Water, which normally sells for 1 yuan, went
    for 15. Drivers took naps under their trucks, played
    cards, took walks, there really was no reason to be behind the wheel as nothing was moving. Throughout this all, authorities desperately
    tried to reduce the traffic by sending trucks on different routes and telling people not
    to drive. As the jam entered its second week nothing
    seemed to be working although, with time, as it gained national and international media
    attention, people eventually stopped taking the highway and then, finally, after twelve
    whole days of bumper to bumper traffic, the congestion dissipated and National Highway
    110 was back to normal. China has since built railways, expanded highways,
    and cracked down on illegal mining which has prevented any more apocalyptic jams but this
    August 2010 one on G110 is now believed to have been the worst traffic jam in world history. If you want to learn how to make apocalyptic
    jam unfortunately Brilliant does not have a course on that but they actually do have
    a course on how to make regular jams, traffic jams. Their physics of the everyday course includes
    a whole section teaching how traffic jams form and work. Brilliant, as you know by now, is the best
    place to be taught complex concepts as they teach the intuitive principles so you understand
    rather than just learn. If you want to become the sort of person who
    can explain the physics of traffic jams, Brilliant is the place for you as they have courses
    on that and plenty of other interesting topics such as artificial neural networks, number
    theory, and solar energy. Best of all, you can try Brilliant classes
    for free by signing up at brilliant.org/HAI and then, if you decide to upgrade to their
    premium account, the first 200 to do so at that link will get 20% off.

    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
    CuriosityStream.com/HAI 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 CuriosityStream.com/HAI
    and using the code, “HAI.”

    The US’ Plan for a Hypothetical War with Britain
    Articles, Blog

    The US’ Plan for a Hypothetical War with Britain

    August 18, 2019


    This video was made possible by Skillshare. Learn what you want to learn for free for
    two months by being one of the first 500 to sign up at the link in the description. American Civil War—bad. Captain America: Civil War—good. War star-ting—bad. Star Wars—good. War of the Worlds—bad. World War—go… wait, no. No War—good, for most. One of the few downsides for a lack of war
    is that there’s not much for generals and the like to do so they need activities to
    fill their time. One such activity is planning for war. After all, the US for example, has only been
    at war for 224 years of its 243 year existence—a measly 92%. That’s a lot of downtime. During the 20’s, there wasn’t much war
    stuff going on—only this small four decade-long war in central America where the US was fighting
    to be sure the bananas kept flowing—and so in order to prepare for a possible Great
    War part deux the US started making plans for what their strategy would be for hypothetical
    wars with possible contenders like Japan, China, Mexico, and the UK. Now, despite their very public break-up in
    the late 1700’s, relations between the US and UK mostly improved up until World War
    One when relations improved greatly after the US did Europe a solid by rocking up in
    the forth quarter and helping finish the job. Nonetheless, Britain was still a big scary
    empire—by some measures still the most powerful nation in the world—so the US still prepared
    a plan in the 30’s for war with the red coats. It was called War Plan Red and the idea was
    as follows. Of course, after the US quite boisterously
    declared itself as not part of the UK in the 1700s, one of the not-quite-united States
    of America, that is, Canada, remained part of the British empire. By the 1900s, Canada was independent but still
    very much integrated in the commonwealth and it had some fancy features like a 5,500 mile,
    9,000 kilometer border with the home team in this hypothetical UK-US war. It was therefore believed that the UK would
    use Canada as a jumping-off point for an invasion of the mainland US so the idea was for the
    US military to yankee doodle doo its way up into Canada before the British could arrive. There were five main areas that the US would
    invade—Halifax and St. John, Montreal and Quebec city, the Great Lakes area, Winnipeg,
    and Vancouver. Step one was to launch an offensive towards
    Halifax by land and sea. Halifax was a crucial port for British-Canadian
    trade and therefore occupying it would greatly slow down the movement of British forces into
    Canada. From there, a land assault from New York and
    Vermont would be launched to occupy Montreal and Quebec City. These act as major ports on the St Lawrence
    River and controlling the St Lawrence would essentially split Canada in two preventing
    goods from the agricultural areas in the Maritimes from getting to the rest. The US would also seek to control the Great
    Lakes area around Toronto both because this area was and is one of Canada’s major population
    and industrial centers and because it’s dangerously close to the American midwest
    which, at the time, was a crucial industrial area of the US. They didn’t want the British to be able
    to set up bases here. Winnipeg was next on US’ wish list largely
    because it acted as the center of Canada’s trans-continental railroad so controlling
    Winnipeg would mean controlling and cutting off rail transportation. Lastly, Vancouver, while lower importance,
    was included in invasion plans to prevent Britain using it as a back-up port by going
    through the Panama Canal and in order to disrupt Canada’s pacific trade. It was believed that if the US controlled
    these five areas, they would effectively control Canada and this would be a significant enough
    blow that the UK would seek a peace deal—no conflict outside the western hemisphere was
    planned. Interestingly, this plan included a short
    little casual little line mentioning that the US had no intention of returning the captured
    territory. Canada would become part of the US. Who knows, maybe they have oil or something
    well that sure would be convenient, hahahahaha-please-give-us-oil. That being their worst nightmare, Canada developed
    their own war plan against the United States. They recognized that their own military alone
    did not have a great chance at defending their territory against the US long-term. The general idea was therefore to distract
    US forces by, as soon as credible intelligence about an impending US invasion was received,
    launching a surprise invasion on Seattle, Spokane, Portland, Fargo, Great Falls, Minneapolis,
    Albany, and Maine. Eventually, as American forces arrived to
    defend these cities the Canadians would retreat destroying infrastructure like bridges, roads,
    and railroads on their way back to slow an American invasion. Hopefully, according to the Canadian plan,
    by this time British troops would have arrived from the UK. Now, while they were far from the most credible
    threat to the US, some people really believed in the 30s that war with the British empire
    could happen. Today, any sort of conflict between the US
    and UK or Canada—two of the most culturally and economically linked countries to the US—seems
    ridiculous although, War Plan Red, the US’ plan, was only declassified in 1974. The US won’t acknowledge whether or not
    there’s a modern day equivalent. As far as we know, the American military could
    be prepping for war with the UK right now. Of course, what we can be pretty certain of
    is that if the US and UK go to war, the missiles’ll be flying! In the post-war apocalyptic nuclear wasteland
    you’ll want to re-build your social status through humblebrags like, “Oh well you know
    I’ve been soo busy with my candle business recently, it’s just doing so well, but I’ve
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    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 https://skl.sh/wendover3. 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
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    months exclusively by going to skl.sh/wendover3. 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
    skl.sh/wendover3. 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
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    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.

    How Overnight Shipping Works
    Articles, Blog

    How Overnight Shipping Works

    August 11, 2019


    This video was made possible by Squarespace. Build your website for 10% off at
    Squarespace.com/Wendover. Overnight shipping is an absolute masterpiece
    of logistics that happens every single night. It may not be cheap, but you can get a package
    shipped from Miami, Florida on a Monday night to Anchorage, Alaska, by 8:30 AM on
    Tuesday. In fact, you can even ship a package, for
    example, from Edinburgh, Scotland on a Tuesday and have the package arrive in Anchorage,
    Alaska by 9am on Wednesday. The speed and efficiency of these worldwide
    delivery networks is mind-blowing and it all happens while we sleep. The three major consumer courier companies
    are FedEx, DHL, and UPS and each is as impressive as the last. FedEx has more planes than Emirates, Etihad,
    and Qatar Airways combined; DHL delivers to every country in
    the world including North Korea; and UPS flies to
    more than double as many destinations as the largest passenger airline. Each has a global
    network that allows for lightning fast shipping at relatively low prices. Behind all this speed are
    enormous air networks that connect the entire world daily. Each of these three operates hundreds
    of flights nightly, but FedEx is the best example since their operations make them the
    largest cargo airline in the world. They have 650 planes flying to 400 destinations
    carrying 6 million packages every single day and the vast majority
    of these flights operate to or from one of their
    hub airports. FedEx’s hub airports are spread out all
    across the world and serve as sorting points where
    packages are transferred from one plane to another. They has hubs in Singapore, Guangzhou,
    Shanghai, Seoul, Osaka, Anchorage, Oakland, Dallas, Indianapolis, Greensboro, Miami, Newark,
    Toronto, Paris, Cologne, Milan, and Dubai, but the most important hub of all is the one
    in Memphis, Tennessee because that’s their
    SuperHub. Memphis is not a huge city—only about 650,000
    people live there—but the reason FedEx centers their worldwide operations in this
    city is because of it’s location. Memphis is not actually
    in the geographic center of the US as might make sense, but it is central. You see, only about 200
    miles away in Wright County, Missouri is the mean population center of the US. This is the
    average location of every resident in the US meaning that the FedEx SuperHub in Memphis
    is the best location to reach the most people
    in the shortest amount of time. For similar reasons,
    UPS has their equivalent global hub, Worldport, nearby in Louisville, Kentucky. The scale of
    FedEx and UPS’ operations in these relatively small cities is staggering. This is the size of the
    commercial terminal at Memphis Airport while this is the size of FedEx’s Superhub. The
    difference at Louisville airport is even more pronounced where this is the commercial terminal
    and this is UPS’ worldport. You can’t even fly to the west coast non-stop
    on a commercial airline from Louisville and yet UPS flies from this
    small city to five different continents. FedEx’s
    operations in Memphis, meanwhile, make this airport the second busiest cargo airport in
    the world above those of enormous cities like
    Tokyo, Paris, Dubai, Shanghai, and falling short only
    to Hong Kong. How the FedEx superhub really works is that
    every night, about 150 planes fly in from all
    around the world between the hours of 10pm and 1am. Immediately upon arrival, the planes are
    unloaded and their packages are put into the hub’s automated sorting system. Within only 15
    minutes, each package arrives at a staging area for its next flight where it’s loaded
    into containers. Planes therefore can start taking off again
    at 2am and continue to until 4am which means that everywhere in the US can have a
    FedEx plane arriving by 6am, but there are some
    destinations that don’t ship enough packages to need a non-stop flight to Memphis. To get to
    small towns fast, FedEx runs flights in small propeller aircraft from the destinations of
    their larger jets. Presque Isle, Maine, for example, is far too
    small of a town at about 10,000 residents to fill a full-size plane so, every morning,
    once the larger planes from Memphis arrive in
    Manchester, New Hampshire and Portland, Maine, packages bound for Presque Isle are sorted
    into smaller prop planes that continue north. With this system, even small towns like Presque
    Isle get their packages by 9am as every spoke in
    the system essentially functions as a mini-hub. Packages are transferred from planes, to smaller
    planes, to trucks to reach their destination as fast
    as possible. Now, it’s important to note that not every
    FedEx package runs through Memphis. That
    would be incredibly inefficient if a customer wanted to, for example, ship a package from
    Phoenix, Arizona to Seattle, Washington. While only 1,100 miles separate Seattle from
    Phoenix, a routing through Memphis would total over
    3,000 miles and six hours in flight. The package
    would still make it overnight, but FedEx would be wasting fuel carrying that package an extra
    1,900 miles, so that’s why they have secondary hubs. In this case, FedEx’s Oakland hub has
    flights to both Phoenix and Seattle so the package would take a relatively efficient
    1,300 mile routing. Memphis essentially serves as the backup hub
    in case there’s not a more efficient routing. The secondary hubs, such as Oakland, in general
    have flights to destinations that are already served by flights to Memphis, but
    the destinations from Oakland are high demand destinations that will ship enough packages
    solely to the west coast to fill entire planes to
    Oakland. Some destinations, such as Albuquerque, New
    Mexico, ship enough packages to fill entire planes to Memphis, but not enough to
    fill flights to Oakland with west coast bound packages so a package shipped from here to
    the west coast would likely take a rather inefficient
    routing backtracking to Memphis. But FedEx’s most ingenious hub is here in
    Anchorage, Alaska. Anchorage, with fewer
    than 300,000 residents, is home to the forth busiest cargo airport in the world. This is, once
    again, thanks to geography. If you draw a straight line from FedEx’s
    Memphis hub to the one in Osaka, taking into account earth’s curvature,
    it goes directly over Anchorage, Alaska. This
    airport is just the perfect stop-over point for flights from the US to Asia. Now, dozens of cargo
    airlines operate in Anchorage but most of them just use the airport as a refueling and
    crew swap spot. Modern airplanes can fly non-stop from the
    contiguous United States to Asia, but doing so
    requires taking more fuel which requires taking less cargo. It’s just cheaper to stop in Anchorage,
    but FedEx and UPS use the stop for something else—sorting. If FedEx wanted to maintain
    current shipping times without the Anchorage hub, they would likely have to run non-stop
    flights from each of their Asian hubs to each of their
    American hubs, but they just don’t have the
    demand to fill this many planes. Instead, they run flights from their Asian
    hubs to Anchorage then flights from Anchorage many of their
    American hubs. While stopped in Anchorage,
    packages from Asia are processed through customs and sorted to be put on the plane bound
    closest to their destination. This helps cuts down on shipping time and
    cost. Shipping is an incredibly price-sensitive
    business. These courier companies rely on
    enormous contracts with retailers and, when some of these retailers are shipping millions
    of packages per day, every cent matters. In a lot of ways, however, the express shipping
    model is inherently expensive largely because of how
    couriers use their most expensive assets—planes. So much is centered around those few sorting
    hours at the big hubs so FedEx’s planes all have to
    wait around to arrive at the exact right moment. Some FedEx hubs, such as Memphis, do sort
    packages during the day, but the overwhelming majority of their business happens overnight. FedEx’s flight from Memphis to Oklahoma
    City, for example, leaves at 4am and arrives at
    5:20am, but then the plane waits around until 10:10pm to fly back to Memphis. That’s over 17
    hours sitting in Oklahoma City and, on that route, the plane is only flying for about
    two hours per day. Meanwhile, commercial airlines regularly fly
    their planes for more than 12 hours per day meaning they have six times higher aircraft
    utilization. FedEx would never be profitable if they
    bought all new multi-hundred million dollar aircraft to use for mere hours per day, so
    they don’t. Overwhelmingly, FedEx and other cargo airlines
    use old aircraft at the end of their lives. You’ll
    almost never see Airbus a300’s flying for passenger airlines anymore, yet FedEx, UPS,
    and DHL collectively own hundreds of them because
    they’re cheap. They didn’t spend much purchasing
    these aircraft, so they don’t have to worry about using them enough to offset their cost. UPS does
    have some brand new 747-800 aircraft, which are highly efficient, but they specifically
    schedule these planes on their longest routes so that
    they can recuperate their high purchase price through
    lower fuel costs. With older aircraft, fuel costs might be higher
    since the planes are less efficient, but overall it’s worth it since it allows
    FedEx to profitably leave their planes sitting for all but a
    few hours each day. Some passenger airlines, such as Allegiant
    Airlines in the US, uses the same strategy purchasing cheaper planes to allow
    them to fly fewer hours per day profitably and its
    now a tested and proven business strategy. Express shipping is one of those businesses
    that requires enormous networks to make work which is why you don’t see small shipping
    companies. It’s almost impossible to get started
    in this business unless, of course, you can make your own demand. Amazon, which ships more
    than a million packages per day, is getting into the delivery business. They’ve established a fleet
    of 32 aircraft and are building out their logistics network. When shipping so many packages,
    Amazon is operating at a scale where they can profit by taking the shipping companies
    out of the equation. FedEx, UPS, and DHL, meanwhile, are continuously
    focusing on further increasing the efficiency of their networks since in this
    business more than any, time is money. As you may have noticed, Wendover Productions
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    me and the first reaction you had to seeing this new logo is wanting a t-shirt of it,
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