Photo Of The Day: A Plus Cathedral

Today is March 14, also known as Pi Day (in case it’s been awhile since you took math, pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, 3.14), a day to celebrate mathematics, or just eat some pie. If you are in Cambridge, Massachusetts, today and can remember a good portion of the many digits of pi, you might get to eat some free pie. Today’s Photo of the Day by Flickr user autisticglobetrotting2010 is a bit math-inspired: the cross at the ceiling of Rio de Janeiro‘s San Sebastian Cathedral hints at a plus sign. The modernist cone-shaped church is highlighted by four enormous stained glass windows that form at the top with a cross. Designed to echo the Mayan pyramids, the distinctive structure is hard to miss in the Rio skyline.

Share your travel photos in the Gadling Flickr pool for a future Photo of the Day, and happy pie-eating!

[Photo credit: Flickr user autisticglobetrotting2010]

Carschooling: Why traveling is the best education

As someone who loves the way travel affects and evolves language I was immediately drawn to an article by Malea, of the blog “M and J in a Nutshell“, on the topic of carschooling. While Malea shares her experience of homeschooling on the road during her family’s move across the country I couldn’t help but think just how beneficial carschooling could be to not only children, but also parents and travelers in general.

Basically carschooling is just what is sounds like, creating a learning environment while traveling. While some parents/people may find the thought of classroom-type learning while on vacation daunting, traveling can actually make education extremely accessible.

It is often said that traveling makes people more enlightened and well-rounded, so what better situation to learn in? It’s all in how you use the resources the trip gives you. Who needs a textbook (although you can still bring them along) when you can visit historical sites, art galleries, museums, and sporting events in person?
There’s also the planning phase of the trip, which can be an education opportunity in itself. For example, the maps. What route will you take? Geography. What sites will you visit? History and culture. How long will it take you to get to each city and how will this work in your budget? Math.

Then there is the natural landscape and man made structures you pass along the way. Trees, mountains, lakes, churches, farms, tools, and factories are all great prompts for an education conversation. Discuss the people of the region and how they get food. Talk about the dangers of pesticides in crops and the architecture of different buildings. Give a Biology lesson by discussing the flora and fauna of a city. And, don’t be afraid to be the teacher and the student; if you don’t know something research it or ask someone.

It’s also important to get out of the carschool sometimes and visit historical sites, museums, churches, galleries, and parks to explore them inside and out. How much more will you learn with an interactive Earth Science lesson through a mountain hike than by simply looking at rocks through your car window? And, for a dose of social skills, make sure to interact with new and interesting people. Waitresses, hotel owners, tour guides, park rangers, market sellers, and anyone else you come into contact with can be ideal sources of local information.

But, what about taking notes? While traditional classrooms often have students keep notebooks, travelers often keep journals. Diaries can help carschoolers take notes in a way that doesn’t make them feel like they’re preparing for a test. You can also give them (or yourself) an incentive or goal to work towards. Maybe you’ll make a scrapbook after the trip, so you’ll need tons of photos and facts, or maybe you’ll create some kind of travel trivia game. Whatever you decide, keep it fun and educational, just like traveling.

Plane Answers: What kind of math skills are needed to become a pilot?

Zach asks:

Hello First Officer Kent!

It has been my dream since early childhood to earn a private pilot’s certificate. For a number of reasons–both financial and otherwise–it is only now (pushing age 30) that I am able to seriously begin the process of choosing a flight school and creating a road map to the goal of earning the license (while I would love to work as an airline pilot, I am content to keep my less interesting day job and fly as a pure hobbyist).

The only potential barrier that I can envision is what I fear to be a lack of the necessary math acumen to be successful. I am simply intimidated by any math more complicated than very basic algebra, and while this is something that I believe I can overcome, I wonder how it will impact my ability to earn a private pilot’s certificate. How much and what type of math is necessary to know in order to reach this goal? Should I brush up on any particular area of mathematics before starting my flight training?

Hi Zach,

I have good news for you.

You’re not the first to ask me this question, so I imagine many others have this impression as well. Perhaps it’s fueled by a few math teachers who may use occupations like flying as a carrot to get their students to study more. But there isn’t anything even approaching basic algebra required to get your licenses, even up to the ATP level.

I was admittedly horrible at math and struggled with it all the way through college. Not a pretty sight. Since college, I haven’t even thought about algebraic equations. Frankly, the most complicated math I do today is figuring out the time for the crew rest periods when crossing the Atlantic with three pilots. Fortunately, there’s even an app for that.

That said, it was my ability to complete the required math courses that allowed me to get through college. And college has been necessary to land a job at a major airline. But that doesn’t seem to be your goal at this point.

Hope you do take up your dream!

Michael asks:


I was talking with a pilot from a different airline than yours and he was saying that at his company they now prefer to use idle reverse thrust. I’m wondering why this would be (versus revving those bad boys up in max reverse)? Why not just leave the throttles at complete idle? Does reverse idle do much for deceleration versus complete idle?

Hi Michael,

Many airports, such as Manchester and London, are requiring idle reverse be used in the mornings due to noise restrictions. I actually prefer that, because passengers seem to enjoy the quiet, calm landings. Typically reverse thrust will shorten your landing distance by only 400 feet depending on the conditions.

Given plenty of runway, idle reverse landings are rather nice. But there are tradeoffs. Avoiding maximum reverse thrust does wear the brakes out faster. But there may be fuel and engine savings associated with idle reverse.

When the engines are at idle they actually produces a bit of thrust. So idle revers blocks that residual thrust and pushes it forward giving you some extra stopping power at no cost while in idle reverse.

Tom asks:

While I was looking at some Boeing posters of widebody aircraft in school–a 767/757 and up and I’ve noticed there are three autopilots. A left, center, and right. What is the point of three? Is it just for redundancy?

Hi Tom,

The three autopilots are used at the same time only on aircraft that are certified for autolands, which are used in extremely low visibility landings.

The autopilots are all selected just before shooting the approach and they become independent at 1500 feet, all the way to the ground. This way, if one electrical source is ever lost, the airplane can continue.

Other Boeings that don’t have autoland capability may still have three autopilots, but they aren’t selected at the same time. They’re just cycled through at the beginning of each flight so they see an even amount of use. So yes, on those aircraft they would be there solely for redundancy.

Do you have a question about something related to the pointy end of an airplane? Ask Kent and maybe he’ll use it for the next Plane Answers. Check out his other blog, Cockpit Chronicles and travel along with him at work. Twitter @veryjr

SkyMall Monday: Square Root Watch

Around the country, kids are heading back to school. Lunches have been packed (hopefully with napkins carrying inspirational notes from moms with phrases such as “I’m proud of you”), notebooks are ready for doodling and detention rooms are already filling up. As another school year begins, kids everywhere are already asking their teachers, “Why do I need to know this?” and “When will I possibly have to use this information in real life?” These are valid questions. I’d love to go back in time and tell my biology teacher that I’ve never had to dissect a Garden Yeti in the SkyMall Monday headquarters. My drivers ed teacher never prepared me for piloting a Cruzin Cooler. That’s not to say that everything that kids learn in school is useless. There are plenty of concepts that are relevant in everyone’s day-to-day lives. Math, for example, is particularly relevant to a large percentage of the population. That’s why kids should be paying special attention to numbers this fall. If they want to tell time the SkyMall way, they’re going to need to be math whizzes. Forget digital; the best way to track time on your wrist is with the Square Root Watch.Your grandfather’s watch probably has a sundial on it. Your father’s watch most likely has Roman numerals. Your brother’s watch is digital, which is so 1980s. The only way to stand out now (and prove to yourself that paying attention in sixth grade math class rather than experimenting with drugs was a good decision) is to rock a watch with square roots in place of numbers. Let’s be honest here: Are square roots any more ridiculous than a completely numberless watch face?

Think that having to solve a math problem to know the time is a waste of, um, time? Were you always better at English than math? Well, you should have no problem reading the product description then:

Brainy math types will love this watch, but why should they have all the fun?

Brainy math types are currently running Google, Facebook and every other website that knows everything about you. Smart is cool now (even if Barbie struggles with math). Rather than deny it, embrace it. It beats risking Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from dishing out wedgies to all of those nerds.

Make all that time spent in drab classrooms passing juvenile notes to your friends worth it. Put your knowledge to use. Prove to your teachers that you will amount to something one day. Strap on the Square Root Watch and then check your cellphone to see what time it is.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.