Never have so many people understood so little about so much…

What inspired you as a child ?

A child today hopefully seeing the exploits of Elon Musk and Space-X launching and recovering rockets with showmanship seldom demonstrated by serious rocket scientists may have their interest  sparked in science and technology?

Personally my love of technology came yes from rocket science, but also crucially from growing up during a golden age of science broadcasting in the 1970’s when well informed specialist correspondents were on our TV screens it seemed every day.
Reginald Turnill, Patrick Moore and Raymond Baxter had both huge experience and knowledge in the fields of aviation and astronautics but were also great story tellers explaining often complex issues without the dumbing down so common today.

Reg Turnhill
Raymond Baxter in the backseat of the Harrier piloted by the great John Farley.

For me however the greatest of this generations was James Burke. Watch here his truly breathtaking live commentary of the Apollo 13  re-entry – a masterclass in explaining what is happening to the viewer during an incredibility tense few minutes.

I was too young to really remember Apollo 13 however in 1978 James Burke wrote and presented his seminal series Connections to try and explain how technology had come to play such an important part in society, in the first episode of the series he paraphrased Churchill to make the point as relevant today as it was then…

Never have so many people understood so little about so much…

I loved this series, Burke does a masterful job linking technological developments over 10,000 years to explain the modern world – imagine my joy on finding that the series had be re-released last year and is available on Amazon.

Let me show you why I am so gushing in my praise of James Burke…

Watch below perhaps the greatest “piece to camera” every filmed from Episode 8 of the series, here James Burke explains the connection between the invention of the thermos flask and landing on the moon.

Make sure you watch to the very end !

Eat your heart out Brian Cox !

The Romance of Airport Codes

LHR – JFK don’t those six letters cause some excitement to even the most seasoned traveller, there is still just a little romance left in air travel.

Romance here is the “feeling of mystery, excitement and remoteness from everyday life” as opposed to love !

For me part of the romance comes from the Airport codes themselves, those three letter IATA codes are a shortcuts to destinations known and imagined and each have a personal resonance. Many of the codes also have an antecedence that  provide a fascinating window into the early days of air travel.

LHR London HeathRow is both the starting point of most of my travels but also a link back to a childhood spent on the roof of the Queens Building watching British Airways Tridents, VC-10’s and 747 classics departing to destinations I never expected to visit in my lifetime.

Of those childhood destinations and even today New York’s JFK the airport named after president John F. Kennedy was always a destination that sparked my imagination, the destination of those Pan Am Clipper 747s and of course Concorde it was just such a  glamorous destination.  The name of course was the product of tragic history,  the original name of the airport, Idlewild also sounds wonderful but was named after a local Golf Course.

New York’s second international airport, New Jerseys’ Newark has the very functional code of EWR – NEWaRk.

LCY or to those who use if often Lucy

As an alternative to the giant that is Heathrow,  Londons CitY Airport, LCY provides a wonderful contrast harking back to the golden days of air travel when every flight began with that exciting trip up a set of stairs to the aircraft door, Jet-Bridges are just not the same.

LCY is loved by many  is often just called Lucy as a mark of familiarity.

London’s GatWick LGW, Paris Charles De Gaul CDG and of course HELsinki’s HEL are obvious in they derivation, but why is Chicago’s mega airport ORD and Los Angeles LAX ?

The use of Airport codes was originally introduced in the United States for Meteorological reporting  with airports making use of the existing two character city codes developed by the National Weather Service, Los Angeles was LA for example.
It was clear that this system was not going to work with the massive increase in Air Travel after the Second World War so in 1947 a three letter code system was introduced and to pad the existing codes a letter X was often introduced so Los Angeles became LAX, and PortlanD PDX .

A similar approach was taken in Canada where the two letter codes used by Canadian Railways were given a Y prefix so VancouveR’s code VR became YVR, and  QueBec’s code QB YQB.

Most interesting of course are the codes which don’t seem to make sense,  DCA Washington’s District of Columbia Airport  is perhaps not obvious but makes sense but why is the larger international airport in Washington IAD ?  Originally the Dulles International Airport DIA was too similar to DCA so it was simply reversed DIA becoming IAD !

Other codes which don’t seem to make sense are often the result of name changes as Airports have grown or cities have themselves changed name, so CMH the airport serving Columbus Ohio was once just the Columbus Municipal Hanger and of course Mumbai was a city once called BOMbay.

My personal favourite is Chicago’s ORD, very few peoples top airport, we might not feel so negative if it had retained it’s original name ORcharD Field !

 

Earth Engine Workshop – London

Register here to attend a free workshop on Google Earth Engine at  Google’s London Office on the 15th November.

Earth Engine is Google’s cloud-based platform for planetary-scale geospatial analysis that brings Google’s computational capabilities to bear on a variety of high-impact societal issues such as deforestation, drought, disaster, disease, food security, water management, climate monitoring and environmental protection.

 

The Last Concorde

Back in June of last year I visited the now disused Aerodrome at Filton to visit Concorde 216 G-BOAF as part of my quest to visit all the Concordes in a year. Then Alpha Foxtrot was a rather sad sight parked in a remote corner of the airfield visible only from a Car Showrooms car park…

Todays visit find conditions somewhat improved.

Alpha Foxtrot is now the centrepiece of the Aerospace Bristol visitors centre and museum which opened last week the result of a £19 million investment, in addition to a building specifically built to hold the Concorde there are three beautifully restored aircraft sheds  holding other notably exhibits including some Bristol helicopters and the nose section of a Bristol Britannia.

Alpha Foxtrot looks in very good condition and is displayed using some clever 3D projectors including this one which explains how the innovative variable geometry intake made sure that Concorde’s Olympus 593 engines always received subsonic air despite travelling at Mach 2.

There is also a small display of Concorde artifacts including test pilot’s Brian Trumshaws Overalls !

Alpha Foxtrot is now up there with East Fortune’s Alpha Alpha as the best presented Concorde and Aerospace Bristol is well worth the visit.

If you can’t link to it… does it exist ?

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

So goes the well-known philosophical thought experiment,  however rather than a discourse on observation and perception I’d like to hijack the experiment for an argument I have been making on and off for the last couple of years and which was  well summarised in a tweet summarising my point last month..

Does information published on the web which is not easily linkable actually exist ?

Well of course if I chose to publish my large spatial database of whatever using a Web Feature Service or some other application server the data actually exists, but as far as users of the web does it exist if I cannot find it using web search or more importantly as far as the way the web works cannot link to it?

This issue of making the so-called Deep Web more discoverable is still challenging , efforts such as the sitemap protocol have had only limited impact.

I would argue for the geospatial community in particular we need to take a more fundamental look at how we make information accessible and linkable on the web.  We need to start from the basic use case, common if you think about it but radical it would appear in the GIS world..

I need to let people link to each record in my spatial database and to share that link..

This actually requires perhaps a much more granular approach to making spatial data available, something that nearly got started with OS Mastermap but which for many issues was never fully implemented.

Rather than publishing online a database of railway station locations in the Netherlands and expecting a user to then query the database for  “Amsterdam Centraal Station”,  publish the database giving each record a URI so for example Amsterdam Centraal Station becomes;

https://brt.basisregistraties.overheid.nl/top10nl/id/gebouw/102625209 

Now this is something I can paste into an email, tweet or even share on Facebook !

Kudos to the Dutch Kadaster for taking this approach and providing this example, Ordnance Survey you could do the same ?

This approach also results in such data becoming part of the “mainstream” web indexable and searchable, but I argue the key benefit is the “linkability”

The Spatial Data on the Web best practice document, something of course I recommend you taking a longer look at provides many excellent practical pointers to taking this type of approach.

Maybe really this is just an issue of semantics rather than publishing spatial data should we be talking about sharing spatial data ?