If you’ve ever been on an aeroplane there has no doubt been a moment when you have felt uncomfortable. Whether the person next to you is crowding your side of the arm rest, your legs are feeling numb, or that baby in the back just won’t stop crying, it is inevitable that all these different people crammed in to one tiny space unable to escape would be somewhat disastrous. And yet it happens thousands of times every day. Have you ever stopped to think just how miraculous it is that you can even be on that plane with all those strangers and not have complete chaos ensue? So many different things needed to develop in order for commercial flights to be possible, here are just a few.
Nothing would have been able to move at any great speed without the assistance of aerodynamics. The study that looks at the way in which solid objects move through the air and consequently how the air maneuvers round them has created countless inventions. From the modern car to bicycles helmets and rocket ships, the shape and movement of objects are hugely important especially if you plan to take flight. Imagine a giant cube trying to launch into the air, its not going to be as successful or as graceful as the modern plane.
If you jump of a hill with the wind in your favour and you have aeroplane-like wings, you could glide your way back down to the ground. On a larger scale and with the need to launch hundreds of feet into the air in the first place, without the engine we would be nowhere. These things provide the loud revving you hear during takeoff and the low hum you hear while in flight. Without these things provided the energy and stability to stay in the air, planes wouldn’t get off the tarmac.
Of course, launching a hundred people into the air on a heavy metal combustion machine doesn’t sound so safe on paper, and of course many people have a not so irrational fear of flight. Despite this, thanks to developments in every aspect of air travel from the mandatory safety instructions given to passengers to air traffic controllers guiding pilots away from danger, flying is still statistically the safest way to travel. Just ask Superman.
One thing you may not have thought about is an element that doesn’t involve technology. Our social norms and behaviour are unlike any other species in the fact that an invisible set of rules that we all abide by allow us to tolerate the presence of strangers for extended periods of time. No matter how irritating, noisy or gross some of the people on your flight may be, our highly developed norms and values mean that these things rarely result in conflict. It has been said that if you replaced the passengers of a flight with chimpanzees instead, what would result would be nothing short of all out chaos.